Far from the days of N.W.A. and Wu-Tang Clan, rap mogul Travis Scott exists in an era of rap music that increasingly strays from its strict, hip-hop roots.
Harboring a professed love for indie-folk artist Bon Iver, 1985 cult-classic The Breakfast Club, and frequently fueling his creative process in the studio by throwing up vintage cartoons on a flat screen, it’s the blithe makeup of Scott’s personality, a genuine commitment to being himself, that creates his allure.
He’s the certified weirdo, who off his talent alone, went from couch hopping at friends houses at USC to achieving rock star fame and snagging billionaire socialite Kylie Jenner. He has also mastered the art of repackaging his eccentricity and insecurities into tunes that appeal to the masses.
In a piece for i-D magazine, writer Danili Bopari attests to the rappers magnetic influence, writing of Scott’s “loyal legion of teen fans” whom “obediently open up moshpits on command, as Travis demands they rage alongside him.”
The crowd at a Travis Scott show in 2017.
Bopari goes as far as crowning Scott a “modern deity,” who cups the world in his hand as “major brands and fashion houses have tripped over themselves to partner with him.”
But this is what makes Scott dangerous and in part, what would cost people their lives the first night of his Houston, Texas based music festival, Astroworld.
For many, this makes his disregard for the safety of others a pattern, seen maintained on the night of Nov. 5 through footage of Scott blissfully humming into his mic as medical personnel desperately tried to pry people from the roaring crowd below him.
It’s this same footage that has left ‘W’ magazine in a rush to pull their cover of him from shelves across the country, Nike indefinitely postponing their 2022 collaboration with him, and Fortnite having already wiped their popular emote of him from their services.
How couldn’t he see that people were dying below him, they ask. Ambulances were struggling to cut through the crowd! Why wasn’t the show stopped?
Yes, the videos are bad.
What they don’t show, though, is Scott’s perspective, where hoisted tens of feet above the crowd, people become ants, often veiled by the blinding blinks of their own camera flashes.
Furthermore, wearing the required in-ear monitors to protect his hearing, the playback of his own vocals would have likely barred him from hearing much, if anything at all.
Even if taken off, as most artists do sporadically during live events, it is more than likely that the barrage of 50,000 people shouting cheers of admiration and detestation alike makes for a less than coherent message to the receiver.
Thus, casting aside the widely known fact that passing out from exhaustion or claustrophobia is rather commonplace at music festivals of that size, the fuzzy circumstances of that night make it impossible to justify the notion that Scott knew what was happening.
For what it’s worth, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner also made it clear to the Associated Press that if Scott, other Astroworld organizers, or his own team of officers had ordered a stop to the show, the consequences could have been far worse.
“You cannot just close when you’ve got 50,000—over 50,000—individuals, OK?” Finder told the AP. “We have to worry about rioting…when you have a group that’s that young.”
Though, in our clumsy rush to point fingers, we seemingly forget to overlook the other, plain facts before us as well as the role the general public has played in catalyzing its impact.
Maybe we weren’t in the crowd embarrassingly hijacking emergency vehicles to dance atop of for clout, but we are the ones who have shared and found amusement in the poorly thought out conspiracy theories of Scott having performed satanic rituals during his performance or filmed ourselves eating cereal out of sneakers worth hundreds of dollars in an odd form of protest.
When we lose ourselves in this sensationalized pap, we allow Scott to continue his existence on the glorified pedestal that brought us here in the first place. Even worse, entranced by our own performative hate for the rapper, we take attention from the sobs of a mourning mother and family members who beg for us to stop the misplaced accountability.
Travis Scott, after all, is only one man, and while his name and image might have been used as the driving force behind Astroworld’s popularity, his job that night was to deliver a performance that satisfied the audience who paid for it.
The reality of organizing a massive music festival then, especially set during the tail end of a pandemic, requires the approval and signing off of a tribe of people more capable and qualified than Scott.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, Astroworld organizers submitted 56-pages worth of security and emergency protocols to Harris County that were to be followed in the event that a mass emergency were to take place. Protocols that assigned duties to people who are trained in the field of public safety and of which required the approval of local officials before moving forward.
And so, even if Travis Scott were the proposed delinquent who purposely chose to disregard the well-being of his attendees, where were those who had formulated the logistics of the festival? Scott’s personal management team, personnel from event promoter LiveNation, NRG Park owners, private security companies, other independent contractors? At the very least, all are responsible for abetting the rapper and all should face the consequences of toying with criminal liability.
John Hilgert, Brianna Rodriguez, Franco Patiño, Jake Jurinek, Rudy Peña, Madison Dubiski, Danish Baig, Axel Acosta, Bharti Shahani and Ezra Blount deserve better.
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