Houston cult-like rap figure Travis Scott has a small team behind him at Cactus Jack Records, but unfortunately, he doesn’t do much to showcase their greatness with their first collective effort, JACKBOYS. Scott, alongside with Sheck Wes and Don Toliver, seems to have curated a very vibey seven-track EP loaded with heavy-hitting features by Scott’s frequent collaborators, but barely gives us a glimpse at the collective’s members and abilities themselves.
That’s not to say each artist doesn’t have the ability to hold their own, though. Sheck Wes, who proved himself an energetic ball of energy on solo debut album Mudboy last year, glides through “Gang Gang” with a bag full of adlibs and charisma. Travis Scott, alongside Wes and Don Toliver, break out into a hook that sounds like a reminiscent of A$AP Rocky’s “Bubushka Boy,” but mashed together with a plethora of Kid Cudi-esque hums and an interpolation of Jay Rock’s “Win.”
The song is a standout, with Luxury Tax closing the song out with a tough, braggy verse.
Don Toliver gets his respect on the dreamy TM88 & WondaGurl produced “Had Enough,” crooning over soulful samples and organs that occasionally get lost over a haze of hi-hats and trap workings. Offset and Quavo tightly trade-off verses and adlibs, with all three artists slickly recounting past relationship woes. Young Thug continues the EP’s momentum with “OUT WEST,” delivering some outlandish vocal squeals before dropping an addicting hook. Travis Scott sounds at home alongside Thug, rapping over a fluttery recorder-loop: “Easy, the dawgs is right behind me, they on edge / Believe me, we pop out in the city to collect.”
As fantastic as Thug, Quavo and Offset sound on JACKBOYS, the actual signees of Travis Scott’s label, whoever they officially are (DJ Chase B, Octavian, and Luxury Tax are rumored signees, though not official), don’t get their respective opportunities for proper introductions. Sheck Wes only appears on the team-oriented “GANG GANG,” while Don Toliver, as talented as his crooning may be, flails alone on the bloated “WHAT TO DO?” through flat Auto-Tune melodies and generic “I’m still not sober” late-night songwriting.
What’s even more upsetting is the inclusion of “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM,” which got a remix treatment featuring a Latina singer ROSALÍA and a decent feature from Lil Baby, but none of the JACKBOYS themselves. The song is followed by a short instrumental introduction titled “JACKBOYS,” which is a soft and synthy Mike Dean production that doesn’t do much for the EP overall, despite leading directly into “GANG GANG.”
“GATTI,” the EP’s confusing choice of a closer track, features Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke over a hurried, yet bland drill beat. Pop Smoke’s grizzly voice soars over a beat that sounds fit for his trigger-happy lyrics, but not his delivery. After a few soaring “okay, okay” and “woo” adlibs, Scott hops on the song’s latter half and doesn’t do much to add any flavor to the already muted production.
Although ASTROWORLD showcased a fluid, ever-changing landscape of late-night vibes and druggy-consciousness by Travis Scott, it seems the company with JACKBOYS feels thinner, generic, and watered down by comparison. Despite impressive features and banging singles, JACKBOYS seems too lean of a project to feel like a noteworthy introduction to Scott’s label and collective.