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Travis Scott's 'Rodeo' Was The Moment He Became Rap's Beloved Rager
Amid the five year anniversary of Rodeo, fans of Travis Scott reflect on the Houston artist's debut album, and what being a rager means to them.
Travis Scott's debut album Rodeo begins with "Pornography." With an opening monologue by T.I., the track foreshadows what's to come as he narrates: "Nine light years away, just outside of the Kepler solar system, we find ourselves consumed and utterly mesmerized with a story of a young rebel against the system, refusing to conform or comply to the ways of authority." What follows is ominous crooning by the rebel in question — Scott — as he emerges from the rhythmic shadows for a perfect, climactic opener to his main event — Rodeo.
Released in 2015, Rodeo went on to debut at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart and ultimately went platinum. The record included intense and abrasive anthems like lead singles "3500" and "Antidote," as well as album cuts like "Pray 4 Love," "Piss on Your Grave," and "Never Catch Me," which aided in its commercial success. As a result, his cult-like fanbase expanded beyond the kids who discovered him through his first two mixtapes — Owl Pharaoh and Days Before Rodeo — as his dark and moody production and Auto-Tune-drenched vocals entered the mainstream.
Like its predecessors, Rodeo was a continuation of the dynamic and energetic sound that has come to define Scott. But Rodeo also foreshadowed the Houston rapper's rise as one of the greatest performers of his generation, with his first headlining tour for the album helping him cultivate his fanbase of "ragers."
"Raging and having fun and expressing good feelings is something I plan on doing and spreading across the globe," Scott said in a 2015 interview with GQ. "...we don't like people that just stand — whether you're Black, white, brown, green, purple, yellow, blue — we don't want you standing around...get it in and you just have fun."
His concerts have become known for the rowdiness they incite among his supporters, with fans moshing, stage diving, and even leaping from balconies at his shows. At times this has been to his detriment; he has been arrested on two separate occasions for seemingly "inciting a riot" — a testament to how hard he goes whenever he performs. Despite this, he rages on, and so do his fans — especially his day-ones.
"It's going all out and having fun," Jeremy Roberson said. "Being quarantined, I cannot wait to be able to go to another Travis show and just let loose and have fun," he said. "That's what life is about — just having fun, and I feel like that's what raging is."
Roberson, who grew up in in the same Houston suburb as Scott — Missouri "MO" City, Texas — was in middle school when he discovered Days Before Rodeo. He said he was made fun of for listening to "that weird dude," and it wasn't until Scott became more mainstream that his peers jump on the bandwagon. Since then, Roberson has seen Scott in concert eight times — six of them being in Houston — and said that Rodeo and Astroworld — Scott's third album — are his best homages to Houston culture.
"I appreciate Travis because everything he talks about, I relate to so much," he said. "I feel like he's definitely trying to get the Houston culture out there, and that's why I feel like more people in Houston appreciate him now."
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Similar to Roberson, Mikey McMorris has also found catharsis on more than one occasion through Scott's live shows. McMorris recalled seeing Scott when he opened for The Weeknd on his Madness Fall Tour in 2015, and said that the crowd's energy was just as lively as when he saw him at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas three years later for Scott's Astroworld Tour.
"He had the whole arena shaking," McMorris said. "Ushers were getting scared because they didn't know what to do. People on The Strip were like, 'We heard the show going on.' It was wild."
"Being a rager is really a sense of freedom," McMorris added. "People try to attach bad stuff to it, but there’s nothing bad about being a rager. People just be having fun."
Jared Colon, who hails from East Harlem, had a similar experience when he first saw Scott on his Rodeo Tour at Webster Hall in New York City. Colon has seen Scott five times in concert — all in different cities.
"They spoiled us that night. Played all the Days BeforeRodeo and Rodeo songs," he said. "I thought the floor was going to break and we’d end up in the basement."
Unsurprisingly, Scott's rage has permeated beyond the United States. Sandro Furtado, who is from Lisbon, Portugal, said he discovered Owl Pharaoh on Soundcloud in 2013. He has since seen Scott live twice: at Germany's Wireless Festival in 2017, and at Super Bock Super Rock — a rock festival in Portugal — in 2018. Furtado said that Scott has a big influence in Europe, but he wishes the artist would frequent the continent more for shows.
"If you're having problems in your life, you can just go let it all [out] and you'll come out 100% recovered like it's therapy," Furtado said. "I think being a rager means rocking 100% with your idol — letting all the bad energies go and coming back home with good energy."
Scott is somewhat of an idol to his day-one fans, and watching his ascent to superstardom has been nothing short of bittersweet for them. Still, these fans — and countless others — will always see Scott as contemporary rap's beloved rager: an artist whose intensity as a live performer is unmatched by his peers.
"He’s not just a rapper, he’s an artist," Roberson said. "He puts on a show [and] he’s not there to make money. He’s there to rage."
Cydney Lee is an emerging culture writer and journalist from Philadelphia, PA. Her writing is featured in VICE, Nylon, Elevator, and more. She spends all her money on concerts and sneakers, and you can find her tweeting about her favorite artists @bycydney.