Carbon-copy bullshit has long been an issue in the entertainment industry. For every huge summer blockbuster about the apocalypse or a natural disaster, there are surely at least two or three similar movies ready to try to take your cash and rot your brain. The same goes for any hip-hop artist who reaches a certain level of fame, though this phenomenon transcends genre. Remember the ’90s and all the grunge bands? How about the ’80s and the hair metal bands that, if they’re lucky, were memorialized on those Power Ballads compilations? In short: biters gon’ bite until the end of time. Enter Houston’s Travi$ Scott and his newly released Owl Pharoah EP.
Earlier this month, rap scribe Andrew Nosnitsky quipped on Twitter, “why did kanye [west] swap out [kid] cudi for travis scott.” While that is perhaps more effective than anything else I could write because there is something to be said for pithy copy, simply comparing Scott to Cudi would be shortsighted. There is a lot more going on here than some Man On The Moon-lite experimentation. Across the ridiculously rough 13 tracks on this EP, Scott does his best (worst?) karaoke impressions of West, Future, anyone repping Maybach Music Group, and, yes, Cudi.
“Drive”, which features the angelic James Fauntleroy II, and “Hell of a Night” sound like they were peeled off the cutting room floor for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Cruel Summer; “Quintana” and “Bandz” are drab diet MMG “trap bangers”; and “Upper Echelon” is terribly derivative of the more aggressive tracks in Future’s catalogue. I mean, dude even throws Auto-Tune on his “straight up!” ad libs like Future never existed. Speaking of never existed, what happened to 2 Chainz’ verse on “Upper Echelon”? He shouts out his name and then the track abruptly ends, though that’s apparently because this is a mere demo version of the proper Owl Pharoah release set to drop later this year? Um, what? If that’s the case, Scott should have kept this one on his hard-drive, perfected it, and presented it to the world in a few months.
Scott doesn’t have much to offer lyrically, either, as his raps too often also bite the content of his contemporaries and cohorts. We don’t need another Future, Cudi, Yeezy, etc… We also don’t need someone rapping disrespectful, table-flipping bars like, “Tryna find a ni**a dead/Chris Lighty.” Really, kid? But even if we were just here for Scott’s production, which is what I’m guessing attracted West in the first place, we still haven’t much to celebrate. His glossed up version of Young Chop’s beat on “Blocka La Flame” falls painfully short, with the same going for much of the instrumentals on Owl Pharoah. Surely you could find the right time to blast raucous tracks like “Bandz”, which features assistance from Mike Dean, or “Upper Echelon”, which has too many producers to list here. But those don’t get to hit hard enough because of the aforementioned rough “demo” quality of everything here, which ultimately undercuts even the brightest moments offered on this EP.