La Flame Don’t Play No Games: My Day With Travi$ Scott
[Main image courtesy of Lauren Gesswein]
Travi$ Scott is on a new high. Not metaphorically—though he is in a sense, considering his incredible buzz as of late—but literally. Before we get to that though, let's set the scene. A few weeks ago, the good team at XXL asked me to hang out with a rapper of my choice for a day, and Trav, who's nicknamed himself La Flame, quickly came to mind. The enigmatic Houston-bred rhymer/producer is a star in the making (he was also a proud member of the 2013 XXL Freshmen class), all off the strength of the deafening chatter that's surrounded him after receiving co-signs from the likes of T.I. and Kanye West. Naturally, I wanted to know where all the buzz stemmed from, especially since dude hadn't even dropped a mixtape yet. Coincidentally, the day I got to hang with him was the same day he released his long-awaited introductory project, Owl Pharaoh. He was also slated to perform at the Best Buy Theater, on a stop of the XXL Freshmen Live Tour. Needless to say, I knew it'd be a busy day…
My last time seeing Travi$ Scott was at the Freshmen cover shoot, where he fidgeted with his outfit and mainly kept to himself, so on my way linking with the 21-year-old in his room at the Hudson Hotel—located in Midtown Manhattan—all I can think to myself is, "What the hell is about to happen?" Sure enough, as I step into the hotel room with his publicist—who put me up on what to expect for the day, like making sure I mention that Owl Pharaoh is “an EP, NOT a mixtape”—I get my answer, as Travi$ and his crew of cohorts are sitting by the window smoking what I would eventually learn is hash oil.
The room—which is slightly bigger than a sauna—is essentially a make-shift workstation filled with women working furiously on their MacBooks while random phones ring. Travi$ is in the final hours before the release of Pharaoh, and everything needs to be just right before the project can see the light of day. Later, after the release of the project, he'll admit, "My site just crashed yo. This is my first solo project that I ever put out."
Back at the room, he yells, “Smells like shit,” before abruptly coughing up a storm. The hash oil has got to be strong because after one puff, Trav finds himself pulling off his #BEEN #TRILL (a lifestyle brand started by Kanye West affiliate Virgil Abloh) long-sleeve leafy tee and then opening up a window. “You ever smoked hash before?” asks one member of his entourage. I hadn't, and I should also mention that it's a few minutes after noon at this point.
After watching Trav and co. smoke for a few minutes, the guys disperse and we finally sit and chop it up. But of course, there are a few distractions, namely his excitement about Pharaoh's release. “My first solo project,” he emphasizes, “I’m super happy.” For the raw young dude, the passion emitted in his voice about whatever it is he’s talking about could be mistaken for aggression. He's erratic; even on-edge at times. Sitting and trying to hold a conversation with me about the project, he doesn't know whether he should sit, stand or watch the Matt Damon action movie Green Zone, which is playing on the 40-inch screen across from us. He tries to focus, but his speech is jittery, and he has trouble looking directly at me. Instead, he looks down—sometimes looking as if he's speaking to his stomach. But, when I speak, he looks intently, and nods along when he agrees, sometimes even flashing that "Hurry up and ask the question already!" glance. When he's excited to give an answer, he talks fast. Really fast. So when I ask him how much of an influence Houston played on the making of his new music, he couldn't wait to blurt out "Z-Ro!"
He admits, “Z-Ro’s a legend bro. I respect that man. You hear the darkness inside my music, and it’s on some Z-Ro shit.” Sadly, he wasn't able to lock down the H-Town heavyweight for a feature on his project. “I wanted him on this shit so bad, it’s just that he’s so real,” he says. “If you’re dealing with a real hustler you got to be in that nigga’s parts and lay that energy.” When I change the subject from Houston and ask him about getting love from living legends like T.I. and Kanye, his eyes widen like a kid who just scored three different game systems for his birthday. “People tell me that shit all the time. It’s my mindset,” he confidently explains. “I’m not saying that I know I’m good and shit, in my mind, it’s like I kind of see where I want to be. You just got to get the world down to your shit. I feel like I’m a good leader.”
Really, a leader is all Scott really wants to be: “I feel like I’m a good leader. The kids could look up to me and they know that I won’t steer them wrong.” Despite how the comment comes across, he’s not being cocky. He’s just that passionate about his craft and sure of his product. And dude has reason to be. In just the last twelve hours, three life-defining things have happened to La Flame…