For Travis Scott, a history of chaos at concerts, followed by a night of unspeakable tragedy

In Travis Scott’s 2019 Netflix documentary “Look Mom I Can Fly,” in the aftermath of a particularly volatile May 2017 show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers, Ark., one fan beamed at a camera crew while leaning on crutches. “I survived, I survived! They said, “It’s all good!” After the show, Scott was charged with three misdemeanors: inciting disorderly conduct, inciting a disturbance and endangering a minor’s welfare. He invited his fans to rush the stage and overthrow security. Scott pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and had to pay more than $6,000 to two people injured at the show.

“I just hate getting arrested, man. Scott stated that the s– was whack after he was released from jail.

Scott has a long history of stirring up young fans with the fervor of an underground punk band. On his 2018 song “Stargazing,” the rapper reveled in his crowds’ heaving energy: “it ain’t a mosh pit if ain’t no injuries.” Yet the 30-year-old rapper is also one of the most successful figures in contemporary hip-hop, an endorsement-friendly business mogul in the vein of Jay-Z and Puff Daddy, and one of a handful of rap artists who can headline major festivals. His popularity as a live performer is undoubtedly greater than his record music.

But his penchant for inciting chaos onstage has caused troubling situations long before Friday’s Astroworld crowd stampede disaster, which left eight people dead and many concert-goers hurt in Houston.

Scott was twice charged with inciting people to overheated fervors. Before the incident in Arkansas, the rapper pleaded guilty in 2015 to charges of reckless conduct, after cajoling fans at Lollapalooza to climb over barricades and onto the stage with him during his show at the Chicago festival.

“Everyone wearing a green shirt gets the f—- back,” Scott said, referring to the security personnel at the festival. “Middle finger up to security right now.” He then led the crowd in a chant of “We want rage.” (Scott often refers to his fans as “ragers.”)

Scott’s set lasted barely five minutes, whereupon he fled the scene and was soon apprehended by local police. After his guilty plea, a judge placed him under court supervision for one year.

Fans milling about the entrance of the Astroworld Festival in Houston.

Fans milling about the Astroworld Festival in Houston on Nov. 5

(Erika Goldring/WireImage)

In April 2017, a man named Kyle Green sued Scott after he attended a show at Terminal 5 in New York City, where Green claims fans pushed him off an upper-deck balcony. Scott noticed another fan jumping from the same balcony and encouraged him to do so. Scott spoke from the stage, “I see you. But are you going to do it?” They’re gonna catch you. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared!”

Green was left partially paralyzed by the incident. Reached by Rolling Stone after the Astroworld incident, an attorney for Green said that he’s “devastated and heartbroken for the families of those who were killed and for those individuals who were severely injured. He’s even more incensed by the fact that it could have been avoided had Travis learned his lesson in the past and changed his attitude about inciting people to behave in such a reckless manner.”

In 2019, Scott wrote “DA YOUTH DEM CONTROL THE FREQUENCY,” on an Instagram video of fans storming barricades at one of his shows. “EVERYONE HAVE FUN. RAGERS SET TONE WHEN I COME OUT TONIGHT. BE SAFE. AHHHHHHHHHHH.” Three people were hospitalized following a crowd stampede over security barriers at the 2019 edition of the Astroworld Festival.

The 30-year-old Scott, whose real name is Jaques Webster, was born in Houston, a famed city for outlaw hip-hop that figures prominently in his work (His chart-topping 2018 album “Astroworld” was named after a now-closed local theme park). His father and grandfather were jazz and soul musicians, and he studied musical theater while growing up in the middle-class Houston suburb of Missouri City. In 2012, he signed deals as an artist (with T.I.’s Grand Hustle imprint for Epic) and as a writer/producer (with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music. Music. His music was visceral and melancholy. It had the trap sound but was glazed with vocal processing and distended samples.

On two early mixtapes and his 2015 major-label debut “Rodeo,” singles like “Antidote” set a template for how rap would sound in the coming decade — bruising, miserable, sleekly nihilist. It was the LP’s host of guest appearances that announced that a new star had emerged — Justin Bieber and Kanye West were just a few examples.

His 2016 follow-up, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight,” had similar firepower, with Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar and Kid Cudi as guests. That record yielded two of his signature singles — “Goosebumps” and “Pick up the Phone” — and topped the Billboard 200 album charts.

But it was 2018’s “Astroworld” that turned him into a pop force. It not only again topped the album charts, but placed all 17 tracks into the Hot 100 singles chart. “Sicko Mode,” with Drake, topped the Hot 100 and set a template for TikTok-ready rap with its hard edits between beats and tempos.

His arena tour for that album grossed $32 million in three months in 2019, according to Pollstar. That launched Scott into the caliber of acts that could headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, for which he was booked in 2020 and, as of now, is still scheduled to headline in 2022. He is scheduled to headline the Day N Vegas festival next weekend, along with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator, and others. )

Last year, more than 27 million fans logged in to see him perform a concert in the video game “Fortnite,” where fans bought reams of real and virtual merchandise for characters in the game.

Beyond music, his endorsement deals with Nike, at a reported $10 million per year, and McDonald’s, where fans could order a Scott-themed novelty meal, have made him one of the richest acts in contemporary hip-hop. He launched Cacti, an hard seltzer brand with Anheuser-Busch in 2011. Scott is married to Kylie Jenner, a reality TV star and cosmetics entrepreneur. They have a daughter, Stormi.

Scott founded the Astroworld Festival in 2018 in partnership with Austin-based ScoreMore Shows and Live Nation, the world’s largest event-promotion company (ScoreMore sold a controlling interest to Live Nation in 2018). The lineup for this year’s festival, which took place at NRG Park, Houston, was to include Tame Impala on Saturday. However, the event was cancelled following Friday night’s events. Scott was joined by Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch and SZA on Friday.

In the run-up to the festival, Scott opened a community school garden initiative in Houston, Cactus Jack Gardens; a new basketball court at the city’s Sunnyside Park; and a design-centric academy partnered with Parsons School of Design. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told the New York Times that “I’ve worked with the family, I’ve worked with Travis, I’ve worked with his mom…This is the last thing any of them wanted to see happen.”

But on Friday, the festival experienced problems from the outset, as crowds overwhelmed security and broke through the entrance gates in the afternoon. At the outset of Scott’s 25-song set, fans were crushed, some fatally, as the crowd of 50,000 surged forward. Clips of people pleading with Scott for an end to the show were posted on social media. Some even climbed onto stage to inform crew members that they had been injured. Eight people, one as young as 14, died during the stampede. The tragedy has shaken the rap industry. Ricch pledged to donate all of his festival performance fee to the families affected. Scott’s team spent some of Saturday’s post-concert aftermath deleting social media posts that seem to encourage gate-crashing or other illicit behavior, including one May 2021 Twitter post in which he said: “We still sneaking the wild ones in. !!! !!! But until we determine that, I will ask the tough questions.”

One Astroworld attendee has already sued Scott, his guest performer Drake, Live Nation and the Harris County Sports & Convention Corp., which owns NRG Stadium. Texas attorney Thomas J. Henry filed the lawsuit Sunday on behalf of Kristian Paredes, according to the Daily Mail, accusing the defendants of prioritizing “profits over their attendees.”

“Live musical performances are meant to inspire catharsis, not tragedy,” Henry said in a statement. “Many concert-goers had been looking forward to this event for many months. They deserved a safe place to enjoy the evening.” Henry said in a statement. Instead, their night was one of fear, injury, and death.”

In a video posted late Saturday, a weary-looking Scott said that while he was onstage, “anytime I could make out anything that’s going on, I stopped the show and helped them get the help they need,” he said, “We’ve been working closely with everyone trying to get to the bottom of this.”

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