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First Impressions of Travis Scott’s New Album “Utopia”

Travis Scott Utopia
James Francisco

In May, Travis Scott made headlines when he was spotted with his bodyguard, who had a briefcase with “Utopia” painted on it handcuffed to his wrist. It was an extreme stunt, even for the secretive artist, but on July 28, the world finally discovered what was inside that briefcase.

At midnight, Travis Scott released his highly anticipated album, Utopia. The 19-track project serves as a follow-up to his 2018 album, ASTROWORLD, and features collaborations with A-list artists like Beyoncé, Drake, Young Thug, Bad Bunny, The Weeknd, and many more.

Now, the question stands: is Utopia worth the hype? Below, members of the Complex staff break down the best and worst parts of this exciting project after a few spins in.

Best song?

Jessica: “SKITZO” is basically a 3-in-1 song. The first two parts of the track serve up a twerkable anthem, complemented by a Young Thug feature. The final part of the track showcases a more intentional verse from Trav with a classic flow. “SKITZO” is the song that caters to all the vibes. It’s what I want to hear at a festival, at the club, and in the car. 

Eric: “FE!N” if we’re judging this by how hard my neck snapped back when I first heard FIEND, FIEND, FIEND, FIEND. Other than that, “I KNOW?” and “TELEKINESIS” jumped out on first listen.

Ecleen: This is always tough after just a few listens, so I’m gonna be annoying and name a few. I quite enjoyed the experimentation on “MODERN JAM” and I can see myself adding it to some of my energy-infusing intended playlists. It’s not an easy listen and was jarring at first, but the chaos is almost what makes it ensnaring. “FE!N” is also very fun and I’ll be playing it on many a drive, I’m sure. Other than that, the melancholic romantic in me who appreciates James Blake’s sonic touch will likely gravitate to “TIL FURTHER NOTICE…” but hopefully, I won’t have to, ha. 

Mike: Everyone will be talking about Drake’s “MELTDOWN” verse and probably consider that the standout track after first listen because of it. And while it’s a great piece of the album, the song that has stuck with me is “Topia Twins.” As much as I love the experimental tracks on Utopia, this feels like one of those classic Travis Scott tracks to me that was great to hear after waiting five years since ASTROWORLD dropped. Rob49 and 21 Savage deliver some of the best rapping on the project. A close second for me is “TELEKINESIS.” It’s a perfect way to wind down to the conclusion of the album and showcases Future and SZA in peak form. “Thank God” rounds out my top three after the first few spins. 

Ben: I think I have to go with “SKITZO” on this one. Most people will immediately gravitate to
“Meltdown,” but Travis and Young Thug on a track is always special and that’s no different this time around. Thug's flow on top of “SKITZO's” production with Travis' patented ad-libs coming in and out is chef's kiss.

Jordan: No song particularly stuck out to me as being the “best.” They all feel like they’re on the same level.

Stefan: “TELEKINESIS.” I’ve been waiting for this one for a long long time.

Biggest skip?

Jessica: “DELRESTO (ECHOES).” I'm so sorry, Beyoncé. I really want to like this song. I’m going to keep trying.

Eric: “GOD’S COUNTRY.” The energy is flat compared to the others, and that weird high-pitched loop in the back is going to ruin the replayability for me.

Ecleen: The biggest skips are found in blips of predictability or drastic pace changes for me, which happen several times throughout the project. But most annoyingly so perhaps on “GOD’S COUNTRY,” which is a tad too puzzled and pieced together for my liking. And “SIRENS.”

Mike: While it sounds better when listening to it in the flow of the album, “K-POP” still isn’t doing it for me. Dropping a single with two of the biggest artists on the planet (all artists whose music I enjoy) felt more like a cheap strategy to boost streaming numbers or force a number one record on Billboard more than anything else. It’s a fun summer song that may grow on me if I hear it out and about, but it doesn't feel totally in line with the rest of the sound of UTOPIA. Also, as much as I love the production and James Blake’s chorus on “LOST FOREVER,” I could have done without the Westside Gunn verse. He sounds a bit out of place. Not my cup of tea, but to each their own. 

Ben: “K-Pop” without a doubt is the biggest skip. I'm not sure how Travis, The Weeknd and Bad Bunny managed to get together on such a forgettable song, but that's exactly what “K-Pop” is. It takes a lot for me to skip a song when I'm listening to an album front-to-back, but I'll be skipping this one most of the time.

Jordan: “My Eyes” feels too slow for this album. I wouldn’t skip it because it’s bad, but it just feels out of place.

Stefan: “K-POP.” Travis is a silly guy for making the lead single off UTOPIA the biggest skip. It had the star power and perfect title for algorithms, search engines, and whatnot, but it ultimately felt oddly patched together.

Best thing about the album?

Jessica: I may sound like a teenager, but the best thing about UTOPIA is the vibe. Over the past year or so, rap and music in general have been trying to escape from a dark and gloomy place, and this album continues that positive trend. Though the project maintains the sinister and ominous energy that Travis usually brings to his music, UTOPIA introduces an experimental sound that infuses fun back into the genre. It's evident that Travis and all the featured guests are having a good time and fearlessly exploring their creativity without worrying about criticism or consequences. And as many have already pointed out online, the exceptional production plays a significant role in setting the album's tone. UTOPIA truly brings a refreshing and uplifting experience to the table.

Eric: The production is so strong (and has so much variety) that Travis somehow pulled off a 19-song album that stays exciting throughout. This is an expensive-ass rap album that makes the most of its blockbuster budget, and it’s certainly not boring (which can’t be said for a lot of other major rap albums this year). But we already knew we’d get great production on a Travis Scott album. What impressed me the most is actually how much he leveled up his own rapping. Especially on songs like “SKITZO” and the second half of “MY EYES,” Travis is rapping a lot better than we’re used to hearing from him. 

Ecleen: The best thing about this album is its heterogeneity. It’s quite literally, but also figuratively, rich in its production, flaunting credits from the likes of everyone from Kanye West and Mike Dean (via his pen) to WondaGurl and Metro Boomin. Beyoncé and Travis were competing for most expensive album of the last few years with their projects; thankfully, the two graced us with a track to blissfully swim in this summer and detract from our lack of comparable coins.

Mike: The production. Travis Scott’s projects always deliver on this front, but this is some of the best. It’s that type of experimental sound that makes a first listen through so fun. You don’t know what will be coming next. The beat switches on songs like “Thank God” and “My Eyes” are some of my favorite instrumental pieces on the album. I worried that 19 tracks may drag by the end, as so many albums with inflated tracklists tend to these days, but that didn’t happen for me when I was running through UTOPIA because of everything going on within each track. Furthermore, we should all give Mike Dean his flowers. His work on UTOPIA was impeccable, as it usually is.

Ben: The production, hands down. This is for sure some of the best rapping that Travis has done throughout his career, but the quality of the production is completely unmatched. The list of producers on the album is a mile long, and everyone who has their hand in it adds their own signature touch while simultaneously sticking to the overall vibe of the project.

Jordan:Travis Scott filled UTOPIA with a unique set of features that gives the album a multi-layered feeling. Between Beyoncé, SZA, Westside Gunn, Teezio Touchdown, Drake, and several others, there are a lot of different kinds of rap on this album, which I can appreciate.Stefan: The production is phenomenal. BNYX, Guy-Manuel de Homem, Metro, Mike Dean, Kanye, and Travis himself. The credits go on and on.

first impressions of travis scotts new album utopia cover art

Cactus Jack/Epic Records

Worst thing about the album?

Jessica: I have no notes right now. I’m not even upset that the project is 19 tracks long, which is usually my go-to issue. 

Eric: I know how annoying this take is, but the worst thing about the album is the single. “K-POP” sounded more like a marketing strategy (or a math equation to get a streaming hit) than an actual song. I love each of the artists on it, but as a song, it felt forced. Thankfully, the rest of the album is a lot more interesting than “K-POP.” 

Ecleen: Can’t think of anything specific yet other than the fact that it’s quite long. But that didn’t stop me from running it back, so.

Mike: The album is not flawless, but there are no major flaws to me after my first few listens. Not to repeat myself, but “K-POP” is probably the most glaring miss on UTOPIA. “SIRENS” is a bit jarring at full volume, which is certainly intentional, but not the most inviting thing to listen to multiple times over. “I KNOW?” is fine, but not the most captivating track in comparison to everything else going on here. 

Ben: This is hard for me, because I really do like the album a whole lot. I guess I would say after my first few listens that there might not be any single song or two that stands out above the rest. As a whole, I think it's Scott's most complete project, but it might not have that one song that reaches the same heights that a “Sicko Mode” or “Goosebumps” did.

Jordan: There were too many moments where Travis Scott sounded like he was doing a Kanye West impersonation on tracks and with his production choices. “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” sounds way too similar to “Black Skinhead,” minus The Weeknd’s feature. There are also several other moments on the album, like on “MODERN JAM” where Travis adopts a Ye-like flow that just sounds weird.

Stefan: “K-POP.”

Best feature?

Jessica: I mean, Drake on “MELTDOWN” is a no-brainer. It’s incredibly entertaining when Drizzy taps into his ruthless bag. He’s filthy, relentless, and exciting on the track. “I melt down the chains that I bought from yo' boss/ Give a fuck about all of that heritage shit/ Since V not around, the members done hung up the Louis, they not even wearing that shit,” he spits. Yikes! I wonder if this will prompt a response from anyone. Apart from Drake's contribution, let's also give a round of applause to Young Thug on “SKITZO,” The Weeknd on “CIRCUS MAXIMUS,” and SZA on “TELEKINESIS.” 

Eric: I’m a sucker for James Blake and Travis Scott collabs, and both of them (“Lost Forever” and “TIL FURTHER NOTICE”) hit on UTOPIA.

Ecleen: It’s a tie between James Blake’s two tracks and The Weeknd on “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” for me. Generally, I think The Weeknd was in his bag for these features. Although “K-POP” was very forgettable overall, the Canadian smooth operator’s portion of it was the least so.

Mike: Rob49’s verse, simply because I have not personally checked out his music yet and his feature on “Topia Twins” peaked my interest enough to do so. 21 continued his amazing run with two great feature verses of his own. What Future and SZA did on “TELEKINESIS” is also incredibly special. Every feature artist delivered. 

Ben: The best feature for me is James Blake on “TIL FURTHER NOTICE.” This might not be the most popular answer and it might even be the safest. But time and time again, Scott and Blake prove that they are one of the best duos in music. “Mile High,” “Stop Trying to Be God,” and now both “TIL FURTHER NOTICE,” and ‘Lost Forever,” on this project? Those two just don't miss.

Jordan: It’s a tie between Beyoncé and 21 Savage for me. Beyoncé really blessed Travis Scott by lending her vocal abilities to the album, and Savage continues to lace every track he’s on this year.

Stefan: It has to be Drake and his sinister whispers on “Meltdown.” The “Jumbotron Shit Poppin” video was just a setup for this verse and I couldn’t imagine a more Drake approach. I love it. The petty king reigns supreme.

Biggest surprise?

Jessica: Beyoncé (Tiffany “New York” Pollard voice)?! Besides the fact that Trav refuses to label his features on songs, I would have never guessed that Beyoncé would agree to hop on a Travis Scott album. I’m equally impressed and stunned. It almost makes me feel bad that I don’t even like the collaboration. 

Eric: You mean, besides Drake boasting about melting down Pharrell’s old jewelry (and potentially revealing that his “Jumbotron Shit Poppin” nod was more of a dig at Pharrell than an homage)? I definitely didn’t see that coming. And I honestly didn’t expect to hear Travis take so many swings on this album, either. There was a lot riding on UTOPIAfor Travis’ career, but he still tried new shit—especially on songs like “Modern Jam” and “LOOOVE”—pushing himself outside of his comfort zone. Yes, there are heavy Kanye influences here, but Travis twisted it enough in his own image to make it feel new. I was worried this thing would drone on for 19 songs without much variety, but that’s not the case. UTOPIA is adventurous as hell for an artist as big as Travis is right now, with way more left turns than I expected, and it paid off.

Ecleen: It really is uncanny how much some of this is reminicent of Ye, quite literally at times when the two sound interchangeable (e.g. “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” and “HYAENA“). But context of their careers and history together makes that make sense. Beyond that, Beyoncé. Her feature here reminded me of her random appearance on Drake’s “Can I,” which I also very much appreciate to this day. 

Mike: The Beyoncé feature was a big surprise. But overall, the rapping from Travis may be the biggest surprise to me. No, I’m not saying Travis Scott is a lyrical genius or anything like that. There are still some duds like “I'm loyal, bitch, I got Ye over Biden.” But to be honest, I’m not listening to Travis Scott’s music for top tier rapping in the first place. It’s the whole package. That being said, it feels like he’s doing some of the best rapping of his career here. Tracks like “Thank God” and “TIL FURTHER NOTICE,” display this best. Not that the bar was extremely high, but it’s good to hear him try to hone that part of his craft, especially when so many of his feature verses over the past few months have fallen flat and it’s the main knock against him for so many people. 

Ben: Look, maybe this is filled with bias (this is definitely filled with bias), but to me the biggest surprise was hearing Travis shout out my alma mater, the University of Kansas Jayhawks. I was the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing at the TV screen meme in real life when I heard Travis say, “Nicknamed the jet Jayhawk 'cause it's outta Kansas.” That’s what my heart says, but my brain says the biggest surprise is Beyoncé. The rest of my theater and I audibly gasped when she came on during “CIRCUS MAXIMUS.”

Jordan: It was dope to see artists like Westside Gunn and Teezio Touchdown get a major look on this album. Gunn killed his verse on “Lost Forever” and gave UTOPIAa whole different kind of rapping that it needed.

Stefan: The variety of features. James Blake, Bon Iver, Playboi Carti, Bad Bunny, and finally Beyoncé. Travis has collabed with plenty of these people before, but blending genres like this into one complete album was a pleasant surprise.

Overall thoughts?

Jessica: I wasn't sure if Travis would deliver, but UTOPIA is incredible and stands as his best album to date. The production is top-notch, the featured artists were well-chosen and added value, and most importantly, Travis takes center stage with more focused and substantial raps. While I don’t necessarily believe rap is falling off completely, this album made me realize the void it was filling. In a sea of similar-sounding music, UTOPIA breaks free from current trends. It boldly blends different sounds and worlds, showcasing true versatility. UTOPIAserves as a much-needed reset, bringing back the fun, experimental, and heartfelt elements we've all been missing. UTOPIA is to Travis Scott what Yeezus was to Kanye West—some people may not get it, but the people who do will revere this as a classic and one of his boldest moves yet. Album of the year (straight up). 

Eric: UTOPIA is a much-hyped, expensive, blockbuster rap album that actually lives up to its creative ambitions. It’s been a weird year for rap, and it’s refreshing as hell to hear an album that pulls in dozens of the biggest artists on the planet and has the guts to actually make interesting creative choices. You can keep your “rap is getting stale” tweets in the drafts for a while longer, because this is a very well-produced, expansive album full of twists and turns (and I imagine it’ll be rewarded by staying on the top of the charts for a lengthy run). I’m going to need more listens to wrap my head around where this ranks in Travis’ discography, but it’s very high.

Ecleen: I’ll be honest, I didn’t care much for Travis’ work before this and was confused by his cultish allure after watching 2019’s documentary and hearing about 2021’s tragic event. But with this project, I’m listening. And would like to experience this live.

Mike: Maybe I’m a prisoner of the moment, but I’ve been listening to Travis Scott since he released Owl Pharaoh. To me, this is his strongest project top to bottom. The Yeezus influence is obvious. “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” might as well be a “Black Skinhead” cover. But channeling such a monumental album shouldn’t be a knock against UTOPIA, especially since he does it so well. I’m happy that Travis Scott decided to get experimental with this project, especially since he’s such a big name that he probably didn’t need to. The result is something that doesn’t sound like what other artists are doing right now. I’m excited to see how songs like “Modern Jam” and “FE!N” translate to his live performances. Dropping a rap project like this in a year without much competition may finally lead to Travis Scott securing that Best Rap Album Grammy he should have already won for ASTROWORLD.

Ben: My first impression of UTOPIA is as good as it can be. I am a well-documented stan of Travis Scott's music and I think this album should and will be in the discussion for his best and most complete piece of work yet. A lot of the internet is already calling this Travis' Yeezus album in the way he experiments with sound and pushes the envelope. I don't think it is a direct comparison by any means, but I definitely think there is merit there, especially with the similarities between the song “CIRCUS MAXIMUS” and “Black Skinhead.” Another unpopular opinion of mine is that Yeezus is Kanye's best album, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm just about ready to say that about UTOPIA as well.

Jordan: There was a lot of chatter on social media about how UTOPIAis Travis Scott’s Yeezus, and I think that’s the most accurate way to describe this album. I hated Yeezus when it first dropped, but I eventually enjoyed it after several listens over the years. I don’t see myself revisiting UTOPIAbecause of some of the jarring beat choices and how tracks blend together since I don’t think Travis is really saying anything in his verses, but I don’t think that makes this a bad album. Most of the features, especially Beyonce, 21 Savage, Young Thug, and Drake, really show out on the album and give it different complexions that it desperately needs when Travis’ Kanye impressions start to get old. UTOPIAsounds like music that Christopher Nolan would put in the background of a nightclub fight scene for Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy. Take that as you may. Stefan: The 1,820-day wait was well worth it… if I knew we were getting this I would have never complained about the wait. Travis is one of the few artists who can really build a fully immersive world around their music. Trav is four solo albums in, and I’ll take this four-album-run and put it up against the best of ‘em.

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