"Look Mom I Can Fly" Is a Win for Travis Scott Fans—and No One Else

The 28-year-old rapper's new Netflix documentary is a rare and personal (albeit sloppily executed) glimpse into the life of a superstar.

Travis Scott AstroWorld Festival

Photo by Trish Badger/imageSPACE/Shutterstock

Love him or hate him, we can all agree on one thing: Nobody knows how to hype up a crowd quite like Travis Scott.

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"I Wanna Thank Me" Is Everything We Love About Snoop Dogg

Listening to this album, you lose track of what to expect next.

Snoop Dog in concert at Peterborough Memorial Centre, Canada

Photo by Michael Hurcomb/Shutterstock

When talking about the legendary "Doggfather" of rap, it is nearly impossible to boil his music down to a singular sound.

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YBN Cordae's "The Lost Boy" Is an Instant Classic

The 2019 XXL Magazine Freshman Class honoree's debut album demonstrates why he deserves our respect.

If you've never heard of YBN Cordae before, that is bound to change in the days and years to come.

So long as he keeps making music with the same level of passion and skill that he demonstrated on his debut album, The Lost Boy, his name won't be forgotten. On every track of his record, the 21-year-old emcee approaches the mic with the confidence, command, and charisma of a veteran rapper. In fact, at times his flow is reminiscent of fellow North Carolina native (and collaborator on the album), J. Cole—an impressive feat given the fact that it took even Cole a couple of albums to truly find his voice, whereas Cordae seems to have already honed his prior to his first official release.

Of the 15 tracks on The Lost Boy, not a singe one of them is a throwaway. From the album's opener, "Wintertime"—a retrospective look at how Cordae overcame hardships like depression, addiction, and poverty—to the full-circle outro, "Lost & Found," where Cordae reflects briefly on how he was once lost but has since found himself. Cordae begins the album looking over his shoulder and ends it by living in the moment as he stands on the precipice of a very promising music career.

Other highlights along the way include the Anderson .Paak-assisted and J. Cole-produced, "RNP," which sees .Paak and Cordae exchange kid-n-play bars back and forth, conversing and pushing each other's rhymes further with each line. There's a certain alchemy between the two on this song that hasn't been heard since the heydays of Dr. Dre and Eminem, or Q-Tip and Phife Dawg on early Tribe records. It's as fun as it is enjoyable.

In fact, every one of the features on The Lost Boy is handled well. Cordae hasn't simply featured artists here for clout or merely for the sake of collaborating; every song that has a guest feels as if it truly called for the artist in question. Whether it's Pusha T going hard on the haunting "Nightmares Are Real," Ty Dolla $ign blending perfectly into the melodic, homecoming anthem, "Way Back Home," or Chance The Rapper lending some characteristic sunshine to the feel-good gospel chords of "Bad Idea," Cordae (and his collaborators) reminds listeners of the fact that a great artist works in service of the song before all else.

The Lost Boy is one of the most substantial debut albums to drop in quite some time. Front to back, this record is full of gems that are sure to stay in rotation for years to come. This is what an excellent rap album sounds like. And YBN Cordae is just getting started.

The Lost Boy

Meet JAMESDAVIS: The Motown Trio That Defies Genres

The genre-less family band discusses faith, the importance of music, and their hopes for the future in this candid Q&A.

Melissa Forde

JAMESDAVIS is a band composed of three siblings: fraternal twins, Rey and Jess, and their brother, AusTon Reynolds.

Signed to Motown records, they capture a sound that could be described as the future of R&B. But that might just be for lack of a better term, seeing as their music does a great job at sidestepping any singular genre. For the group, it's more about conveying a particular feeling, regardless of what anyone may want to call it. And that is clearly evidenced in their constantly evolving and untethered sound, even between one song and the next on their album.

JAMESDAVIS recently agreed to sit down for a Q&A to discuss what it's like making music as a family, how their sound has evolved over the years, how music and faith has helped them to overcome hardships, and what the future holds for the band.

It is somewhat rare these days to come across a family band. Was music always a central component of your family dynamic growing up? How did the band come to be?

JESS: Our mother was a professional background vocalist, and though our father was a professional baseball player, he played the organ and the drums. So, music was always around us. The reason the three of us decided to work together as a creative team was the hope of finally becoming financially free, while simply using our gifts. Our mother convinced us that it was possible by teaching us faith our whole lives. Our brother turned the only bedroom in our small apartment into a studio, so my mom put all the beds in the living room, and the rest is history.

REY: There wasn't a time where music wasn't a part of our lives. Though the three of us started creating and singing at different times (Jess being the first with her first deal at 15), I believe JAMESDAVIS was destined to be. I believe our purpose in life is to live and do what you love, and I thank God that we have a Mother who taught us that your dreams are meant to be your reality. We fell on some really difficult times, and I'm actually grateful for those times because we banned together and found our way out through music.

What is the meaning behind the name, JAMESDAVIS?

JESS : "James" is our father's middle name and "Davis" is our mother's maiden name. There's no space between the names because there's no space between us.

Your latest release, MASTERPEACE, has (and please correct me if I'm way off) what I would characterize as a bit of an "edgier" sound than some of your previous efforts. Was there a specific aesthetic you were striving toward with that project? Where do you see your music going from here?

REY: I've heard that from various listeners, and everyone has their own take on the sound, whether they hear it to be edgier or more R&B...For us as writers and producers, we don't create with an aesthetic in mind. It's about a feeling, telling a story, and being honest. We create in service of the song and the music. It's also the reason why we, as a band, have never subscribed to one singular genre. Each project we've done has represented where and who we are, as individuals and as a band, in that time and space.

AusTon: I think we're just getting better with communicating our situations, stories, and things about ourselves. I think we always strive for excellence with our music, regardless of what the aesthetic feels like. Our music can go wherever we would like it to go, but I would like to do more music with live instrumentation.

You just returned from touring in Europe. Might we be seeing you perform anywhere else this summer?

REY: We've been traveling nonstop for the last three months, doing promo and the tour, and we just finished doing a couple of local shows in Leimert Park [Los Angeles]. This week we're headed to New Orleans to perform at the Motown event during Essence fest. We have festival dates coming up, including "ONE MUSICFEST" in Atlanta in September. I'm really looking forward to getting back into the studio and getting started on our next project.



Tycho's New Album "Weather" Takes a Conventional Turn

On his fifth studio album, Tycho goes in a different direction.

Scott Hansen—better known by his pseudonym, Tycho—is nothing short of a modern-day Renaissance man.

In addition to composing and producing organic, vintage, and chilled-out electronic music, he is also an accomplished visual artist. Going by yet another name for his photography and design work, ISO50, Hansen is the rare sort of artist who border-crosses genres and artistic media with ease. In fact, taking a look at his blog will indicate that Hansen does not seem to view visual art, design, and music as being as separate or compartmentalized entities. Often in posts, he will pair his highly stylized and evocative works of art with his music, creating a multisensory experience for the consumer

And anyone who is familiar with Hansen's music knows that, typically, Tycho privileges mood, ambiance, texture, and emotional gravity over lyrics and conventional song structures (verse, chorus, verse, bridge, etc.). Instead, Tycho's music tends to unfurl effortlessly—with chords, melodies, and harmonies seeming to merely occur, as opposed to being composed and fit into a rigid or pre-determined structure. Tycho's music is like a lucky snapshot of a mountainous landscape bathed in dusky light, sounding as if it has always existed; all Hansen had to do was record it.

Perhaps, this is why Tycho's music is so versatile, why his songs make for the perfect backdrop to nearly any activity. 2011's Drive, for instance, is perfect for a quiet night in, perhaps lulling the listener to sleep with mellow and hypnotic flourish; but it works just as well as the soundtrack to a late-night drive to clear your head or let your thoughts wander. Awake, on the other hand, released in 2016, is great background music for hunkering down and getting some work done; it is also the perfect companion to an intimate conversation with close friends—its unassuming and chilled-out motion seems to guide the mind toward a peaceful state of focus.

On his latest album, Weather, however, Tycho takes a different approach. After four albums of doing more or less the same thing (making meandering mood music), Hansen has opted to give fans something a bit closer to that traditional song structure that he has spent years evading with grace.

The first song of the album, "Easy," places us firmly in the sonic world that we have come to expect from Tycho: synth-heavy and warm, calming, up-tempo, and largely instrumental. It serves as a segue from his previous work to the new directions taken on Weather, with a female vocalist singing words that cannot be clearly discerned underneath a heavy current of tranquil electronica.

By the second track, though, longtime Tycho listeners may be taken aback. "Pink and Blue" features a guest vocalist, an unprecedented move for Tycho's solo work. Saint Sinner's voice opens the song, crooning, "Oh pink and blue, yeah, you know I look good on you" with an airy and buoyant melody that sounds surprisingly natural alongside Tycho's signature soundscape, as unexpected as it may be on a first listen.

The rest of the album, too, features Saint Sinner heavily. On every track save two Saint Sinner's soothing voice acts as a perfect counterpart to Tycho's electronic meditations, grounding the music in more conventional structures without overpowering the sonic vistas Tycho paints. If anything, Saint Sinner's poetic lyrics and smart melodic sensibilities add a new layer of paint to Hansen's already lush canvas.

Weather, then, comes off as a distinctly collaborative effort. Yet, as easily as Saint Sinner's voice fits into Tycho's even and impactful mixes, the addition of a vocalist to Hansen's work does, at times, compromise what made Tycho, Tycho. In his richly layered and complex compositions the absence of lyrics always made plenty of space for you to inhabit—to fill in the blanks and let the song become whatever you needed it to be.

That's not to say Weather is not an enjoyable listen. It definitely is—from a production and songwriting standpoint. But, frankly, this doesn't sound as much like a Tycho album as it does a particularly successful album by, say, The XX. What made Tycho so different on his first four studio releases was the way in which his music served as a versatile and almost interactive experience between artist and listener. This was, for many fans, what made Tycho's music so special and unique: how every song on Drive or Awake could take on profound meanings in myriad unrelated ways. He would provide the vista, and you would decide how to interpret it. On Weather, though, Tycho paints the picture, and then Saint Sinner tells you what it means.



Drum & Lace Talks New Album and the Art of Composing

The film, TV, and orchestral composer discusses her album "Semi Songs," her creative process, and her rising success in this candid Q&A.


There's a good chance that you've heard Drum & Lace already, even if you aren't aware of her by name.

The Italian composer, Sofia Hultquist, has been described as a "sound artist." Her work, which often combines cinematic elements with ambient electronica and contemporary classical composition, has been featured in films such as The First Monday in May, The Gospel According to Andre, and Invisible Hands. If you haven't seen any of these films, then perhaps you will come across her music in the scores for the upcoming HBO documentary, At the Heart of Gold, or the AppleTV+ series, Dickinson.

As an extremely versatile and unbridled composer, it is nearly impossible to boil her work down to a simple soundbite. So we asked Drum & Lace to provide some insight into her forthcoming album, Semi Songs, in her own words:

Your forthcoming album, Semi Songs, takes the listener on a riveting journey from anxiety ("Outsider Complex Pt.1") to a quieter (perhaps solitary?) nature-driven meditation ("Parhelion and "Gardenia"), only to wind up in a renewed state of anxiety. Would you care to let listeners in on what sort of experiential arc and/or message is intended with this circular form (if any)?

I'm glad that this comes across when listening to the record! The way that Semi Songs was structured was very intentional and was put together to resemble how I've felt in the past about various situations and life in general. Starting off the record with the frantic riff of "Outsider Complex Part 1," which is all about anxiety and vulnerability, felt appropriate, because when you do get hit with those feelings, they come on suddenly and sometimes out of nowhere. That track and its "riff" help catapult the rest of the emotional kick that follows on the record.

The next piece, "Parhelion," is a slight step into the positive on an emotional level, and it was inspired by the concept of courage and discovery, but also deception. There is a nature element to this piece—a parhelion is an atmospheric phenomenon that causes you to see multiple suns, and I thought that was the perfect analogy for what I was feeling—this sense of duality. Unlike "Outsider Complex Part 1" and "Part 2," both "Parhelion" and "Gardenia's" perspectives are internal and self-checking/preserving.

"Gardenia" is the most personal of all the pieces and explores my relationship with love and loss, focusing in particular on my relationship with my mother. Relationships with parents can be beautiful, but also inexplicably difficult, and this piece felt like a way to dive deeper and explore things and feelings that I have internalized that have often caused me pain and joy.

When we finally do get back to "Outsider Complex Part 2," there is still definitely a bit of a state of chaos. But, hopefully, the listener will also feel a sense of resolution—like we've gone on this ride, and now that opening "riff" feels just a little different and sounds more hopeful and anticipatory. Maybe "Outsider Complex Part 2" won't read like that to everyone, and instead it'll instill a sense that we've still, somehow, wound up in the same place we started. Breaking a cycle is not always easy, and for me it was about letting myself be vulnerable enough to be able to arrive at a place where something like "Outsider Complex Part 2" would feel different.

As a composer, when an idea for a piece comes to you, does it tend to come in a particular instrument or instrument family? Do you tend to hear the entire ensemble at once, or do you hear, say, a particular melody and then build from there? Or maybe it's something else entirely?

Great question! More often than not, I'll start writing on piano or will start singing a specific melodic idea that I then lay out either on piano or with a specific sound, if that's what I'm hearing. Once an idea is written down, somewhat, that's when I'll often "hear" the rest of the instrumentation. There are also a lot of times when I set out to write something for a specific set of instruments, which makes it both easier and harder, as then you are having to work with a pre-determined palette. I think this is why, right now, I like the idea of writing for smaller ensembles and electronics. It gives me structure with the "real" instruments and then allows for me to add any other elements via electronics [...] As a final thought on this all, I'll just say that I love the cello, so most of what I compose will always have one or more cellos!

You have had a rather fruitful career in music composition, which is not necessarily an easy space to navigate. Do you have any advice to offer aspiring composers who might be reading this article, either regarding the composition process itself or anything else?

Thank you. I feel like I'm very much at the beginning of what I'm hoping will continue to be a really fulfilling career! It's definitely not been easy, and like with all creative and freelance work, it's all about the ups and downs and being able to navigate that. What I think has really helped me is that even when I'm not composing for a specific project or film, I'm always writing. And when I do, I try to write what feels good to me and what sounds right to me, without trying to fit into any sort of musical trend. [...] And it's also equally important to have your own voice—make sure your personality comes across in your music. It's all about the give and take, but being able to stick with the great moments and hardships will get you really far!

Semi Songs will be released on Friday, 7/19!

At the Heart of Gold (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)