It’s hard to pinpoint one single area in which Travis Scott excels — which, in today’s hip-hop climate, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On “Rodeo,” his studio debut, Scott sings, raps, harmonizes, and occasionally shouts over robust, polished instrumentals from Metro Boomin’, 808 Mafia, and other purveyors of psychedelic trap. But his versatility, combined with a high-profile guest list, conspires against him; among 14 tracks, Scott conjures just a handful of moments that hint at untapped reserves of talent. He commands “Impossible” with smooth menace and conjures evocative memories on the soulful latter half of “90210”; “Antidote” and “I Can Tell” ease into a dark, hedonistic haze. Yet elsewhere, Scott fades into the background. Justin Bieber — rapping, be warned — and Young Thug steal the show on potential smash “Maria I’m Drunk.” Likewise, Scott is an afterthought on “Piss on Your Grave,” a reheated “Yeezus” leftover featuring Kanye, and the Toro Y Moi-assisted “Flying High.” The album shows ambitious ideas, but Scott could use a couple more to get it right.
ESSENTIAL “Impossible”Martín Caballero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @_el_caballero.