Concert Reviews Music

Travis Scott takes Montreal by storm

The Houston rapper put on an explosive spectacle at the Bell Centre for his Circus Maximus Tour.

On Jan. 9, Travis Scott made his grand return to Montreal with his Circus Maximus Tour, in support of his latest album UTOPIA. His last visit to the city was in March 2019 for the Astroworld Tour, almost five years ago. From the stage design to the setlist, Scott designed an exhilarating, explosive and energetic experience filled with tons of surprises and eye candy.

Following a brief DJ set from Chase B, fans eagerly started to open mosh pits as the intro to “HYAENA” began playing. Scott suddenly popped out from beneath the stage, accompanied by fireworks and flames. He jumped and dashed around to every area of the stage, sending the crowd into a frenzy. He continued with UTOPIA tracks “THANK GOD” and “MODERN JAM,” the latter of which was complemented by a stunning sequence of neon lights, both onstage and onscreen. This high energy was maintained throughout the night as the rapper performed a variety of bangers spanning his entire catalogue. 

He took fans back to the Rodeo days with fan favourites “3500,” “Nightcrawler,” and “Maria I’m Drunk,” as well as earlier hits “Upper Echelon” and “Mamacita.” Songs like “Aye!” by Lil Uzi Vert proved to be absolute starters, igniting the entire crowd into jumping in sync, from general admission to the seats. Scott also brought a more mellow tone to the show with slower, sung tracks like “90210” and “MY EYES.” His melodic auto-crooning sounded just as good as it does on record, and felt complete with the crowd’s cheers backing him. The Houston MC also let his vocal chops shine throughout the night, singing acapella on several occasions. He most notably kept The Weeknd’s “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” refrain going for an additional minute, launching into an extended vocal solo.

After a brief interlude, the intensity picked up as Scott pulled out more hits. The crowd belted ASTROWORLD favourites like “BUTTERFLY EFFECT” and “CAN’T SAY” word-for-word, showcasing just as much excitement for recent hits like “MELTDOWN” and “TOPIA TWINS.” These tracks were met with no shortage of smoke, fire, and fireworks either. “I KNOW?” made for a standout moment, with the crowd anthemically roaring the chorus after being asked to sing it.

The show’s pinnacle arrived near the end with Scott’s massive mosh pit anthem “FE!N.” Fans received no shortage of the hotly-anticipated song: it was played 11 times. Between each take he gestured to a section of the crowd, proclaiming that they were “feening for more” and upping the ante in the process. The mosh pits kept on coming, and the tension kept on rising. There was even a moment where Scott paused to call security (for unclear reasons) to no avail, prompting him to go through the crowd himself to handle it. Yet, even after stopping a fan from being ejected by security and returning a good three minutes later, he got right back into playing “FE!N.” He closed out the show by rapidly running through his classics “SICKO MODE,” “Antidote,” and “goosebumps,” before walking out to the ambient fan favourite “TELEKINESIS.”

The show’s biggest takeaway was its stage design. Spread across the floor, Scott’s stage resembles a mountain and is complete with different sections, altitudes, and platforms. He sang his slower tracks atop of a rising platform, bringing him closer together with the seated crowd. The entire thing was characterized by a realistic, rocky texture, as well as carvings and statues of archaic heads. The most notable of them was a floating, moving platform called the “parasail” (referring to the UTOPIA track of the same name). 

Scott selected a handful of fans to embark on the platform throughout the night, all of whom jumped and danced ecstatically while soaring above the crowd. One lucky fan was even joined by Scott himself during “I KNOW?.” Fans in the pit got the best view of the stage, but those in the nosebleeds were given an equally compelling view thanks to the videoboard looming above. This jumbotron wrapped around the entire arena, granting everyone a view and projecting bright colours, effects, and overlays over footage of Scott and the crowd.

Whereas the video experience varied based on one’s placement in the arena, the sound quality made for a seemingly unanimous experience. With subwoofers lined alongside the outskirts of the floor, the bass was extremely powerful, borderline overwhelming. Many of the lyrics were inaudible to those in general admission. Fans recall feeling their entire body rumbling, while others on the floor could be seen occasionally covering their ears.

Noise aside, the experience was clearly unforgettable for all. From the pits to the nosebleeds, practically every fan could be seen giving it their all. Marwa Lakehal, a communications student, got a first-hand experience of this: “Everyone was screaming the lyrics as loud as they could while dancing and jumping. It felt like I was a part of one big community.” Scott gave a speech only three songs in about how he loved Montreal for its energy, and what followed throughout the night was more than enough proof. Montreal truly gave Scott the rage that he fiends for when putting on his live shows.

Music Quickspins


The ASTROWORLD follow-up is filled with psychedelic hip-hop that is ambitious, eclectic, and exciting.

UTOPIA’s opener “HYAENA” begins with a robotic vocal sample that is both inviting and confusing. What follows is Travis Scott dominating over a knocking drum break and an addictive harpsichord loop, making for a song that is frantic yet exciting. The track is unlike most of Scott’s existing catalogue, and even sticks out from what follows on the album.

UTOPIA stands out due to its unique instrumental palette, one that spans different subgenres, sounds, and moods. You can find standard hip-hop/trap production on cuts like “MELTDOWN,” “I KNOW ?,” and “TOPIA TWINS.” “SIRENS” contains triumphant drums reminiscent of Brazilian funk, while “DELRESTO (ECHOES),” “LOOOVE,” and “K-POP” are danceable tracks influenced by house music, dancehall, and Afrobeats. 

The production on the album also features synth passages (courtesy of Mike Dean), beat switches, and melodic intricacies that elevate the tracks and allow them to evolve as they progress. Key examples are the beat switch-up on “THANK GOD” and the glimmering synths after the hook on “FE!N.” 

Kanye West’s influence is another instrumental force behind the album’s sound. Scott’s flows on “MODERN JAM” are reminiscent of Yeezus cuts “On Sight” and “I Am a God,” whereas the instrumental and delivery on “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” are similar to “Black Skinhead.” Meanwhile, “THANK GOD,” “GOD’S COUNTRY,” and “TELEKINESIS” are finished versions of demos recorded during the 2020-21 sessions for Ye’s Donda album. 

UTOPIA also features noteworthy tracks characterized by an ambient and mellow sound like “TELEKINESIS” and “MY EYES.”. The latter is a standout that begins with a slow, lullaby-like tune before accelerating into a starry trap beat so ethereal it could be the Rainbow Road theme. The track also showcases Scott’s ability to give captivating performances, as he croons softly in the first half and raps with a nonstop, speedy delivery for over a minute once the beat switches. 

For most of his rapping on the album, Scott finds pockets within the instrumentals that complement the beats and sticks to them, resulting in verses and hooks that are engaging and easy to follow. “I KNOW ?” and “TOPIA TWINS” are a back-to-back offering of catchy, earworm choruses—some of the record’s best.

Much like its predecessors, UTOPIA has a hefty list of features. Standouts include Playboi Carti debuting a new deep voice on “FE!N,” Teezo Touchdown’s bold and eccentric belting on “MODERN JAM,” and SZA’s angelic entrance onto the already heavenly “TELEKINESIS.” 

Travis Scott has brought on everyone from A-listers to newcomers and underground legends, including the likes of Drake, Beyoncé, The Weeknd, 21 Savage, Bad Bunny, Future, Westside Gunn, Rob49, Yung Lean, and more into one lineup. With all the features hidden before release, the first listen comes as a pleasant surprise. 

With UTOPIA, Travis Scott defies the expectations of what this ideal reality can be, delivering an album filled with dark, varied production, stylistic switch-ups, and high-profile surprise guests hiding around every corner. It is fitting that the outro “TILL FURTHER NOTICE” is a perfect marriage of these elements: verses from Travis Scott and 21 Savage, a dark Metro Boomin beat, and a haunting James Blake feature creating a beautifully eerie, atmospheric, and star-studded track.

Trial Track: “MY EYES”

Score: 8/10


The Globalization of Travis Scott

Travis Scott’s transformation from rapper to music oligarch to meme proves that money always beats art

It’s about 1 a.m. and you and your friend Tanner are driving to get food after a long night. As you both approach the golden arches of a local McDonald’s in a beat-up Honda Civic, you decide to connect your phone to the aux. Presented with a myriad of new albums and singles to listen to, you know there’s really only one song you can play.

Once the drive-thru worker asks for your order, you pause, just long enough to add dramatic effect, and whisper, “you know why I’m here.” “Sicko Mode” starts playing.

“Cactus Jack sent me,” you add.

While this seems like a soap-opera dramatization of the ordering, it’s actually not that far off from what’s really happening. In case you haven’t been following, Travis Scott recently announced a collaboration with McDonald’s in which the fast-food giant is trying to sell a quarter pounder with bacon as a meal called “The Travis Scott.” And if you thought this might be the most ridiculous collaboration, you may very well be right.

This collaborative effort comes right off the heels of Scott’s puzzling song “The Plan” made specifically for Christopher Nolan’s new movie Tenet.

In the real world, people are getting yelled at by other McDonald’s customers for recording annoying TikToks of them ordering “The Travis Scott” meal. Others are parodying the stupidity of this whole affair, and some are spending their money buying the bland collaborative merch between Travis Scott and the enormous fast-food chain.

Travis Scott has transcended artistry. He is a business mogul and a meme now, all to his benefit. He can release a phoned-in feature and no one will care. He can drop the worst merch ever, including a chicken-nugget-themed-body-pillow, and get people to buy it. He can release a whole Netflix documentary, and the fans will eat it up like it’s an Oscar-nominated piece of work.

Despite this level of superstardom, Travis Scott feels less like a human being every year and more like a machine meant to satisfy your wants and needs than an actual person who cares about their craft.

And the worst part is that Scott’s music isn’t even all that terrible. Out of all his projects, there are only one or two entries that completely miss the mark. Days Before Rodeo, Rodeo, and Astroworld are good-to-great albums that show he can be fun and entertaining, if a little vapid.

But quality aside, Scott’s numbers began to hit the stratosphere after the release of his second album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, a record that took the world by storm with the inclusion of the Kendrick Lamar-assisted hit, “Goosebumps.”

This was the beginning of the rise of Travis Scott, the meme.

Travis Scott was everywhere. There wasn’t a single on the album that he couldn’t have pushed more. At the time, he seemed primed to at least compete with Drake and Kendrick for being one of the most commercially successful artists.

Then came Fortnite, the massive battle royale game that had the world entrenched in its complex yet accessible gameplay. Following a few years of success, Fortnite itself transcended being a game. In fact, it halted the actual battle-royale aspect of the game for a few evenings when they announced a live, in-game Travis Scott concert.

Obviously, Scott wasn’t performing on a stage inside the game’s only level, but it was an expensive psychedelic experience akin to a Travis Scott video that had a number of my friends ask me to virtually go with them. To these friends, I’m sorry I had to say no.

But just because his music is accessible doesn’t mean it should be thrown everywhere. To be a Travis Scott fan in 2020 is to not just enjoy his music, but to enjoy and, without any doubt, gobble up everything this man has to offer.

And this is the problem with how we treat artists. We give them all the platforms they can use because the bottom line is obviously money. The music business is still a business, after all. But Travis Scott seems to have traded all his humanity for an increasing slew of income, even if it means dropping cop-out merch and sending features to other artists that should’ve stayed in the vault.

With this Travis Scott obsession taking over the world, the resale value of anything Travis Scott-related has become astronomical. His collaborative effort with Reese Puffs, which is literally Travis Scott branding on their usual cereal boxes, at one point sold for $400 on eBay, while some listings still have it at over $200 CAD. Teens are stealing the Travis Scott burger posters. To his fans, Travis Scott is a god.

Treating artists like deities has proven to have a horrible track record, but Travis Scott is perhaps beyond even being a deity. Maybe he’s the Zeus to Drake’s Ares, but even Drake knows his limits.

It’s interesting to watch this development (and collapse if you’re not as big a fan of his music) because he was and still is a mogul in hip hop and mainstream pop. But if there’s one thing Travis Scott won’t do, it’s giving up the spotlight. He lives in it and would never relinquish it. He might know the cost, but let’s be real, he absolutely does not care. We should stop caring too.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


Music Quickspins


Travis Scott proves his label has more to offer than just himself as their quarterback

JACKBOYS is Travis Scott’s formal introduction of his Cactus Jack label signees to the world, that being Sheck Wes and Don Toliver. While we may have already been acquainted with them through their solo projects, Scott wanted to shed light on the rookies on a collaboration album alongside industry titans like himself, Migos, and Young Thug.

JACKBOYS is an easy-listening 20-minute album, and that’s why it works. A 13 track album may have dragged on the project and allowed for many fillers to make the final cut, yet seven tracks, including an intro, made the work feel tight and complete. While Sheck Wes brings little to the table other than his predictable and overdone ad-libs, Don Toliver’s choruses are easily the most enjoyable parts of the album. This, alongside a feature from Thug, makes for a pleasant listen that, fortunately, was not sacrificed for more throwaway tracks in the streaming era.

The success of this album assures that there will likely be many more to come and that the JACKBOYS aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Keep your ear out for the name “Don Toliver.”

Rating: 8/10

Trial Track: OUT WEST (feat. Young Thug)



Travis Scott takes us to Astroworld

Travis Scott’s unique rapping style hyped up the crowd Tuesday night

It seemed like all of Montreal piled into the Bell Centre to see Travis Scott perform live on March 5 for his sold out show, Astroworld: Wish You Were Here Tour. His latest album, Astroworld, was released last year and merch featuring the “Wish You Were Here” tagline was being sold to promote it.

It’s impossible not to hear his songs “Antidote,” “Butterfly Effect” and “SICKO MODE” during a night out. The 26-year-old rapper is known for his use of voice effects and adlibs that create an eccentric, distinct sound that can almost be described as mumble rap. Born in Houston, Texas, he later moved to New York to pursue music after graduating high school. He later released his first untitled EP on MySpace in 2008.

Scott is a part of GOOD Music, Kanye West’s music label. The two artists are practically family. Scott has released three studio albums: Rodeo, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, and Astroworld. He also formed a duo group with Quavo of Migos called Huncho Jack, and they released their debut album Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho in 2017.

Rapper Sheck Wes, who is featured on Scott’s new album, was the opening act for the Montreal show and performed his biggest hit “Mo Bamba.” The main act, following Wes, was a wild ride from start to finish—literally, since two rollercoasters were set up above the crowd. People on the floor were invited to wait in line for a ride on the roller coasters. They climbed up, were strapped in by security, and enjoyed a slow coaster ride as the crowd cheered.

Scott energized the audience while shouting “Montreal!” as he was suspended upside down in his roller coaster seat. Pyrotechnics added to the wow-factor.

Astroworld is inspired by a now-closed theme park Scott used to go to in Texas. It meant a lot to him and was a place of fantasy and imagination. He captures that sense of wonder in his show, with trippy visuals and huge blow-ups of his head and an astronaut.

Scott moved between the main and middle stages throughout the night. The crowd on the floor matched his energy with massive mosh pits. One guy was especially excited, as he jumped onstage with Scott and then crowd-surfed. The mood changed with a slower song off his mixtape Days Before Rodeo, “Drugs You Should Try It.” The audience’s cheers were replaced with phone lights illuminating the room. The night proved to be lit. Scott closed the show with crowd favourite “SICKO MODE,” featuring Drake, hyping up the audience one last time.

Scott will be ending his Astroworld Tour at the Firefly Music Festival on June 22 in Dover, Delaware.


Adulation over accolades

Award shows like the Grammys are not what matters—the people are

While music award shows like the Grammys are capable of creating great, memorable moments for artists, it is not the Recording Academy—the council that selects the winning artists—that truly distinguishes artists and their impact on the music world. It’s the everyday Jane and John Doe who listen to their music and pay to see them perform.

The Recording Academy’s voting membership includes music creators, such as artists, engineers, producers and songwriters. “To be qualified for membership, however, voting members must have creative or technical credits on at least six commercially released music releases on a physical album, or 12 on a digital project,” according to The Balance Careers. Voting members are then allowed to vote online during the two balloting periods.

As Drake said in his acceptance speech for Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan,” “My point is, you’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need [a Grammy]. I promise you, you already won.”

That really got me thinking. Do we even need the Grammys anymore?

Whether it be paying for a monthly subscription to Spotify, or scraping up leftover money for a ticket to a show, many “regular” people help fund artists’ careers, as well as increase their popularity. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know one of the things I look forward to most is attending one of my favourite artists’ concerts, no matter how expensive the ticket is. Escaping reality, even if only for a few hours, is all that really matters.

With increasing access to endless amounts of music, both technologically and financially, the listener’s ability to impact an artist’s career is greater than ever. Buying vinyls and cassettes has been replaced by online streaming—a substantially faster, easier, more efficient system of musical sales.

According to Nielsen, a research firm, Canadians streamed over 59 billion songs in 2018, a 47 per cent increase from 2017. In the United States, streaming numbers in the first half of 2018 reached close to 403 billion songs. Though the topic of the low streaming-to-money conversion is frequently discussed, I don’t think anyone would argue the power of streaming numbers. They more often than not have a significant impact on an artist’s success, including things like ticket and merchandise sales.

As the people continue to play a huge role in artists’ careers, award ceremonies like the Grammys have seemingly lost their notability. As I tuned in to watch the performances, curious as to who the council would choose to award, I couldn’t help but notice the many empty seats throughout the arena. I wondered if it had anything to do with the unexplained absences of major artists like Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Ariana Grande—all of whom won a Grammy that night. Maybe not, but I couldn’t help but wonder.

In recent years, the Grammys have come under fire for critiquing female artists, its low number of female nominations, as well as for failing to recognize the success and popularity of many significant hip hop artists. This is the suspected reason for Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino declining to perform at the show’s 61st edition.

Music award shows will undoubtedly always have their place as star-studded events with high-budget performances and a long legacy. Though, I think that the importance and notability of their awards will continue to lose value. More people will begin to recognize the immense power that regular people have over the select few of an elected council.


The top 10 songs of 2017

The Concordian music staff reflects on the year’s best offerings

Last year was marked by triumph, defeat and outpours of optimism, and artists across the globe relayed this the best way they know how—through song. Here are the best tracks of 2017.

  1. “Love Galore” – SZA (ft. Travis Scott)

After spending half a year in our collective psyche, SZA’s sultry collaboration with Travis Scott secured a tight spot in the canon of timeless breakup songs. In the span of three minutes, the duo swap bitter kiss-offs and dissect past relationships while maintaining remarkably complex emotional maturity.



  1. “Magnolia” – Playboi Carti

Named after the infamous housing project in New Orleans, “Magnolia” is a stunning crystallization of Playboi Carti’s best assets—his natural ebb and flow on the mic and his critical sense of next-generation sounds.



  1. “The Bus Song” – Jay Som

“The Bus Song” not only introduces Jay Som’s excellent Everybody Works, it’s also a staggering reflection on love, friendship and the gratifying solace of trudging from desolate street to crowded bus stop, only to repeat the cycle on a daily basis.



  1. “DNA.” – Kendrick Lamar

“DNA” is a hip-hop masterpiece. Kendrick Lamar takes aim at a culture of misrepresentation and the long-standing effects that have perpetuated such divides. With mesmerizing production coming from Mike WiLL Made-It, “DNA.” is a disarming reminder that Lamar has plenty left to contribute to the zeitgeist, and then some.


  1. “The Story of O.J.” – Jay-Z

With a Nina Simone sample as its main hook, “The Story of O.J.” tackles traditions of racial discrimination and the diaspora of African culture in America, past and present, all delivered with some of Jay-Z’s sharpest writing in years.



  1. “123” – Girlpool

Girlpool’s sound hovers in its own innocuous space, where high school fantasies and dreamlike imagery act as a guiding beacon. On “123,” the duo peer through the looking glass with a sense of hyper-curiosity that reminds you of how powerless you really feel in this world we call home.



  1. “LMK” – Kelela

Kelela’s “LMK” is a nocturnal blow-burner that asserts the singer’s dominance as one of R&B’s most interesting forces. The singer pairs lavish R&B with pop accessibility and complements it with a backdrop of earth-rumbling bass, ornate synths and unwavering confidence.



  1. “tonite” – LCD Soundsystem

After laying dormant for six years, LCD Soundsystem’s core sound remains very much untouched. But that’s exactly where “tonite” draws its energy. Perhaps the year’s most proper return to form, the track pumps with the flashy tongue-in-cheek irony and existential musings LCD is known for. And after nearly two decades, they still sound as fresh as ever.



  1. “Bank Account” – 21 Savage

One of 21 Savage’s best standout tracks, “Bank Account,” continues the sinister trap persona the Atlanta rapper cultivated on his first few mixtapes. The nonchalant cadence of 21’s flow lurks with a cold and natural prowess, imitating the feeling of being watched without even knowing it.



  1.  “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) – Power Trip

Power Trip’s “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)” embraces a platonic passion for heavy metal reverie. The track is a sneering plea for the arrival of judgement day, where the only means of escape rests at the feet of the reaper’s axe.

Music Quickspins

Travis Scott & Quavo – Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho

Travis Scott & Quavo – Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho (Quality Control)

The last quarter of 2017 was dominated by trap rap collaborative albums. In October, it was Future and Young Thug’s Super Slimey. In November, it was 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin’s Without Warning. Now, Migos’s leader Quavo and Travis Scott are finally here with their long-awaited collaborative project, and they came to play. Unlike the projects listed above, Scott and Quavo have genuine chemistry. On the tape’s best track, “Modern Slavery,” they both trade verses effortlessly. Their melodic voices swap in and out with ease and sometimes they even share verses and hooks. While the album isn’t filled with lyrical genius, it doesn’t have to be. Quavo and Scott make each song interesting, while the lavish trap production makes up for any lyrical shortcomings. On songs like “Moon Rock” and “Saint Laurent Mask,” the production features subtle flourishes that take on a life of their own. Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho is easily the best collaborative tape of 2017.

Trial Track: “Motorcycle Patches”

Score: 9/10

Music Quickspins

21 Savage / Offset / Metro Boomin’ – Without Warning

21 Savage / Offset / Metro Boomin’ – Without Warning (Slaughter Gang, 2017)

Like the title suggests, the latest 21 Savage and Offset collaboration, completely produced by Metro Boomin’, dropped without warning on Halloween. From the opening track, “Ghostface Killers,” we get Metro Boomin’s signature dark, moody sound, while 21 Savage and Offset effortlessly flow over the beat. The album lives up to its Halloween release with eerie tracks, like “Nightmare” and “Ric Flair Drip,” that showcase why Offset might actually be the most talented member in Migos. The first five tracks are exciting and catchy, however, the second half of the album takes a more laid-back approach. By track six, “Mad Stalkers,” the novelty of the collaboration wears off until track 10. However, this is an incredibly tight album, with catchy flows and world-class production from one of the best young producers in the game. If you’re a fan of any of these artists, the album is a must-listen.

Trial Track: “Ghostface Killers” ft. Travi$ Scott

Score: 7.5/10

Music Quickspins

Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight

Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight (Grand Hustle Records, 2016)

Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight is Houston rapper Travis Scott’s second full-length studio album, and an incredible follow-up to his 2015 album Rodeo. On this new LP, Scott teams up with famed producer Mike Dean to create some of the best and catchiest songs trap rap has to offer. Each beat is moody and layered—creating a vibe that could be perfectly suited for a party or a late-night drive. The tracklist progresses like a story, allowing Scott to open up and get personal with the listener. One shortcoming of the record, however, is that many of the songs blend together and start to sound the same. This, mixed with a lack of lyrical substance, keeps this album from reaching its full potential. Despite these slight hiccups, Scott’s latest LP is a masterclass in rap instrumentals and one of his best projects to date.

Trial Song: Pick Up The Phone (ft. Young Thug and Quavo)

Score: 8.5/10

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