Before the Astroworld tragedy, Travis Scott’s “Raging” made him a star

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Travis Scott has always been a showman first and foremost.

A master of marketing who is also good at curating big-name collaborators and exclusive experiences, Mr. Scott is a figure of few words and little eye contact who is not known as a technically adept rapper or a dynamic celebrity outside. scene. Instead, he’s built his multi-platinum name and widely licensed as an avatar of excess and a conductor of energy – an electric live artist who prioritizes how his music makes you feel (and act).

Since 2015, when he established himself as a reliable concert headliner, Mr. Scott (born Jacques B. Webster) has gained an international reputation as a star attraction and evangelist for the physical expression of good humor – what he calls “rage” – whip mosh pits, crowds of surfers and divers on stage as his shows teeter on the verge of chaos. In a rare trajectory, the smash hits didn’t come until later.

“The way he interacts with his crowd, he’s one of the only performers who when he arrives can vibrate with each person,” a fan explained in the Netflix documentary “Travis Scott: Look Mom I Can Fly” , from 2019 Amid mounts of blood, sweat and colliding bodies, another added, “You can fall and everyone will pick you up.” It’s weird how one person’s music can turn everyone into such a family.

Such expressive and loosely choreographed ruckus – a common and long-standing feature of live performances in all musical circles, including metal, punk, and ska – doesn’t necessarily mean mass danger.

But Mr Scott’s attempts to balance some sort of community catharsis with the powder keg of an exuberant young crowd – which led to accusations that he instigated fans and encouraged dangerous behavior – swung decisively towards the Friday night tragedy in Houston, where eight people were killed and hundreds more injured as the rapper performed the last set of the night in the third iteration of his Astroworld festival.

The authorities are still investigating the causes of the increase in the number of 50,000 spectators and how this contributed to “the event causing many victims”, which lasted about 40 minutes, according to the police. . Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said officials feared ending the show earlier could have sparked a riot.

Mr Scott said in a video statement on Instagram that despite recognizing an ambulance in the crowd, he did not realize the extent of the emergency. He noted that he usually interrupted his concerts to make sure injured fans could get to safety, adding, “I just could never imagine the gravity of the situation.”

Representatives for Mr Scott said on Monday that he plans to reimburse all attendees who purchased tickets to Astroworld. The rapper also canceled his next headlining appearance on Saturday at the Day N Vegas festival, they said.

While crowd control disasters have occurred at rock concerts, religious celebrations, and football games, the Houston incident quickly transformed Mr. Scott’s main selling point and core philosophy as a artist in a flash on his guilt after years of encouragement and participation. in – extreme behavior of his fans.

Twice previously Mr Scott has been arrested and charged with inciting riots at his concerts, pleading guilty to minor charges. In an ongoing civil case, a spectator said he was partially paralyzed in 2017 after Mr Scott encouraged people to jump from a third-floor balcony and then took him on stage.

Still, these incidents only served to bolster the rapper’s legend of live performances, with footage of stretchers, wheelchairs, and daredevil stunts that may have necessitated them – like jumping off structures from lighting – used to illustrate the traveling carnival of Mr. Scott’s career.

On Sunday, however, an official advertisement for this year’s Astroworld festival that highlighted such images was removed from YouTube.

Mr. Scott, a Houston native who dropped out of the University of Texas to devote himself to music, became a protégé of Kanye West in 2012. Using Mr. West’s inclination for cultural pastiche, as well as role models avant-garde and avant-garde artists. like Kid Cudi and ASAP Rocky, Mr. Scott quickly emerged at the forefront of a micro-generation of rappers – Playboi Carti, Trippie Redd, Lil Uzi Vert – who brought a punk-rock sensibility to scale. mass of modern rap, especially in concert.

After a few prominent guest appearances and two mixtapes released in 2013 and 2014, Mr. Scott’s debut studio album, “Rodeo,” was released through Epic Records and rapper’s TI’s Grand Hustle label in 2015. One a year earlier, Mr. Scott was playing for a small audience. But after his debut, the musician began to fulfill his dreams of ambitious set design and adrenaline to match.

In a 2015 GQ segment titled “How to Rage With Travis Scott,” the rapper linked his childhood fantasy of becoming a professional wrestler with his later desire to make his shows “feel like it was WWF”.

“Raging and, you know, having fun and expressing good feelings is something that I plan to do and spread around the world,” Mr. Scott said. “We don’t like people standing around – whether you’re black, white, brown, green, purple, yellow, blue, we don’t want you to stand there.”

A concert review of Complex that year was titled “Tried Not to Die at Travi $ Scott and Young Thug’s Last Night”, calling the concert “the most dangerous refuge” and “fight for death.” survival ”.

But as Mr. Scott’s diverse audience has grown and his operation professionalized, he has also come up against the limits of his amiable anarchy. At the Lollapalooza festival that summer in Chicago, the rapper’s set was cut short five minutes later, after telling fans to run to the barricades, turn off security and chant, “We want some rage.” resulting in a stampede that injured 15 years. -old girl. Mr. Scott subsequently pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was placed under judicial supervision for a year.

In 2017, Mr Scott was arrested again following a performance in Arkansas, where he was charged with incitement to riot for encouraging fans to rush onto stage and bypass security. He eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a fine of $ 7,465.31.

Mr. Scott’s fame quickly skyrocketed. The same year as his arrest in Arkansas, he joined the Kardashians Extended Universe as Kylie Jenner’s boyfriend; the couple had a daughter, Stormi, in 2018 and are now expecting their second child.

But it was the release of Mr. Scott’s third album, “Astroworld,” in the summer of 2018 that cemented him among the top echelons of superstar artists – and salespeople. The release of the album was associated with an extensive collection of merchandise that drove shopping and saw collaborations with McDonald’s, Hot Wheels, Nike, Reese’s and more.

“Astroworld” also featured Billboard’s No.1 rapper debut single “Sicko Mode,” starring Drake, a feat Mr. Scott would repeat three more times from 2019 to 2020. It has garnered eight Grammy nominations since 2013, released three charts. tops the charts and is known as a streaming juggernaut.

After recreating rodeos and flying on top of an animatronic bird above its crowd, Mr. Scott organized an international tour for “Astroworld” – named after a former Six Flags theme park near the location. where he grew up – which included a functional roller coaster that soared above the audience.

Rolling Stone called it “the greatest show in the world”, comparing Mr. Scott’s “wild jump” to Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, while the Washington Post named the rapper “one of the most electrifying performers. of the moment, “a” maestro leading the chaos. “

Amid his big-budget diversification, Mr Scott used his hit release to kick off the festival of the same name, building on the industry trend of big-top, organized weekend concerts. by major artists. (Astroworld was canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic; yet 28 million viewers watched Mr. Scott play in the Fortnite video game.)

The Netflix documentary “Look Mom I Can Fly” chronicled the preparation of the album “Astroworld” and the first edition of the festival. But even if it underscored Mr. Scott’s penchant for stoking the hype – a quick advance through empty crowds from his early career to the heckling of Lollapalooza, Arkansas and his heavy fireworks displays in hectic, high-voltage streaks. – there were times that also signaled the need to exercise caution.

Mr Scott is seen berating security and cheering on his crowd, but he is also shown several times paused on stage as seemingly unconscious bodies are lifted through the crowd for treatment. “I feel bad, though,” he said after his release from Arkansas jail. “I have heard that children hurt themselves.

Before another show, a member of the rapper’s team is shown backstage, preparing the venue’s security personnel.

“Our children, they push against the front and stretch all the way and fill the whole ground floor, so the pressure becomes very strong against the barricade,” the man, whose face is blurred in the barricade, tells them. images. . “You’ll see a lot of surfers in general, but you’ll also see a lot of kids just trying to get out and get to safety because they can’t breathe, because it’s so compact.”

“You won’t know how bad it can be with our crowd,” he adds, “until we pass each other.”

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