La Flame Don’t Play No Games: My Day With Travi$ Scott
For starters, he met Timbaland last night and played him Owl Pharaoh. “I played him the album and,” he says, while struggling to find the right word. “Just hearing his feedback,” he struggles some more, “and shit, he keeps me inspired.” Second, he got a call from his 13-year-old sister. “My little sister called me last night and was like, when is your album coming out?” Apparently, his sister was oblivious of his music when they were growing up. He remembers, “[She] never asked me about my music, ever, but she asked me last night, ‘When is your album coming out?’” His boyish eyes widen again. “She was so young when I started doing this shit and now she gets it.” The third fateful event was a phone call from ‘Ye. In case you’re confused about his affiliations, the buzzing wunderkind is signed to Epic Records via T.I.’s Grand Hustle imprint, but is also signed as a producer to Kanye’s Very G.O.O.D. Beats boutique label. “I was on the phone with [Kanye] this morning, he’s super excited about the project,” Scott exclaims. Though Yeezy isn’t credited as a featured guest, the two worked closely together on beats for Pharaoh. “He helped me create it. Me and ’Ye did some of the beats on this shit. We had a good time working on it.” Before I get the chance to ask about the Yeezus album, which he’s rumored to be featured on, Travi$ looks away and asks one of his production team members, “Anita, how we looking?”
Hopping up off the couch, he passes me his L (politely saying, “Hold on bro, smoke this”) and goes off to tower over Anita as she continues to prep OP’s cover art. After about 15 minutes of careful watching, I walk over to him and he’s rocking back-and-forth, rhyming A$AP Ferg’s verse to Pharaoh‘s hard-hitting standout banger, “Uptown,” word-for-word. “Where Ferg at?” he shouts out to Chase, his tour DJ. He answers, “That nigga on tour.” Disappointed, Trav screams, “This shit is about to be crazy in these streets!” The track’s pothole-crackling bass and loopy backdrop might be the best display of La Flame’s true signature talent, which is his ability to produce really, really well. Pharaoh is chock-full of sparse, dark and anthemic production that you couldn’t really imagine anyone else doing, and he produced the entire thing himself. Though to be fair, his beat-making talent does tend to outshine his vocal ability. Throughout the project, his production is often so big and overwhelming that his voice struggles to compete with the instrumentals.
After finally locking down the cover/back cover art with Anita and smoking a lot more L’s to the face, the tape hits the net. Chase looks like a weight’s been lifted, proudly shouting, “We did it nigga!” After a proper dap-up, he tells me, “You don’t understand how long we were waiting for this moment. It’s actually out. Like, wow.” With his excitement matched by the rest of the entourage, the focus quickly shifts to Scott’s performance at the Best Buy Theater. At this point, we’re in the dressing room, and Trav—who’s now back in that #BEEN #TRILL tee, only this time accessorized with a matching camo bucket hat and a pair of burnt-red Balenciaga—is embraced by his Grammy-award winning mentors Mike Dean and Anthony Kilhoffer. “Bro you made it, you’re a soldier bro,” Scott quips to Kilhoffer.
By 9:15, Trav is onstage, pacing back and forth like a comfortable veteran. After some fitting “What’s up NYC!” chants, he glides into his set with an unmatched energy, so much so that he blows out his lungs within the first two minutes of his set. Before the set, Chase gave me a disclaimer for what to expect: “He lives this.” In his twenty-five minute onstage, during which he captures the packed-out house’s full attention, he works the stage like a true rockstar—jumping, crowd-surfing, turning the lights down for effect—and delivers possibly the night’s best set, and dude wasn’t even the headliner.
After closing out the performance with the apocalyptic “Quintana,” sans Wale—who later shows up backstage to show his support—Travi$’ long and eventful day comes to a close on a high note. John, another friend and member of the entourage, turns to me, admitting, “A lot of hard work went into this moment. This took years, bro.” But after releasing his first project—after a year of perfecting and re-working it—and conquering NYC with a stellar performance, what else could be on La Flame’s mind? While he should be thinking about celebrating, he’s still looking ahead, telling me, “After this project, I wanna tour. But right now, I’m just ready to chill.” Not a moment after the words exit his mouth, Trav is bombarded by his supporters, including industry bigwigs like L.A. Reid, Syvlia Rhone and Julie Greenwald, who swarm the young gun and shower him with praise, before promptly leaving the venue before the evening’s headliners even emerge from their dressing rooms. After all, they’ve gotten what they came for—a glimpse at a brilliant young artist, shining on a big stage.
Where his hype will take him remains to be seen, but for now, Travi$ Scott is on a new high indeed. La Flame lives on.