Travis Scott & the Art of the Unknown Feature

With any album release, especially from a major artist, the hype that coincides with the release can feel insurmountable. Those that have checked out Travis Scott’s last few albums on release night, should have noticed that his album’s have a complete lack of feature credit. By now it should be clear this isn’t a mistake, the respective albums’ credits seem to pop up in the coming weeks, but its an choice that can get frustrating for some listeners. Every solo release since Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight seem to have this feature, a total of three albums, but it oddly seems to add to the experience rather than take away from it.

While his debut album Rodeo had all the features credited as usual, his sophomore release Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight did not. This isn’t a problem for many listeners, some voices like AndrĂ© 3000 or Kendrick Lamar are impossible to mistake, but the standout moment came from the most unknown feature spot on the album. The track “Beibs in the Trap” didn’t have Travis Scott come in until about the one minute twenty-five second mark, leave the hook & first verse all put onto an at-the-time mostly unknown Nav.

Travis Scott – beibs in the trap ft. NAV

This, understandably, lead to a lot of confusion. For example, some people speculated that it was Justin Beiber on the track. If you had heard Beiber’s feature on “Maria I’m Drunk” it was clear it wasn’t him, but it was the only conclusion that made any sense for some because of the title of the track.

While the album was filled with memorable moments, trying to find out who this artist was became the mission for many. Even though Nav had signed with The Weeknd’s record label XO in June of 2016, along with some moments of cosigns such as Drake’s OVO Radio & Kylie Jenner, his feature on the Birds album in September of that year made his notoriety shoot through the roof.

Travis was once again album to capture this moment again on his follow-up album Astroworld. Plenty of moments came from this, like the infamous DJ Akademiks reaction to the Drake feature on “Sicko Mode,” but once again there was a seemingly unknown feature on the track “Can’t Say.” This track featured a vocalist that had quite the emotive voice, one that many could only compare T-Pain even though it clearly wasn’t him. Don Toliver had enough notoriety to get signed to Atlantic Records prior to this release, but the feature on “Can’t Say” became his true breakthrough.

Travis Scott – CAN’T SAY

The release of Utopia didn’t see a breakthrough of a new artist, but managed to have another feature that had people’s head’s scratching. About midway through the album featured the track “FE!N,” which had a vocalist that wasn’t recognizable to many. Some people had came to the conclusion that it was Playboi Carti’s artists Homixide Gang, but the result had turned out to Carti. Another album of standout performances from the likes of SZA & James Blake, yet it was Carti unleashing a new side of his artistry that stole the show.

This concept isn’t new for artists, Kanye West had notoriously done it with his own albums like the The Life of Pablo with a feature from Desiigner, but Travis Scott’s execution have a unique quality. While Desiigner’s limelight had quickly fizzled out, Nav & Don Toliver have maintained large names in the industry. At the time of writing, its too early to say what the long term effect of Carti’s feature will be, but it has already seen more shine brought on to artists like YTB Fatt and has had a couple imitators pop up already.

Who’s to say that this trend will continue with future releases, but being able to produce similar results across three separate albums only adds to the mythos these releases bring. They’re already packed with star-power from some of the biggest names out, but him being able to seemingly break new acts & trends in the process is nothing short of impressive. Some have compared Travis Scott releases to movie blockbusters, equating them to nothing more than entertaining couple of hours. Just like those massive blockbusters though, every small actor gets a substantial boost in the spotlight.

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