The 2010s brought many genre-altering changes to hip-hop, but the reinvention of rage was one of the most salient.
It’s arguable that hip-hop was born from a state of rage; in fact, it’s pretty much undeniable. It’s also undeniable that rock-and-roll is deeply embedded in the DNA of hip-hop.
Rock-and-roll energy in hip-hop music subsided for a number of years, but was boldly brought back this past decade by an artist known as Travis Scott.
The Houston born-and-bred talent has been a “by the youth, for the youth” artist since his earliest days - a philosophy perfectly in tandem with rock culture. His discography and live performances embody raw emotion and free creative expression at their finest. Referring to his fans as “ragers” and his unscathed concert-goers as survivors of “the rodeo”, a Travis Scott performance is closer to Metallica than Migos. His music, however, straddles the line between those two extremes.
While there is a definite rock-fueled spirit behind his art, he is one of the most notable and versatile rappers in the industry. He can spit and sing, incorporating elements of alternative, electronic, R&B, and pop into his craft when seen fit. He also hits all of the bases of contemporary hip-hop, even conscious rap at times. While many might try to box him in as simply a “mumble” or “pop” rapper, he is truly one of hip hop’s most unique, creative, and refreshing talents. Every project that Travis releases shatters genre and artistic confinements in a different way than the last, likely explaining why very few listeners seem to get tired of the multifaceted Texan.
For hip hop’s most drastic decade of evolution, Travis Scott was one of the most fitting leaders we could have asked for.
Fellow rager Ralph Compiano and I have decided to honor Mr. Scott as the November Genius of the Month. As usual, we will tell his incredible life story and break down the highlights of his career and his contributions to contemporary music.
Travis Scott was born Jacques Berman Webster II on April 30, 1992 in Houston, TX. He spent most of the first six years of his life living with his grandmother in the South Park neighborhood - one of the city’s most violent areas. However, he later went on to claim that the neighborhood’s tough environment made him into who he is. He eventually moved back in with his parents in Missouri City, a middle-class city bordering Houston. His mom worked for Apple (big flex) and his dad was an entrepreneur. Travis comes from a line of musicians; his dad was once a soul musician and his grandpa was a jazz composer.
His earliest musical endeavor was with a group that he formed with close friend Chris Holloway in 2008 called The Graduates. Their first EP was untitled, released exclusively to Myspace. Following the short-lived stint of The Graduates, Travis and artist OG Chess formed the group The Classmates (real creative). However, it’s fitting that Travis and OG Chess were actually classmates. The Classmates had more success than The Graduates, releasing two projects - Buddy Rich (2009) & Cruis’n USA (2010). On both of their projects, Travis handled the majority of the production. The Classmates broke up in 2012 following personal disputes.
Travis graduated from Elkins High School in Missouri City and went on to attend the University of Texas San Antonio. However, Travis’ college days were numbered; he dropped out during his sophomore year in order to put 100% of his attention and effort into his music career. This move was a huge leap of faith for Trav; his parents cut him off financially and he had very few options to fall back on. In fact, he practically had nothing. Following his decision to drop out, he relocated from Texas to the Big Apple, briefly residing in the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Travis spent four months in New York, sleeping on floors and spending hours upon hours in the studio. After his short time in New York drove him to frustration, he moved to LA to try his luck there.
Similar to many others that have pursued a career in show business, LA proved to be cruel and unfruitful for Travis upon his arrival. He banked on living with a friend who offered to provide him a place to stay. However, that “friend” essentially abandoned Travis and left him with nowhere to go. Following this backstab, Travis returned home to Houston where his parents eventually kicked him out. With no other option, he returned to LA for the second time.
Travis’ second move to LA panned out much better than the first. He found a place to stay - a friend’s couch at the University of Southern California. A full-fledged producer around this time, Travis eventually managed to get some of his beats into the hands of T.I., a trap music music legend. Travis was invited to attend a studio meeting while T.I. happened to be in LA. At that meeting, Tip freestyled over one of Travis’ beats entitled “Animal”. Following this fateful encounter, Travis became a part of Grand Hustle - T.I.’s label.