‘La Flame’ burns bright, consumes himself in process

Sean E. McCormick, Staff Writer

Rodeo begins with T.I. describing Travi$ Scott, a.k.a., ‘La Flame’ as thus:

“We find ourselves consumed and utterly mesmerized / With a story of a young rebel against the system / Refusing to conform or comply to the ways of authority.”

The Outkast-esque introduction piqued my curiosity. I was eager to learn how ‘La Flame’ rebels against ‘the system.’ Surely an ambitious statement like this would be backed by some manner of revolutionary musical expression.

Travi$ Scott is unquestionably an exceptional producer. “Oh My Dis Side,” “90210,” and “Antidote,” are all solid demonstrations of his capability to make vibrant, sonic landscapes that move seamlessly from melancholy to mirth.

Unfortunately, his lyrics are banal gibberish that lack substance and stance. His take on having money is wholly unoriginal.

“Bout to get some cash now (cash!), oh my / Got my momma that new house now (momma!), oh my / Now she cannot kick me out now (no!), oh my.”

I found myself more interested in the reasons Scott’s mother had decided to kick him out than listening to his relentless diatribes on the empty life of a rock star.

Maybe I need to see a live show before I write him off. Scott’s limited focus on cash accrual, flagrant expenditures, and prolific drug and alcohol use just don’t cut it for being a ‘rebel against the system’ in my book. He inadvertently confirms biases about youth culture rather than articulating the ‘ways of authority’ he refuses to ‘conform’ with. But before you judge him, ‘ride the Rodeo,’ his fans implore. Crowd surfing, Travi$ might call you a ‘f*ggot’ if you’re lucky enough to end up in the front row, as he did at a show in Arizona.

Yes, I’m sure I’ll hear his ad-lib, “STRAIGHT UP!” echo through the culture for a few months. And he is indubitably light years ahead of his peers in that he produces most of his own music. I wanted to believe that Scott had something novel to bring to the table.

I found myself disappointed by an over-reliance on features (Future, 2 Chainz, Chief Keef, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Juicy J, and Toro & Moi) coupled with a surprising lack of introspection.

“Gold chains, gold rings, I got an island / Houses on em’, he got them ounces on him / Holy father, come save these n*ggas, I’m styling on ‘em.”

The album ends with T.I stating, ‘the question that arises to the mind / Will he make it? Was it worth it? / Did he win? Will he survive the Rodeo?”

At 65:26, Rodeo is just too long. Scott may survive as a producer, but his music is ambitious and grandiose without the biting wit of Kanye West or the soulful warmth of Outkast (two of his stated influences). It reaches for complexity (“Man, I can’t take no more of this lifestyle we livin’ / Man I can’t take no more of the white powers in position”), but proposes no solutions nor explores the problem in-depth. ‘La flame’ burns bright, but consumes himself in the process.

Final Grade: C

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