- Photography by Mr Beau Grealy | Styling by Ms Gaelle Paul
- Words by Ms Phoebe Lovatt
Mr Travi$ Scott reclines in a plush Hollywood photo studio, as a hair stylist slicks his freshly blow-dried Afro into a grid of tight, shoelace braids. Through a cloud of smoke, he is explaining his decision to abandon his studies at the University of Texas to pursue a musical career.
"College prepares you for real life, doing a job, taking orders," he says in a curious hybrid accent - part Southern drawl, part New York street kid, part Cali surfer dude. "I'm more like a Sid Vicious motherf****r. The rock star of all rock stars." Dressed in nothing but black suede Balmain biker trousers and with a trio of gold chains around his neck, everything about him supports this outlandish claim.
I saw this video of Ye [Mr Kanye West] on YouTube, making a beat in this yellow polo shirt, and thought: 'I need to do that'. I always had the vision
His bare torso tells a tale, a permanent reminder of a rebellious Texan youth. The veritable menagerie of animal ink on his slim frame - a swallow, a tiger, a headphone-wearing chimpanzee - includes a vast owl stretched across his left bicep. His very first tattoo, it's the one that "means the most" to him: the owl serves as both a spirit animal and the namesake of his debut solo mixtape. On 2013's Owl Pharaoh, Mr Scott showcased the dystopian beats and urgent lyricism that made the hip-hop cognoscenti sit up and take heed.
Our interview falls neatly on the 10th anniversary of The College Dropout, the seminal debut album that propelled Mr Scott's mentor, Mr Kanye West, to fame. It was Mr West who plucked Mr Scott out of obscurity a few years ago, summoning him to Hawaii to produce, and ultimately rap on, 2012's collaborative Cruel Summer LP. Fast-forward two years, and Mr Scott is fast on his way to usurping Mr West as rap's number one enfant terrible.
At just 21, Mr Scott has a bombastic confidence that belies his tender years - and the impressive discography to back it up. He already boasts production credits for Mr West and Jay-Z, and today he's fresh off the plane from a studio session with P Diddy in Miami. Mr Scott describes the rap mogul as "super energetic, just like me", but with his penchant for directional menswear and his tendency to speak (sometimes blurt) his mind, it's Mr West whom Mr Scott evokes more.
Born Jacques Webster on 30 April 1992, Mr Scott's ambitions have long transcended the middle-class Houston suburb where he was raised. "I've known I was going to make music since I was 13. I saw this one video of Ye on YouTube, making a beat in this yellow polo shirt, and thought: 'I need to do that'. I always had the vision. I just thank God it worked out." After dropping out of college, he had a spell in New York - camping out in recording studios, fine-tuning his sound - before landing in Los Angeles.
Mr Scott performs at Basel Castle, Miami, US, December 2013
As he recounts getting "turnt up" in the studio with Messrs West and Rick Ross in Hawaii, or chic trips to France - "The first place I ever went in Paris was to the A.P.C. office, literally straight from the airport. Jean [Touitou] is super cool" - it's clear that Mr Scott has come a long way from his modest roots. But when his first pay cheque cleared, he headed straight to his teenage haunt of Sharpstown Mall in Texas to splurge on custom gold grills by Houston's self-titled "King of Bling" Mr Johnny Dang.
While Mr Scott's music errs heavily on the dark side, in real life he maintains a charming naiveté - frequently admitting to being lost for words in the course of our interview; laughing good-naturedly when he mixes them up - and refutes any suggestion that his sound reflects inner turmoil. "I'm not an angry person. Why would I get angry? I do get frustrated though, man. The frustration is crazy. My chords and my lyrics reflect that."
"I just hate stuff that's not fresh," says Mr Scott on his most frequent sources of chagrin. "Fresh is about maintaining an ill aesthetic at all times. Those toy carousels for kids outside the Dollar General store, being in Harlem and riding dirt bikes... That's fresh to me."
Does he feel that contemporary culture is suffering from a dearth of freshness? "No, not at all," he says, smoke still curling from his lips. "Music is in a good place, it's a do-it-yourself world, and people are more receptive than they've ever been." He insists that he's hopeful about the prospects of his much-maligned generation - "and I'm hopeful about right now, too".
Musically, I just want to inspire so many people. One day Travi$ is going to be moving like The Beatles
Mr Scott's future certainly looks bright. His forthcoming studio album is nearing completion - he remains tight-lipped on the details, conceding only that it's "super-eerie" - and that he is about to tour the US with Academy Award-winning rapper Juicy J. Though secretive about the details of his on-stage wardrobe, he does admit it will be full of "rock star pieces", including a bulletproof fishing vest.
When asked to articulate his grand vision, Mr Scott echoes Mr West's famously expansive scope - "I want to design an invisible stage. Give people ill visual concepts. Bless them with knowledge". He has also inherited his mentor's proclivity for referring to himself in the third person ("I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means," commented Mr West in a 2013 interview with The New York Times), as well as an unabashed tendency to pit himself among the greats.
"Musically, I just want to inspire so many people", says Mr Scott, animated and suddenly bolt upright in the barber's chair, his precisely braided hair now complete. "One day Travi$ is going to be moving like The Beatles."