2017 was an eventful year for Quavo and Travis Scott — throughout the last 12 months, both artists have rapidly ascended into the mainstream forefront, firmly established themselves into hip-hop’s elite and gained loyal fan bases in the millions. As a result, it wasn’t without significant buzz and fan fervor that their collaborative album “Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho” was released Dec. 21. The artists’ starpower quickly propelled the project to chart tops, capping off a resoundingly successful year for both rappers.
For Quavo, 2017 marked a breakthrough year for him and his rap group Migos. Fueled by the hit singles “Bad and Boujee” and “Slippery,” as well as the success of studio album “Culture,” Migos quickly ascended to hip-hop darling status with Quavo as the popular front-man of the group — the JT or Beyoncé, per se. Since then, the rapper has had a ubiquitous presence in hip-hop, collaborating on songs with Drake, DJ Khaled, Post Malone and Camila Cabello, just to name a few.
Similarly, Travis Scott enjoyed a year in which he exploded into the mainstream. His single “Goosebumps” amassed a triple platinum certification, and to cap this off he toured with rap monolith Kendrick Lamar. In addition, he turned heads when he broke a world record by performing “Goosebumps” 15 consecutive times in concert, and made tabloid headlines when his relationship with Kylie Jenner, culminating in Jenner’s rumored pregnancy, was revealed.
Aside from their meteoric ascents, Quavo and Travis Scott share a number of other similarities. Both rappers base their artistry on the way they sound, which they often prioritize over lyrical content and thematic exploration. To pull this off, both heavily utilize Auto-Tune as well ad-libs. In fact, it is not uncommon for the two of them to breeze through verses with an ad-lib on every line.
“Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho” is a perfect representation of the overall artistry of the rappers, playing off of their strengths and drawing from the successful song formulas that catapulted them to success. The album bombards listeners with bass-heavy trap song after trap song, with Quavo’s and Scott’s magnetic voices levitating over the tracks and delivering their signature sounds. Almost every song is high-octane and up-tempo, and welcome additions to any workout playlist.
However, immediately evident is the album’s lack of fulfilled potential. Any superstar rap pairing draws high expectations, and although “Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho” certainly serves as an effective caricature of both artists’ careers, it fails to properly innovate or demonstrate stylistic evolution for either rapper. Indeed, the tracks are much less experimental than Scott’s previous work, and the songs are similar to the point that many of them blend together.
In fact, even the collaboration itself is questionable. While both artists are clearly in their primes, their artistry is stylistically very similar and as a result there is a lot of talent overlap and little to make each of them stand out or complement one another. Although their voices sound different, their styles do little give the album the appearance of a collaborative project.
Thematically, Quavo and Scott stick with their past formulas for success. For the most part, this involves constant reminders of their success: they’re both successful beyond imagination, and they’re both a lot richer than you! In “Modern Slavery,” the duo insinuate that their extravagant lifestyles have made them slaves to money, but they’re perfectly fine with that: “All these damn chains, modern slavery / But this ain’t 1800 so they pay me.” Other motifs in the album mostly relate to their lavish, but trap lifestyle, such as partying, beautiful women, drugs and drug hustling and gang life.
The album is largely thematically stagnant, and rarely do Quavo and Scott rap about subjects of real substance. One nice break from this is “Best Man,” a wholesome track in which the artists express appreciation over their friendship and reminisce the good times they’ve spent together.
“Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho” represents more of a look back at the rappers’ careers rather than a next step. But to be fair, Quavo and Scott have followed this formula to massive success giving them little reason to modify it. In the end, it is another worthy record to add to their incredible runs of success, but their overlapping styles and lack of artistic evolution offset what could have been a bigger, better album.