Three-quarters into the sold-out Dallas stop of his Astroworld — Wish You Were Here Tour, Travis Scott rides a snaking roller coaster over the heads of his overjoyed youthful fans while performing “5% Tint.” That right there tells you all you need to know about Scott. He doesn’t settle for average. He only delivers the extraordinary. He turned the American Airlines Center into a fever-dream of an amusement park last night. Who does that?
Those grand gestures are what his exponentially growing fan base has come to expect from “La Flame,” a moniker he’s earned from years of setting venues ablaze with his raging, chaotic sets, and he’s more than happy to deliver the unthinkable. He thrives on it. This is a guy who goes all out on everything he does. Astroworld, Scott’s third studio album, is packed with star-studded appearances from Drake, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Stevie Wonder, James Blake, Tame Impala, John Mayer and Quavo to name just a few. His album cover was shot by the legendary David LaChapelle; the merch for his tour was designed by Virgil Abloh, whose Off-White clothing label was recently named the “hottest fashion brand in the world;” his girlfriend Kylie Jenner, of Kardashian fame, created a custom line of Kylie Cosmetics to promote his album and in the end Astroworld spent two weeks on top of the charts, which drummed up even more publicity for the artist when Nicki Minaj publicly attacked his cunning methodologies to get there, leaving her in second place. Scott will pull out all the stops to complete his vision.
He really will. Even if that means canceling four shows if the production can’t be done properly — the stakes are too high for him and his fans. The Astroworld tour is an intricate, elaborate performance of one-upmanship as hip-hop artists compete to deliver the ultimate fan experience originating from Scott’s greatest influences, from Kanye West and his Yeezus tour to Drake and his recent Aubrey & The Three Migos Tour. But anybody who was at last night’s stunning show is only talking about the stunts Scott pulled off, like tricking everyone into thinking he’d debut on the main stage and instead popping up on a smaller platform behind them yelling, “I’m behind you!” forcing everyone to stampede to the other side of the venue.
After starting off the set with the lead track “Stargazing,” Scott strapped himself into a looping ride that had him rapping upside down as Big Tuck’s voicemail intro to “Carousel” rang out. Those moments coupled with pyrotechnics, confetti and fireworks all lived up to the rager status Scott has become synonymous with, but he didn’t have his foot on the gas the whole night. The show featured well-timed peaks and valleys that allowed him to explore the more ethereal moments of Astroworld, such as “Houstonfornication” and “Stop Trying To Be God.” He wasn’t afraid to let things cool off and curate the vibe, which is what he does best on Astroworld.
That’s why his performance of “5% Tint” felt so monumental, aside from the roller coaster. The track samples a gang of Houston luminaries from DJ Screw’s Chopped & Screwed rework of Goodie Mobb’s “Cell Therapy,” borrows its title from a snippet of Slim Thug’s scene-changing, lead-off verse on “Still Tippin” and closes out to a sample of Trae Tha Truth’s “Swang.” And as the track ended last night, Scott was silent. He just sat in the car riding, detached from the moment. Swangin’ from side to side like he was rolling a slab through Houston, Scott subtly displayed one of his greatest qualities, his ability to show deference.
Before the performance of “5% Tint,” a curtain dropped as “R.I.P. SCREW” played out and Scott told the crowd, “I wanna show you where I’m from” as a Texas graphic was projected onto the curtain with the words “Wish You Were Here,” which honestly felt like a yearning for the legendary Houston DJ who forever changed hip-hop.
Soon after a snippet of Houston’s skyline took over the projection as Scott honored his predecessors, something that’s lost on a lot of young, viral rappers these days who achieve fame so fast it makes them feel like they did it on their own. Scott knows better. He wouldn’t be anywhere without the influence Houston had on him as he grew up in Missouri City. It’s the same way he wouldn’t be who he is without Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Their influences are ever-present in his music and on more than one occasion, he gut-wrenchingly hummed into the mic, emulating the latter. That ever-present influence is also one of the biggest knocks on Scott. He’s been criticized his whole career for maybe borrowing too much and leaning too heavily on guest stars to mask his below average rap skills and cringeworthy one-liners, but he never shies away from the original work. In fact, good for Scott for presenting Texas’ iconic sounds to a new generation of fans who may not know their history yet.
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“It’s important to pay homage,” Dallas legend Big Tuck told the Observer before the show. “It lets you know all the work we put in was worth it. It has been seen, and it has been heard. It feels great. It feels like it’s supposed to feel.”
Big Tuck went on to say that since his intro on the track “Carousel,” which samples “Not A Stain On Me,” things have been “crazy, crazy” as a wide range of young Scott fans have hit up Tuck, letting him know they’re now fans of his work after looking him up and learning about “Southside Da Realist” and “Tussle.” How special is that?
What Scott has done with Astroworld is create a unique 360-degree experience that should be a case study for artists of any genre. He packaged the childlike excitement amusement parks induce in us into a musical experience. He honored the greats before him, the greats he now works with, and did it all without breaking a sweat. To think this is easy for him is scary. At 26 years old, with his network, net worth and fame, who knows what he’ll be able to pull off the next time around.