Hip-hop star, Jacques Bermon Webster II- aka Travis Scott- was born on April 30th, 1991. He grew up in Missouri City, a suburban part of the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area. His Houston upbringing became a part of him and his music.
“The culture influenced us and helped us curate visuals and emotion in the music and beats. What I would do in music would be taken from Houston…the way I walked, talked, and certain things I do were kind of influenced by it.”Travis Scott: Back to the Block. Billboard
Scott’s debut album was titled, Rodeo, which followed his mixtape, Days Before the Rodeo. The creation of these two projects marked the beginning of Scott’s partnership with legendary Houston hip-hop producer, Mike Dean, who continues to produce for Scott to this day. The names of the records presumably reference the huge influence of rodeo culture in Houston entertainment. When asked about Rodeo, Scott stated that “it was his quest to ’round-up’ fans,” possibly alluding to the roping/lassoing events at rodeos, where cowboys try to ’round-up’ or catch a steer. As for the album’s sound, Travis has never been keen on being classified in one particular genre. His overall goal is to get his fans to be free and ‘rage,’ so he often makes music he believes can conjure that sort of energy. The name Rodeo indirectly associates the record with the rowdy environment of a Texas rodeo. But in terms of the album’s music, it has a much different sound from what one would associate with rodeos or the cowboy stereotype in general.
Travis made sure to forget his roots. In his song “Wasted,” he samples rapper Pimp-C, one half of the Houston Hip-Hop duo, with Bun B, called Underground Kingz (UGK).
Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
Scott’s second album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, was inspired specifically by his life, growing up in Missouri City. He’s stated that while he didn’t view his neighborhood as a ‘trap’- a place where drug deals happen- it was a trap in the metaphorical sense. He believes that kids, such as himself, are being ‘trapped’ creatively and aren’t being taught to be anything else other than cogs in the machine. He aimed to be proof that anyone can ‘escape’ from whatever restrictions they may have.
Scott’s first and second albums drew inspiration from Houston and made a few references to the city, but the release of Astroworld was Scott’s true ode to Houston. The entire album is littered with Houston easter eggs, including ones about the torn-down theme park that the album was named after. Most notable was how Scott decided to show respect to one of his inspirations, the Houston hip-hop icon, DJ Screw.
The song, “R.I.P Screw” pays homage to DJ Screw, both lyrically and musically. Scott repeatedly delivers the line, “Rest in Peace to Screw, tonight we take it slowly,” throughout the song. This references DJ Screw and his signature “chopped and screwed” deejaying technique that included slowing down records. “Chopped and screwed” songs would generally have a mellow vibe that’s meant to simulate how one would feel under the effects of lean. The instrumental of “R.I.P Screw” incorporates some of the “chopped and screwed” style. The feel of the song can be described as dreamlike and floaty- similarly to how one would describe a “chopped and screwed” song. But more direct examples of the style are at 1:43 and 2:29, where a portion of the song is looped to give off the “choppy” feel of a broken record. Also, Screw’s voice from his song “Southside,” is sampled throughout the track.
In his second verse of “R.I.P Screw,” Scott doubles down on Houston Hip-Hop references:
“Rest in peace to Screw, tonight we take it slowly, yeah
I just took a four to the head like ‘man’
Drop the top on the slab, like ‘man’
Off the top of the dome like ‘man’
Nothin’ beatin’ home like ‘man’
In the Screw tapes zone like ‘man’
I go Pimp C on the phone like ‘man’
Flip say platinum don’t do chrome like ‘man’
Had the south side fade, now let the braids hang
This shit S.U.C smooth like ‘man’
Rest in peace, Screw, like ‘man'”
- “Four to the head,” refers to 4 0z. of lean, a drug heavily associated with the Houston hip-hop culture and DJ Screw.
- “Drop the top on the slab,” refers to the fancy cars known as “slabs” that are another staple to the Houston hip-hop scene.
- “In the Screw Tape zone, I go Pimp C on the phone.” The Official Screwtape Mixtape Series is the entire collection of DJ Screw 336 screwed mix tapes and Pimp C was part of the Texas hip-hop duo, UGK.
- “This shit S.U.C smooth,” refers to the hip-hop group, Screwed Up Click (S.U.C), which was led by DJ Screw.
“R.I.P Screw” showcased some of Travis Scott’s own “chopping and screwing.” Other chopped and screwed examples on the album are on “Sicko Mode,” with the slowed-down voice of another S.U.C member, Big Hawk.
The song, “Can’t Say” samples “25 Lighters” by DJ DMD (ft. Lil Keke and Fat Pat), chopped and screwed between Scott and Don Toliver’s verses.
Scott used Astroworld to express his appreciation for the Houston emcees that came before him, especially DJ Screw. He didn’t just pay his respect through the music, he also did so in performances. When he was featured as a musical guest on SNL, Scott performed “Sicko Mode,” and projected an image of DJ Screw behind him in his performance.
Ahmed, Insanul. “Who Is Travi$ Scott?” Complex, Complex, 17 Apr. 2020, https://www.complex.com/music/2012/10/who-is-travis-scott/growing-up-in-houston
Holmes, Charles. “Travis Scott Shares How Houston Artists from Pimp C to Mike Jones Pushed Him to Make Astroworld.” MTV News, 21 Aug. 2018, https://www.mtv.com/news/3097698/travis-scott-houston-artists-astroworld/
Billboard. “Travis Scott: Back to the Block.” Billboard, 21 June 2016, https://www.billboard.com/video/travis-scott-back-to-the-block-7415498
“Travis Scott on Rodeo, Kanye, Rihanna, new music – Westwood”. Youtube, 7 June 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cnRnF2iuLE
“Travis Scott Full Interview.” Youtube, 11 June 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-59CE8KADE
“Song Lyrics & Knowledge.” Genius, https://genius.com/Travis-scott-rip-screw-lyrics
“Song Lyrics & Knowledge.” Genius, https://genius.com/15181101
“Travis Scott Feat. Juicy J and Pimp C’s ‘Wasted’ – Discover the Sample Source.” https://www.whosampled.com/sample/373161/Travis-Scott-Juicy-J-Pimp-C-Wasted-Pimp-C-Big-Mike-Havin%27-Thangs-%2706/.
“Travis Scott Feat. Drake ‘Can’t Say’ – Discover the Sample Source.” https://www.whosampled.com/sample/587116/Travis-Scott-CAN%27T-SAY-DJ-DMD-Fat-Pat-Lil%27-Keke-25-Lighters/