Hip-Hop

Still 'Goosebumps' Every Time: Why Travis Scott's 2016 Single Is Big as Ever in 2021

Travis Scott goosebumps music video
Courtesy of Epic Records

Travis Scott from his 2017 "goosebumps" music video.

When Travis Scott took the stage at the Made In America festival in 2016, he paused the rage mid “Goosebumps” performance to get introspective for a second -- a rare occurrence for La Flame. “I wrote this song in my motherf--kin’ bedroom, at one of the darkest times of my life,” he admitted. At the time, the song wasn't even an official single yet, but five years later, the Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight standout has become one of his signature hits.

The Kendrick Lamar-assisted track was made a single three months after the album’s Sept. 2016 release, and went on to reach a modest peak on the Billboard Hot 100 of No. 32 in May 2017. Despite Scott earning numerous No. 1 hits on the chart in the years since, “Goosebumps” remains atop his Spotify artist page nearly a half-decade after its  release, and boasts over 1.3 billion plays on the streaming platform, second only to ASTROWORLD megasmash “SICKO MODE.” (It’s also racked up 1.3 billion total on-demand streams in the U.S. alone, according to MRC data.) “Goosebumps” slow-burned its way to blockbuster success, and is still a regular presence on the Billboard Global 200, where it's spent 18 weeks on the chart and sits this week (dated Feb. 6) at No. 153. 

The twisted love song -- based around the lyrical hook “I get those goosebumps everytime you come around” -- has also experienced a new comeback in 2021, with Travis lending his vocals to rising Spanish DJ HVME’s “Goosebumps” redo in January. The deep house rework first picked up steam internationally last year and has given “Goosebumps” a second life, racking up over 20 million U.S. streams in its original version, and 8.7 million for the version with Travis’ new vocals, according to MRC Data. 

“I was told that he had listened to my song and loved it,” HVME tells Billboard through a translator on Zoom. “When they told me that, they said he really wanted to launch the official remix and I was speechless. I was on a high actually and I still don't believe it, to be honest.”

With everything Scott touches in and out of music seemingly turning to gold, slapping the official La Flame stamp of approval on his record was a no brainer for HVME. The scorching rework debuted on the Hot 100 in late January, and this week climbed to No. 73 on the chart.

Even though “Goosebumps” is now recognized as a bona fide smash from Scott’s discography, that wasn’t always the case. The Cardo-produced track served as a sleeper hit before exploding, in conjunction with Scott’s own career, as he grew to superstar status in between the releases of Birds and 2018's blockbuster ASTROWORLD.

Coming off of his 2015 debut LP, Scott’s sophomore album title was born out of his creative frustrations and not being able to execute his visions in a timely fashion. “It all stemmed from me having that frustration of just like wanting to do creative s--t and just not being able to do it,” the rapper said to Billboard of Birds in 2016. “It took five months for my action figure to come out. It took eight months for the Hype Williams video to come out. I just felt like I was confined in a box.”

Texas-bred producer Cardo Got Wings’ relationship with Scott dates back to a frenetic 2012 studio session, but they didn’t lock in for a record until he landed a pair of placements on BITTSM. At the top of 2016, Cardo began sending beats over to Scott, and stumbled upon one in particular he thought had the penetrating bounce that Scott could use as part of the album’s gloomy canvas. After incorporating an ominous guitar sample by CuBeatz, Cardo sent the beat over to his cousin and frequent collaborator Yung Exclusive to clean up the 808s and “fill in the blanks,” as he put it. 

"It sounded like something to me at first, so I sent it to my cousin real quick to see what he could doll,” the “God’s Plan” producer explains to Billboard of the family affair on a three-way call with Exclusive. “He's a magician with the drums. He sent it back to me and I sent it to Travis. The following weekend, he FaceTimed me playing 'Goosebumps.' I was like, 'What the f--k?' It was going crazy and I was like, 'That sound like a stanger.'”

After getting his hands on a rough version, it wouldn’t be until closer to Birds’ release date that he found out Kendrick Lamar hopped on the record, which was connected through Interscope Urban A&R Brock Korsan, a credited writer on the record. "I felt like we had a piece of gold in our hands,” Cardo continues. “We didn't tell nobody about it."

Cactus Jack praised Korsan during a 2016 Hot 97 interview for being a liaison to Kendrick, and revealed that he received the verse right after the TDE rapper dropped his 2016 mini-LP Untitled Unmastered. Scott actually met Kendrick for the first time at the MTV Video Music Awards years prior, and Lamar called his music an inspiration. 

“He came up to me and was just like, ‘Yo, man, I f--k with your music. It’s super dope and inspirational,’’ Scott explained in that same interview. “I was like, ‘Woah, this is the best rapper in the globe -- he f--ks with my music!’ That’s one of the things that made me want to keep working on my music and try to keep it going 'cause I’m not the most rappity rap ass n---a. That’s not me but I really love Kendrick’s music.”

The magnitude of working with Scott hit Cardo and Exclusive when they were pulling up to the Andaz Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after Birds’ release, and saw a billboard plastered with “Goosebumps” and the album’s cover art. “It was crazy, right outside our hotel and we didn't know until we pulled up like, 'Look at the 'Goosebumps' Birds in the Trap billboard!' We took so many pictures,” Cardo recalls. “It just felt like a huge accomplishment to us. Working with Travis was a dream and a goal of both of ours and we accomplished that together so it meant a lot."

“Goosebumps” snuck onto the Hot 100 to debut at No. 92 the week of Sept. 24 following Birds’ 2016 release. After fading off the chart and re-entering, the full-court press was underway in January when “Goosebumps” became certified gold by the RIAA and Scott performed the track as Jimmy Kimmel’s musical guest on Jan. 21, 2017. "The song became a big hit and we ain't expect it to be that at all,” Cardo adds.

La Flame then announced his plans to bring the rage on the road with the raucous 25-city Birds Eye View Tour in March. At the end of the month, “Goosebumps” earned Scott his fifth platinum plaque and he celebrated the track topping Billboard’s Rhythmic airplay chart, which is a far cry away from the days he would call Los Angeles radio stations requesting his own song. “Thank u god we beat the odds,” he wrote on Instagram.

A striking visual arrived on April 14, 2017, and tracks Scott’s journey to hell. If you suffer from epilepsy, this clip wasn’t for you: Brooklyn-based film production duo BRTHR directed the nightmarish visual and played off the vibrant aesthetic of The Weeknd’s “Party Monster” video, which Scott was a huge fan of. His only note for the shoot, “There needs to be strippers.” The finished product was done in four days and now has over 600 million views on YouTube. 

When Cactus Jack took his rage on the road for the Birds Eye View Tour, he had history on his mind. Scott first entered the Guinness Book of World Records and cemented the song’s fan-favorite legacy when he broke his mentor Kanye West and JAY-Z’s “N----s in Paris” record of 12 by rapping “Goosebumps” 14 times in a row at a May 12, 2017 show in Oklahoma City. Nine days later, Scott eclipsed his own milestone and reached mythical status by performing “Goosebumps” 15 times at the Cleveland stop on May 21, 2017. He even left his clothes from the night for the nearby Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to display.

The third week of May proved to be a pivotal point in Scott’s career. After storming the record books, “Goosebumps” would peak on the Hot 100 by cracking the top 40 at No. 32. Scott also turned his focus to the release of the honeyed “BUTTERFLY EFFECT” on May 15, which took away from pushing “Goosebumps” further up the charts as he headed into the ASTROWORLD era. 

By this point, Travis was spreading his wings as a rap heavyweight that could carry himself to the top of the charts, with pop star status clearly on the horizon. Some tried to play up the Kendrick factor bringing the song to new heights, but SiriusXM program director for Hip Hop Nation and Shade45 Ronnie Triana doesn’t see it that way. 

“The sonics of the song were perfect and it worked alongside other records that were out there at the time,” he says over the phone, while mentioning other then-ascending rappers like Migos and Young Thug. “He fit very well with Kendrick -- of course Kendrick has his own lane -- but [Travis] definitely fit in very well with hip-hop in 2016 and 2017.”

Fittingly, Scott would join the Compton native on the road as a supporting act on his DAMN! Tour, which trekked across the United States throughout the summer of 2017. Just over a year later, La Flame’s star power exploded following the release of the long-awaited ASTROWORLD, with a changing of the guard happening in rap’s pantheon. Scott’s superstar aspirations were confirmed when his third album notched his largest first-week performance to date, moving 537,000 album equivalent units and debuting atop the Billboard 200.

Time sat still amid the chaos inside a sold-out Madison Square Garden at the Nov. 28, 2018 NYC stop of the Astroworld Tour, this time as a headliner. Between the 20,000 ragers filling the arena, having his billionaire girlfriend at the time Kylie Jenner riding the stage’s rollercoaster with him, and “SICKO MODE” just a week away from topping the Hot 100, the night was capped by Kendrick returning to the favor to join Scott on stage as a surprise guest, performing “Goosebumps” together and garnering the loudest reaction from the raucous crowd of the night. 

“Goosebumps” went 5x-platinum in 2020, where it stands now, and the track even inspired a AR-Goosebumps Nerf gun released to the public in fall 2020 (retail: $64.99) to go along with Scott’s groundbreaking Fortnite Astronomical experience in March. 

It also infiltrated the quarantine homes of two very different types of artists from far-flung parts of the globe last year: One was singer and frequent Eminem collaborator Skylar Grey, who had a “Goosebumps” cover born out of attempting to mimic the song’s riveting chords on piano. "It's the first song that I heard of Travis Scott's -- or at least, it was the first that I recognized as him and thought, 'Oh my god, that's dope,'" she explained to Insider

The other was HVME. Travis Scott’s tendency to color outside hip-hop’s lines with his avant-garde-leaning sound seeped inside the household of the Spanish DJ-producer (whose name is pronounced Hume) at the onset of 2020’s quarantine. Inspired by Travis’ non-formulaic song structure and harmonies, HVME orchestrated a deep house remix of “Goosebumps” in June 2020. “The voice of Travis was great because it fit exactly what I wanted to do,” he tells Billboard. “It was a mixture between Travis and the harmony as far as what inspired me to produce it.

HVME’s “Goosebumps” implements thumping 808s and haunting vocals to give the deep house remix a menacing feel. The breakout track served as HVME’s DSP debut, and his only release of 2020 -- but quickly picked up steam in Europe, and spilled over to the U.S. throughout the turbulent year.

Scott and his team got wind of the Avicii-inspired producer’s buzz, and he officially laid his vocals on the dark rework on Jan. 15 via Epic Records. (It wasn’t the first time the Houston native danced with the EDM world: Back in 2018, Scott enlisted Skrillex for a psychedelic rollercoaster ride on the “SICKO MODE” remix, which helped get it over the hump as his first-ever Hot 100 No. 1.) The teamup took off instantly with fans, thrusting the emerging DJ toward the masses, while also bringing “Goosebumps” back to the mainstream. 

“I think there's a harmony between the voices of hip-hop and deep house,” HVME adds. “Some of the songs are brilliant and you can do excellent remixes.”

As of Jan. 2021, the scorching “Goosebumps” redo has compiled over 140,000,000 million on-demand Spotify streams globally and is impacting Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronics Songs chart, where it remains a steady No. 2 (with Scott’s help) on the chart dated Feb. 6. For the same time period, the remix also shot up the Billboard Global 200 chart to reach a new peak of No. 22.

The resurgence of “Goosebumps” serves as comfort food for Scott’s fans, while setting the stage for Scott’s proper return and introduction to his next era. The highly-anticipated Utopia has fans foaming at the mouth, awaiting the world’s re-opening to rush the gates of Cactus Jack’s chaotic alternate universe. "He really is the king of the youth to these kids,” Cardo says of Scott. “He brings energy, faith, and hope to these kids. Everything you could tell is from the heart with that guy and he's 100 percent authentic with his peers. That boy's going to be a billionaire in no time.”

Looking back on it now, Yung Exclusive considers the recording of “Goosebumps” to be a pivotal moment in his life. Today, he’s an in-demand producer for rap’s elite, but at the top of 2016, Exclusive -- born Daveon Jackson -- was still living at his mother’s house with a daughter on the way, working odd jobs stocking groceries at Walmart and at his uncle’s construction company. 

“That record right there changed my life,” he admits. “It set everything in play for me to move out my mom's house and get a place for me and my girl and I just had my daughter. I was able to get my life situated. Also, Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott are two of my favorite artists in general, so to have them both on the song was crazy. Every time I hear it, it takes me back to those times."