Mr Travis Scott: Making Bad Behaviour Look Good
MR PORTER dresses the rapper and force of nature.
In 2014, when MR PORTER first met Mr Travis Scott, he likened himself to the Sex Pistols’ wild and self-destructive bassist Mr Sid Vicious, calling him “the rock star of all rock stars”. He’s also been mentioned in the same breath – admittedly, his own – as the defiantly anti-fashion grunge god Mr Kurt Cobain.
Such comparisons might seem like so much hot air and swagger, part of a baseline level of braggadocio that’s to be expected from a man mentored by Mr Kanye West, himself not averse to the odd bit of grandiosity. But then again, perhaps they make a lot of sense.
In 2018, there’s a gung-ho, caution-to-the-wind-ness about Mr Scott’s public persona – not to mention his excellent, thrown-together style, heavy on the metal T-shirts (even before they were fashionable) – that seems counter to the prevailing winds of celebrity culture. This is despite the fact that, as the other half of Ms Kylie Jenner, he’s found himself firmly at the centre of the Kardashian franchise – the manicured nails, plumped lips, ecstatic emojis and breathless gossip articles. This is a world that’s more or less Insta-perfect – but Mr Scott is not. In fact, he’s chaotic, uncontrollable, a force of nature. That much is certainly implied in his last released solo single, 2017’s psychedelic, incantatory “Butterfly Effect”, with its defiant refrain of “For this life, I cannot change”.
But, yes, there’s the whole inciting-a-riot thing, too – early this year, he pled guilty to a (heavily contested) disorderly conduct charge following allegations that he encouraged fans to rush the stage at a show in Arkansas in 2017. Days later, he dropped a limited edition T-shirt on his site with “Free the Rage” written on the back. If this isn’t bona fide rock ‘n’ roll bad behaviour, what is?
Part of Mr Scott’s appeal is, of course, his mystique – he doesn’t give much away about himself and doesn’t seem to care much about media attention. In interviews, he’s good-humoured, but not expansive (see his Billboard videos from January 2018, or even his his-and-hers moment – mostly hers – with Ms Jenner for GQ’s cover story this month). His work is not about wordplay; his songs do away with the formalities of introspection in favour of an icy atmosphere, a feeling of brooding darkness.
It’s a Midas touch that he brings to the artists he works with. As a producer, he’s managed to push Madonna far from her usual pop sensibilities for rap anthem “Illuminati” on 2015’s underrated Rebel Heart album. He got Rihanna to lean into a laissez-faire attitude on _Anti’_s “Woo”, in which she’s not so much singing as simply rocking with the beat. Even such a titanic figure as Jay-Z abandons his usual tight production when collaborating with Mr Scott – they worked together on the reflective “Crown”, which has since been repurposed by his wife Beyoncé as part of her empowerment anthem “Flawless”. Meanwhile Drake, who has always had quite a moody tone, was inspired by Mr Scott to turn it up to 11 on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. And, most recently, he played foil to Migos’ Quavo, releasing a collaborative album, Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho in January 2018.
Of course, such collaborations can’t be mentioned without acknowledging the huge influence exerted on Mr Scott by Mr West, who kick-started the young Texan’s career by signing him up as a producer, on his GOOD Music label, in 2012, and the subsequent contribution Mr Scott made, as a collaborator, to Mr West’s 2013 album Yeezus, on tracks “New Slaves”, “Guilt Trip” and “I Am A God”.
That album, and Mr Scott himself, were integral to Mr West’s turn towards the performative stance Mr Scott himself likes to espouse – the rock star. Today, this is still how they command an audience – there were mosh pits on Mr West’s last tour, while Mr Scott, in a live show setting, dares his fans to act out. On stage, he’s raucous, rebellious, fevered. The autotuned hooks for which he’s famed scrape alongside throat-straining screams. It’s actually all a bit unexpected: on record his songs seem like the soundtrack to a life of laid-back weed smoking and long rides along the Pacific Coast Highway in a drop top. On stage, they’re altogether different – stadium-filling anthems that get crowds well and truly jumping.
If “Butterfly Effect” is any indicator, Mr Scott’s upcoming album Astroworld (a highly anticipated new release, which is dropping at some unspecified time in 2018), may only heighten this contrast – it’s a breezy, transcendental slice of psychedelic, melodic trap that you might happily cruise along to on a summer day (as Mr Scott himself does in the video). But it has fans positively foaming at the mouth for more. Almost every post on Mr Scott’s Instagram at the moment is accompanied by comments along the lines of: “Astro?” or “Astroworld” or the straightforward “Can you drop the album?” So far, he’s being characteristically tight-lipped about it.
These complexities and divergences within Mr Scott’s character are what make him one of the most enthralling and intriguing celebrities at the moment. Reticent in some ways, cathartic in others, he’s an agent of chaos, but he pulls it off with a certain assured elegance.
This much is plain to see in the images that accompany this article – for which Mr Scott kindly agreed to model some clothing from a few fellow renegades: the Mr West-affiliated Mr Matthew Williams of ALYX; the ingenious Japanese maverick Mr Takahiro Miyashita with a bit of Balenciaga and Dries Van Noten thrown in for good measure.
The shoot, for the record, was done in an hour: Mr Scott arrived like a hurricane, got the shots, then left. Normally it takes all day. Sometimes, it seems, bad behaviour pays off.