Travis Scott Credit: courtesy the artist

About a year ago, former President Barack Obama included “Butterfly Effect” by Travis Scott on a list of his favorite songs of 2017. It’s crazy to think back to a time when we had a president who—along with not being the worst person to walk the earth—had really good taste in music and culture. It’s also amazing to consider how much time and work was put into Scott’s third official studio album, August’s Astroworld. The May 2017 release of the beautifully woozy “Butterfly Effect” (effectively the album’s lead single) launched 15 straight months of hype and rabid, anxious speculation that Astroworld could drop at any time. And when the album finally saw the light of day, it was clear from its spaced-out opening track, “Stargazing,” that it was well worth the wait. In an era of mainstream hip-hop albums engineered to rake in high numbers of digital streams, something this cohesive and conceptual had been practically unheard of since the pre-MAGA glory days of Kanye West. A seamless flow of glittery psychedelia, prog-rock indulgence, druggy atmospheres, and topsy-turvy rap-sing wordplay by the smooth-as-hell Scott (plus a boatload of guests, including Drake, Migos, Juice Wrld, Swae Lee, the Weeknd, and Frank Ocean), Astroworld brilliantly summons a distinctive, cosmic energy and builds a hazy world that completely consumes the listener. Whether it’s the three-part smasher “Sicko Mode” or the dreamy darkness of “Can’t Say,” each track is heavy, lush, and sweeping. Astroworld is a next-level feat of artistry and meticulous craftsmanship for Scott and his all-star team of producers, as well as the undisputed record of the year. Scott is also a force live, trading in the trippy introspection for full-on punk-rock fury as he tears the stage up and screams his head off like a man possessed.  v