“We want rage,” TRAVIS SCOTT once chanted onstage over and over again in Chicago, before being arrested for disorderly conduct. During the rapper and producer’s tour last year, he rode through the American heartland on an animatronic eagle with glowing ruby eyes. At a stop for the first-ever rap concert in Rogers, Arkansas, the artist encouraged fans to rush the no man’s land between the stage and the pit, and left the venue in police custody. He was charged with inciting a riot.
Scott loves the word “rage,” and calls his fans “ragers.” Much like Rufio, the evil foil to Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s Hook, he has taken up the mantle as king of the kids, rejecting the complacent march to adulthood through unbridled displays of emotion. Thus far snubbed by awards, Scott occupies a special place in the suburban teenage psyche and its devotion to lit-ness as an antidote to mediocrity. Perhaps it is because, as a non-coastal outsider, he is one of them. Scott’s all-seeing, solitary, predatory eagle doppelgänger was inspired by a trip to Legoland in San Diego. The upcoming tour for his album ASTROWORLD is rumored to feature a suite of carnival rides. The title comes from a defunct theme park in his native Texas, which in his lyrics has become a stand-in for the mental landscape from which his music emanates.
With his newborn daughter, Stormi, whom he calls his “little rager,” cradled in his arms, Travis Scott spoke to Thom Bettridge for 032c Issue 34 “The Big Flat Now.”
Thom Bettridge: You once said that you don’t want rap music to feel “disposable.” What did you mean by that?
Travis Scott: I mix albums that got mad replay value. I make albums that feel timeless. That’s why I’m so happy that the mixtape era is dissolving.
But you emerged as a star at the height of the mixtape era. Why did you always put so much importance in the album as a format?
I love movies. And I know how important scores are to movies. Albums are like the scores to people’s lives. And so I was always just making shit that’s the most epic score to someone’s life. My albums are usually kind of a like a movie set. You create that zone, and then you try to make music around that.
Even in your very early videos, it seemed like you were using cinema as a way to bring new kinds of references into rap music. Cowboy western themes. Surreal horror imagery that looks a lot like something out of a Robert Rodriguez film.
I’m just trying put my whole life on some cinematic shit. Wes Anderson. John Hughes. You know that movie The Prestige, with Christian Bale? Where he’s a magician searching for this technology from Nikola Tesla to keep up with his partner? I feel like that’s a lot like making music sometimes. You can drive yourself crazy thinking too hard about how to make certain shit, by trying to make yourself the standard. Sometimes it’s better to just live in the moment and use your vision.
Do you ever drive yourself crazy as a producer – pouring over small details obsessively? Is it difficult to let go of songs?
A lot of my friends kind of hate that about me. I’ll just sit and listen to a song over and over and over – breaking it down, building it up.
Was it like that finishing your new album, Astroworld?
Well, I think it helps that I listen to the fans a lot. Because they just want me to drop more music. They’re like, “Put this shit out, man!” So it makes it easier, because I really want to deliver. As life evolves, I feel more and more like I have to make these albums. It’s more extensive. This album is kind of like what I want to do with music going forward, to be honest. Finding a balance between what you like and what your fans like is always a fight for an artist. But for this album, I kind of just let it be me. And I think the kids will rock with what I got in my brain. This is where my mind is at right now. And I feel like I’m pushing music 100 billion steps forward.
Is there anything on there that you haven’t done before?
I’ve done a lot of music, bro. I make beats. Engineer shit. I try to sing on shit. Rap on shit. I’m always doing something new. The songs are a little weirder than I’ve ever had before on this album. The one thing I’ve done on this album is rapped more than I ever have. I just want people to get to know Jacques, you know what I’m saying? I want people to respect me on that level as a rapper. I want to be on that cloud with whoever they got in the record books as the greatest. I just need to them to slide me in on that slot.
You’ve become known for your intense live shows, and for getting large crowds of young fans into a frenzy. What have you learned from these crowds? What does the youth of America want?
They just want quality. They want ill shit. I feel like kids are getting smarter. Everyone’s more aware. You can’t just school people anymore. I’ve been all around the world. I’ve been on a few arena tours. If you’re one of the biggest artists in the game, you’ve seen so many different faces and kids and crowds. And do you know what the bottom line is for all these different races and genders? The bottom line is that music can be emotional. Emotion makes everything go out the window. I tried to remind every fan that this is their moment to completely let go of their shit. Because the second you leave here, there’s going to be motherfuckers giving you rules and telling you you can’t do this. Your creative ideas are going to be blocked. So this is the time to let go. The ultimate therapy.
In a couple instances over the past year or two, you’ve faced criminal charges for inciting riots during your concerts. Were you surprised when that happened?
I don’t get it. Riots are when people are like, breaking shit. I think this gets taken out of context in my shows, mistaking that for kids having fun. For me, personally, I’m here for everyone’s safety. I want everyone to come to the show and to go home. Whenever the situation gets taken too far, and they start pushing kids, everyone knows that with me and my fans, it’s us against the world. I just try to protect them. I don’t like seeing kids get kicked out. I don’t like seeing kids get thrown on the ground just because they’re getting lit.
Do you feel like the kids understand you better than the critics? So far in your career, you’ve been snubbed by the awards.
I think about it a lot. You know, every artist puts a lot into their music. And eventually my time will come. Every star is going to get its shine, you know?
You were working in the music industry from a very young age before you started really having albums as a solo artist. What did you learn from the artists you worked with at that time?
Time management. Getting shit done. How to formulate a team around you and empower that team. The people around you are the most important thing, because an artist can only do so much. So it’s real work to make sure your whole staff is in their position.
As you get more established, do you feel like it gets easier or harder to be creative?
If anything starts to fuck up your creativity, you have to step away from it. My creativity. My agenda. That’s the only thing I have. So once that shit’s gone, what are you left with?
How has being a dad been so far?
Amazing. Ah. Maze. Zing. I’m holding my little one right now.
Is there anything else you want to tell the people out there?
Yes, I have a public service announcement. Make sure you write this in bold and all-caps: