Full disclosure-I’m a huge Travis Scott fan. I literally have two different posters in my college dorm room. One of them is the Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight album cover, the other is a flyer for Astroworld. I also own all of his projects on CD (even his Days Before Rodeo mixtape), as well as a black Astroworld hoodie. I’m one concert away from becoming an official super fan. It’s gotten to that point.
If you were to ask me what the best rap albums of the decade are, I’d probably put all three of Scott’s major releases somewhere in the list. I admire the guy’s ability to re-write trap music conventions. I’ve followed his rise to prominence since highs school. Which is why it hurts me to say this-his new documentary Look Mom I Can Fly is severely underwhelming.
The Netflix release was supposed to capture Astroworld’s iconic development-from its exemplary musical palette, to the controversy surrounding its cover; to the even bigger controversy surrounding Scott’s Super Bowl performance. All are intriguing topics of discussion-almost none of them are addressed in any way shape or form.
Director White Trash Tyler (what a name!) spends much of his time establishing Scott’s notorious concert presence, which is a concept that’s already been explored through written media and countless Youtube videos. Watching a swarm of people rage and rage until they can’t no more (there are multiple instances of people passing out from rage exhaustion) initially seems exhilarating. Maybe even a bit scary. Fans are breaking legs, getting thrown out for debauchery…eventually getting thrown back in because of that same debauchery (there’s a great scene where a fan gets thrown out for unnamed reasons-until Travis brings him on stage and tells him to jump off). There’s even one instance where Travis gets arrested for allowing a large group of fans to dance and party at the front of the stage where security is.
Every concert scene is surprisingly well-directed and well-edited-even if they do become redundant by the second half. There’s no doubt Travis knows how to throw a party. I just wish there was more to latch onto content-wise. Astroworld was bigger than just a concert event. Even Scott seems to forget that throughout Look Mom I can Fly.
Rather than fully portray what Astroworld meant for the music community at large, Scott loosely develops its legacy with scattered videos of him as a child visiting the long-gone amusement park. While intriguing at first glance, these tidbits add little to Travis’ intriguing image-nor do they fully connect to the actual music. Which is disappointing because there’s a lot to unpack.
For example, the song “Coffee Bean” explores Scott’s initial feelings about marriage, and how he’s adapted to life with Kylie Jenner. There’s some rare introspection in his music that’s never even mentioned throughout the doc. Instead, we get some poorly incorporated scenes of Travis kissing Kylie-or simply just walking with her. I feel like she played a bigger role during the album’s rollout.
Or how about the controversy prior to the album’s release, where Travis inadvertently took a trans-gender model off of the cover? That was a huge deal; to the point where Scott himself sent out an apology to his fans. The dude was literally attacked for being transphobic. Isn’t that important to address in a documentary, where millions of fans (and even non-fans) are watching from home?
Even the music itself rarely finds the forefront. Aside from the aforementioned home videos, there is little to no scenes involving the process of making Astroworld. Even the one clip with Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) is severely uninteresting (although their comedic banter was quite hilarious). You’re telling me there wasn’t at least a few compelling interactions between two guys who come from different genres, and different parts of the world? Seems implausible, especially considering the A-list artistry present in the studio. The development of “Skeletons” must have been a magical moment (especially with Pharrell and The Weeknd present on it!). Too bad none of it is shown.
The one moment of studio excitement occurs halfway through, where Scott is seen jumping around with his homies after hearing the beat drop on “No Bystanders.” It would have been nice to witness more of that raw emotion. Like, I wondered what happened when he heard the “Stargazing” beat switch for the first time. That would have been cool to see. Or, how about a little insight into why a song like “Yosemite” was so important to him. Why does it bring a great deal of nostalgia? Was there a pleasant childhood memory with his family at the park? All could have been touched on with a simple few scenes. Or, maybe I’m just making up false narratives in my head. Maybe there wasn’t much nuance to it at all. But I highly doubt that.
Scott unabashedly promotes his Cactus Jack label artists Sheck Wes and Don Tolliver-two of the least interesting features on the entire project (Tolliver was featured on “Can’t Say,” and Wes was on “No Bystanders”). Why not tell us how you acquired the mysterious Frank Ocean for “Carousel”-or STEVIE FUCKING WONDER for “Stop Trying to Be God.” Imagine watching Stevie and Travis cook up in the studio. Hell, even a simple interaction would’ve sufficed. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration. Not to mention, “Stop Trying to Be God” may be Scott’s most impressive ballad to date. It’s a five-minute epic riddled with Kid Cudi hums and James Blake crooning. That creative process must have been legendary.
Overall, Look Mom I can Fly does an excellent job of capturing the euphoric energy of a Travis Scott show. There’s just nothing to latch onto emotionally. The entire Super Bowl performance was brushed over in the trailer, even though it may have been the biggest “football” news during that time. Everything just felt so streamlined. Travis loves his fans, no doubt. And I appreciate him for acknowledging that. But if you’re not a borderline super fan like me, you probably won’t learn much about his magnum opus. And it’s a shame, because there’s so much attached to the legacy of Astroworld. The ginormous hype, the undying controversy, the oddball features. All of it is so interesting-even for people who aren’t fans of rap. Sadly, not of it is captured to its fullest.
In Other News…
Wiz Khalifa is back!! The iconic stoner rapper seems to have a fire under his belly again. His three freestyles released solely on Soundcloud oddly remind me of Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Friday days (especially the rollout of these songs). As bland as he can be sometimes, Wiz still knows how to make a catchy track here and there. These three tracks are short, sweet, and a lot of fun.