'I Guess' is Kathy Iandoli's battle cry of #shruglife. It's everything that impresses us and unimpresses us—which could be one in the same given the day.
Competition has been the backbone of hip-hop since long before Black Sheep told us "you could get with this, or you could get with that" on "The Choice Is Yours" back in '91. It's carried into various aspects of the culture: from battle rap to rap beefs, and even album sales a la 50 Cent vs. Kanye West back in 2007. We can actually stop right there with the examples, because many point to that fateful battle of Curtis against Graduation as the turning point in hip-hop. When Kanye spanked 50 in the album sales department, it seemed like everything changed: the sound of rap, the aesthetic, the subject matter. And, realistically, artists like Drake and Travis Scott both emerged from that flick of the switch. No one on God's good Earth would suggest either Drake or Travis Scott are cut from the mold of a 50 Cent-type and that's fine. But now that Drake is damn near a decade-long veteran in this and Travis Scott has secured his spot as this dynamic background figure in other artists' successes (while being a powerhouse of his own), do we really need to compare the two?
When Scott dropped his third studio album Astroworld at the top of August, complete with a giant golden head affixed to tourist attractions in New York City and Los Angeles, among other places, I was like, "Well, it's about time." I penned XXL's Travis Scott cover story for their first issue of 2017, and Scott was talking about that project like it was ready to go even back then. He named it Astroworld after a theme park he grew up hanging out in that closed down and forever traumatized him. Apparently, that was, like, the place to be for Houston weird kids. Now he's the artist to listen to for weird kids around the world. We can give him a pass on that delay since he had a child with Kylie Jenner and, well, kids can be both a blessing and a pain in the ass.
The album brings a graduated level of self-actualization for Scott. He's always been this oddball dark horse, known for giving Kanye 3.0 his whole style and helping his ex Rihanna reach her next reinvention during ANTi. He's smart; he makes druggy rap that doesn't feel druggy for people who may or may not do drugs. There's a psychotropic slant to his work, comparable to psychedelic rock bands of the 70s whose names I won't rattle off because I don't want to sound like a douchebag. So, yeah, yay Travis. He also has some solid cameos on this project including Frank Ocean and our favorite meme, Drake.
Drake dropped off his fifth studio album Scorpion at the end of June and, like every Drake release, he plays the long game. There's a ripple effect to Drake's projects in that after he drops off the music, it manifests itself in many forms for all of perpetuity—or at least until another Drake album drops. While at times it feels like the soundtrack to a marketing course—evidenced now by this whole "In My Feelings" challenge that I've already discussed in this column—it's still damn good music.
Both Travis Scott and Drake are talented in the careful rap compartments that they exist in, yet once Astroworld and Drake's "In My Feelings" video dropped, the internet decided that that was the right moment to compare the aforementioned LP to Scorpion—which makes no damn sense.
Here's a crash course on the competitive spirit of hip-hop. When blood isn't shed, beef is the musical embodiment of an insults-hurling competition. When rap battles occur, it's another insults fest anchored by the sport of lyricism in real time. Cyphers, the same thing: how lyrical can you possibly be when (hopefully) freestyling in front of other skilled wordsmiths? And when it came down to Kanye and 50's album sales feud, hip-hop was at a crossroads and that moment quantified in dollars exactly where hip-hop was going.
This right here? This isn't a competition. What exactly are they competing against: which famous guy wins against the other famous guy? And really though, it's neither Drake nor Travis who are even in on this little competition, especially when Drake is on Travis's damn album. Sure, they shared the same woman (allegedly), but that's long been water under the bridge. So what the hell is the point of shouting into the void "CHOOSE ONE!"? Scorpion sounds nothing like Astroworld. They don't discuss the same things and aren't even aligned with the same people (Kanye West alley-oops notwithstanding). Here we go again, attempting to pit two talented guys from seemingly two different corners of rap against each other for no reason. It's silly. I used to think it only happened to women in hip-hop, but now I see just how bored fans truly are, even in the presence of quality music.
So don't mind me, I'm just going to yawn through this whole "this or that" war and wait it out until the next wave of disappointing internet fodder surfaces. You know those memes about how kids should go outside and not sit and play video games all day? Well, that's what I'm suggesting here: instead of pounding on your keys demanding only one artist achieve superiority, go outside and play. Stream both Astroworld and Scorpion while you're there. You're allowed. I promise. Log off Twitter so no one will know.
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