Travis Scott: Modern Day Icarus
In the story of Icarus, his father Daedalus, constructs him a pair of wings out of feathers and wax. He instructs him to fly straight, not too close to the sun or not too close to the water. Laying too low would clog the wings with water, flying too high would burn them up. Icarus ignored the warning, and as a result of ascending too high, the wings melted and he fell into the ocean. I have not seen such a parallel story in pop culture than Travis Scott, a man who had it all on November 4th. He was the first entertainer to have a full on meal at McDonald’s, subsequently selling millions in collaborative merch as a result. He was teamed with digital entertainment platforms like Sony and the prestigious film studio A24, who were filming an Astroworld 2021 documentary at the time that the highly publicized tragedy surrounding that event occurred. His music and style was completely dominating both hip-hop and pop landscapes, with features on Kanye West, Drake and Young Thug’s new projects, as well as countless others. I don’t think you could’ve named a more ubiquitous figure in the culture than Scott, who even had his own action figure and Fortnite skins.
It was kind of insane to see all of that suddenly cease on November 5th, when ten concert goers died of asphyxiation from being crushed by a crowd surge at his Astroworld Festival. Countless others were injured as well on what was to be a two-day event featuring SZA, Scott himself, Earth, Wind & Fire, Yves Tumor, Lil Baby, Bad Bunny and Tame Impala. Looking at that list now is shocking considering how deadly and unorganized the event was, it’s far more impressive than this year’s Coachella. Travis Scott had the world in the palm of his hands, just imagine what kind of talent he could’ve had there in five years time. Now, Scott is pretty much barred from performing or organizing any type of live show whatsoever, with his slots at Day N Vegas and most recently, Coachella itself being stripped from him. This is one of those “cancellations” that truly feels justified, and that’s what makes it so tragic to me. Letting DaBaby perform again is one thing. Yes, his words were pretty violent and fucked up, but if he just shuts up, he’s good. All the “raging” and punk energy that Travis stood for – all the injuries, nosebleeds, crowd surfing – literally caused a situation where fans were obstructing emergency services from getting through. People were passed out or even dead on the floor of the general admission pit and everyone kept it going. If I was a festival organizer, I wouldn’t want Travis to be at my event either. Safety is supposed to be of utmost importance, right?
Even with his entire brand shattered and fragmented, it was his response to the entire situation that really burned his wings off in my opinion. His live events and music was all about being “lit” and moshing, but his public persona was always so elusive. Nearly every photo of him at an event like the Grammys or even just a high profile party sees him looking down at the ground. Interviews were rare, and his social media felt similarly aloof. Again, before November 5th there was nothing wrong with this at all. When it came to the accountability of his actions however, it played out in a strikingly similar way. The infamous black and white video of him looking down, feigning a distraught attitude, that do-nothing Charlamgne interview where we just wanted to “figure out what happened” for an hour – it all portrayed him as a man who wanted to look away. While it must be difficult for him to reconcile with the events of that day, it is much more difficult for the families of those who passed away at his festival. They were there hoping to have a good time and escape from their schoolwork, jobs or stressors for just one night. The safety net that they assumed existed at a festival of that magnitude was not put in place and as a result, they are no longer with us. While there is plenty of blame to go around in regards to how everything was organized, no one died at Toro Y Moi or SZA’s sets just hours before. Everyone was there to see Travis, people were pushing to get up close to him and he gave little to no effort to try and keep people from doing so. There was one video of him telling people to step back or clear a path, but virtually nothing was done in the end. He needs to recognize that even those he says he’s “not legally liable” for any deaths or injuries, he totally is, in my opinion (non-actionable this is my opinion I am not a lawyer don’t sue me).
So besides a $10 billion dollar class-action lawsuit against him and LiveNation, what is next for Travis Scott career-wise? It’s pretty safe to assume that his upcoming Utopia album is going to be shelved, at least for a while. He ironically gained a sponsorship of BetterHelp (that shitty online therapy service) to aid the survivors of his concert, but lost several others. The A24 movie is probably being flushed down the tubes or turned into a hit-piece doc against him, and I don’t see a single other brand touching him at this point. He is in a spot that I am not envious of, it’s a real Catch-22. If he admitted culpability, public opinion of him would be more favorable but the lawsuits would increase drastically. If he continues this streak of denial, people will keep seeing him as a villain and no one will want to do deals with him. In the end, Travis will be covered. His fortune will pay the lawyers, the lawyers will get him out of trouble, and even if he goes broke and falls out of the public eye, he will leave with his life intact. Those ten victims, with the youngest one being just nine years old, are not so fortunate. Justice for them, their families and all those affected by the negligence of Scott, his team and LiveNation is of utmost importance in my opinion. Whether or not Travis Scott ever drops another album, frankly, means jack shit to me. He attempted to handle way too much at once, and as a result, he too is in the ocean.