Since his breakout mixtape, 2013’s Owl Pharaoh, Houston rapper-producer Travis Scott has positioned himself as a misunderstood rebel, with mosh-friendly shows, inflammatory rhetoric and a subversive sound. The Kanye West collaborator (who played a key role in Yeezus‘ dark palette) flaunts that persona all over his major-label debut, Rodeo (Epic), which arrives at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with 85,000 equivalent-album units (according to Nielsen Music), despite mixed reviews from critics. But even with commercial success, rumors he’s dating Rihanna (which he refused to comment on) and songs with Justin Bieber, Scott, 23, expects to remain a pop pariah: “People don’t give me a chance, man.”
Critics have said Rodeo sounds overly influenced by its many featured guests: Kanye, Future, Chief Keef, T.I. What’s your response to that?
I don’t think they understand me. Because of the “big names” I know, they feel that plays a big role in why my music is how it is. It’s like a cheat code. No, man! I worked on this album by myself. I played it for Kanye and T.I. a week or two before I was about to turn it in.
You also have been criticized for your show — you were arrested at Lollapalooza for disorderly conduct after encouraging fans to storm the stage.
It sucks. People that have never been to my shows think I’m a douchebag. I’m not this angry, psycho motherf—er who just be spazzing on security for no reason. I’m super nice — I just get excited! When you come to my show, it’s like a no-holds-barred, underground Royal Rumble. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I’m a kid, I’m still learning.
How did you get Justin Bieber to sing on R “Maria I’m Drunk,” which also features Young Thug?
He reached out to me because the song leaked. He hit me on FaceTime, I sent the song and he called me the next day: He already had it done! That dude is talented. His voice is a sample on its own. That’s how I think about this shit: These people are not features on my album — these are samples. That’s why on the back of my albums there are no feature credits.
Have you been working on Kanye’s new album?
Of course. That n—a is so ready; he’s coming with some shit soon. His album is crazy. I’m glad that n—-a finally broke the code with Yeezus to make God-level music which is ill as f—, bro. It’s super raunchy. He’s like my stepdad. We always had that relationship where we cook up ideas. We [talk] all the time about random shit: life and how we can do better as people and as rock stars. Our goal is to help people figure out who they want to be.