AdWeek did just that, running a cover story on Scott with the headline, “Travis Scott doesn’t like ‘branding’ or ‘marketing,’ but he’s so damn good at both.” Never mind that sitting down for a story with Adweek, which named Scott “creative visionary of the year,” of all places indicates an overt affinity for branding and the desire to continue cultivating it. We’re talking about music’s most robust branding machine today, a 29-year-old who has made his name sellable outside of hip-hop more than any other artist in the genre.
“I don’t like the words ‘branding’ and ‘marketing,’” Scott said. “I just wasn’t really ever into it, you know? I guess I’m a naturalist in that sense.”
He probably believes what he’s saying — But give me a break. Music may ostensibly be Scott’s primary focus, but branding is a prominent feature of the whole operation. There’s nothing a corporate shill loves to insist more than that the partnership is “natural,” and I’m sure Scott does have a genuine love for some of the numerous products he’s released in recent years. The unprecedented volume of those products, however, suggests either that there’s nothing Scott loves more than things — or that he’s inevitably lent his name to some goods in the name of the bottom line.
There’s truth to be found in both options, because what do we really know about Scott besides the products he purportedly loves? Soul-bearing isn’t inherently a requirement of music, but it’s remarkable how little there is to be gleaned about Scott from his artistic output. He creates moods, atmosphere, vibes — whatever you want to call it, his music is routinely captivating in an “I want to jump on a couch while spilling cheap beer on it” sense.
And that’s quite alright, not every artist needs to be revealing in order to be engaging. But the artistic collaborators Scott consistently leans on are essential to his success. The rapper and producer is best looked at as master curator, taking Kanye West’s lead and making his own voice more dispensable in the process. This sum-of-its-parts approach has translated remarkably well into branding, from a financial point of view, while the ultimate hollowness of Scott’s music makes it, too, seem like an exercise in marketing.
A full list of Scott’s collaborators is not necessary — Trotting out an exhaustive list of the various companies Scott has worked with — including Sony, McDonald’s, and Epic — would serve as an easy gotcha moment. But instead, let’s ride out with the Cacti seltzer teaser Scott made sure to drop in the same story in which he said he’s not a brander but a “naturalist.”
“[I can’t wait for] Cacti’s first official lead sponsorship,” he told Adweek. “I feel like if I say anything more, I might get out of the spot. But it’s definitely going to be one of those ‘official drinks.’”
Nothing comes more natural to a person-turned-brand than carefully laying out crumbs for their next move.