Essay: Travis Scott Is The Ultimate Modern Rock Star

Metal is everywhere these days. As far as more “traditional” numbers go, Five Finger Death Punch and Iron Maiden both entered the Billboard Top 200 at the #2 and #4 respectively last week. Slipknot launched the summer’s most awe-inspiring tour in the form of Summer’s Last Stand with Lamb of God, Bullet For My Valentine, and Motionless In White. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got Kim Kardashian rocking Metallica t-shirts and Kendall Jenner sporting Slayer. The iconography and energy of rock music is officially threaded into the fabric of mainstream culture, and the sales support it.

More importantly, there are a few real rock stars left, and they’re carrying on the traditions of the greats. Even though the music isn’t our traditional conception of rock, Travis Scott is the ultimate 21st century rock star. His live shows, most recently the sold out gig at the Fonda in Los Angeles, engender the kind of enthusiasm and energy that transcend boundaries. Ironically enough, his full-length debut, Rodeo [Grand Hustle/Epic Records] landed right between Maiden and Death Punch on the chart. [As a side note, he’s been known to rock Exodus shirts on stage too.]

Seeing Travis live is one of those things you just have to do before you die. He’s that good. Watching him scream lyrics, jump up and down, and stalk the stage with feral ferocity, he’s like all nine members of Slipknot at one person. At the same time, he’s got bangers that are as unique as they are undeniable. He doesn’t sound like anybody else, and that’s why he could very well be in league with Kurt Cobain, Ozzy Osbourne, and other genre-spanning legends.


At the Fonda, he took the stage following T.I.’s narrative intro from Rodeo. Standing in front of a giant screen that projected impressive and entrancing visuals, he delivered an inspiring, invigorating, and inimitable show. “Pornography” kicked things off as his he exploded like a powder keg, stomping across the stage in tandem with the audience bouncing up and down. He announced that he just did “three nights in NYC,” but one night in L.A. would “smash that shit.” He did everything in his power to ensure that. Whether it was the vibrant chant of “Quintana” or the haunting hypnosis of “Pray 4 Love,” he had everybody singing along, transferring the kinetic energy to the audience. Big Sean joined him for a raucous “Don’t Play.” Together, they traded bars with a vicious and uncontainable vibrancy.

The energy just felt uncorked and unhinged in the best way possible like seeing Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Ice Cube back on the first Family Values Tour. Kids clamored to get on stage and then dive off. They were vaulting up the speakers and standing and screaming along. He described “90210” as his “favorite” from Rodeo and launched into a transfixing rendition of that. His voice careened with an uneasy elegance and intensity, and that’s what strikes the biggest chord. Travis is a voice to cut loose and experience an otherworldly catharsis in a rough world.

Following “3500,” an incendiary “Piss On Your Grave,” and “Antidote,” he assured, “You motherfuckers survived the L.A. Rodeo” and added, “Motherfucker, thank you for not dropping me. I love you.”

We hear so much about the music industry dying. It’s not. As long as Travis is making records, it’s not going anywhere. That’s the most metal thing of all.

Listen to Antidote