Sometimes a rapper becomes bigger than the game. Travis Scott got there before he turned 30. Let’s do the rundown: owns his own record label, Cactus Jack Records; founded his own annual music festival, Astroworld; collabs on sneakers with Nike that are so popular that some stores won’t carry them for fear of being bombarded by Scott’s fans; and has his own meal featured at participating McDonald’s restaurants. That’s without mentioning the 45 million in album sales, six Grammys, and a Billboard Music Award. A lot of rappers have gold grills and drop golden bars, but when you’re on the menu beneath the golden arches — damn, you came, saw, and conquered a lot more than just the hip-hop world. Oh, and if you think that Mickey D’s commercial is just some silly endorsement spot, note that Scott was wise enough to drop his name, get his likable likeness out there, shout-out his record label, and promote his upcoming solo album, Utopia. Not bad for 30 seconds and some special sauce.
Scott’s as prolific a songwriter as he is a savvy businessman, and he flaunts that business acumen on “FRANCHISE” in much the same way emcees used to brag about ice and their tricked-out whips. Sure, he’s got his Cactus Jack logo hanging around his neck (“You see the crosses over ya/ That’s how you know it’s us”), but that bling represents a lot more than having made it out of a dangerous neighborhood in south-central Houston. It represents a burgeoning empire that Scott sits atop of with no signs of slowing down. Similarly, it’s far more than standard hip-hop braggadocio when Scott says, “Unboxing my checks, not my Nikes” over the song’s stilted, grinding beat. It’s one thing to have a fat wad of cash in your money clip, but those stacks of checks are coming from shoe sales, a Fortnite partnership, and even a chicken McNugget-shaped body pillow endorsed by Scott. And they’re coming in on the regular.
At this point, Scott is a brand, and he knows it. Hence, a song like “FRANCHISE” isn’t just an excuse to pal around with Young Thug or lure out M.I.A., who has been missing from action since 2018 (and gets more eyebrow raises in the video for her body suit of flowers than her vocal contributions). While Scott upholds the longstanding hip-hop tradition of allusion and shout-outs — spitting effortlessly about sporting white tees on behalf of Dem Franchize Boyz and not being “bamboozled” in reference to the Spike Lee joint — he’s also pitching what’s coming down the line from his personal brand. So, we get lines like “Cacti’s, not no iced tea,” which name-drops the lifestyle brand he’s been working on and will include a drink (seen in the video). We also get the line “When we open up gates at Utopia (it’s lit)/ It’s like Zootopia.” Here, Scott self-promotes his upcoming album in such a way that it makes one believe there’ll be much more to it than a simple album drop. Stay tuned.
While some may argue that art, even if commercial, shouldn’t be a commercial, looking at the more than six million YouTube views that the “FRANCHISE” music video accrued in 24 hours (not to mention those who saw it before IMAX screenings of Christopher Nolan‘s Tenet), we might ask, “Who’s kidding who?” And as Scott might say (and get paid to do so): “it’s lit. i’m lovin’ it.”
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