When the mileage for men in board shorts began wearing thin, most early 2000s pop punk stars hung up their Dickies and retreated to normieville (say hello Sum 41 drummer turned real estate agent, Steve Jocz). Today, one millennium-era pop-punk poster-boy remains: Travis Barker – or as he’s currently displayed on new pop-punk releases – “featuring Travis Barker.”
The tatted Blink-182 drummer has become the guy the record label goes to when they want to launch a rock-sounding song, but with the added star power from someone who wasn’t three years old when Warped tour was first popular. In the past month alone, he’s featured on Bebe Rexha’s pop-rock outing “Break My Heart Myself”, LA rapper Sueco’s mall-punk-ish splurge “SOS” and WILLOW – aka, Willow Smith’s – echoes-of-Paramore rebirth track “Transparent Soul.”
Dig deep into the annals of latter-era pop-punk – which is mostly songs by face-tatted white rappers and pop-stars currently going through something – and the names keep flowing. There’s almost a Travis Barker universe akin to Marvel’s cinematic one, featuring musicians gravitating around pop-punk Avenger Barker. In the same way that Robert Downey Jr glued several franchises worth of spandex together, Barker links worlds.
Example: Barker produced Machine Gun Kelly’s 2020 album Tickets To My Downfall. Collabs on that record included gobby British rocker Yungblud, who Barker first “featured Travis Barker” with in 2019, on Halsey collaboration “11 Minutes”; and Ohio rapper Trippie Red, who went a step further in 2021 and added a “presented by Travis Barker” credit to his Travis Barker produced rock-rap album NEON SHARK vs Pegasus, which included two Machine Gun Kelly collaborations on tracks “Pill Breaker” and “Red Sky”.
Barker’s rise from drummer to featured artist, producer and songwriter feels largely unprecedented. Famous stick-bearers have come before him – Questlove, Keith Moon, Animal from The Muppets. However drummers have often rarely been granted a lead feature credit – aka, the ones that go in the track title on streaming services. P. Diddy’s dick-swinging anthem “Bad Boys For Life” from 2001 (spot Barker in the video!), N.E.R.D’s 2002 single “Provider” (SBITV! pt 2), Avril Lavigne’s third album The Best Damn Thing in 2007 – all three featured Barker banging around without being named as a feature.
Shit began shifting in 2010, with Barker’s debut album Give The Drummer Some. Here, big banner rap acts like Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, RZA and Kid Cudi performed atop Barker-led production. From a musical standpoint, the walk from drummer to producer takes place across a firm baseline; whether it’s Dr Dre’s loud kicks and tight snares, Timbaland’s thundering drum bounce, or the crisp 808s in trap production, drums can be a producer’s calling card – and so Barker had a clear entry point into music production.
From then on the collaborations kept on rolling. In 2019, Barker produced $uicideboy$ LIVE FAST DIE WHENEVER EP. Loud, brash, rap-centric – the record isn’t too many worlds away from The Transplants, Barker’s mid 2000s ‘super-group’ with Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong and a roadie-turned rapper named Skinhead Rob who – at one point in a history now confined to low-quality YouTube videos – all performed on Snoop Dogg’s 2000s television show Doggy Fizzle Televizzle (consider this a rare artefact).
Bridging the gap between pop, punk and rap has always been a defining characteristic of Barker’s, making him a prime candidate for the current generation of rap flirting rockstars. That’s clear from his various side projects and post-blink-182 releases (see, also – with middling success – another mid 2000s Travis Barker “super-group” called Expen$ive Taste, featuring rapper Paul Wall and The Transplants’ Skinhead Rob. Or the guitar-led “Spazz Out”, by Riff Raff and Travis Barker, released in 2015).
Emo-tinged rapper nothing,nowhere – who collaborated with Barker on 2019 album Bloodlust – reckons the drummer’s versatility has helped elevate him to a scene figurehead among the newer pop-punk, rap and rock artists.
Speaking to VICE, NN says: “Travis is the opposite of a gatekeeper. He welcomes all different sounds and he’s always down to push the envelope and see how he can help. He’s more talented in ways than drumming when it comes to music.”
Dominic Harrison, aka Yungblud, confirms Barker’s openness, telling VICE: “The awesome thing about Travis is that he embraces everyone no matter where they may be socially. He listens to what young people are saying.”
Like Max Martin’s guide over turn-of-the-century pop, or the rise of songs featuring Quavo during the late 2010’s Boohoo man era, Barker’s become ubiquitous. Strange to think the drummer on Take Off Your Pants And Jacket would, 20 years later, become an in-demand producer, songwriter and featured artist. By building his scope for pop-punk, then rap and pop collaborations, he’s become a totem of genre-melting acts who – in turn – have turned him into a legacy act unparalleled by any of his 2000s peers.
“Me and my friends grew up idolising him and all the projects he was part of,” says 19 year-old LILHUDDY, who is a co-founder of TikTok collective the Hype House, and a musician who worked with Barker on 2021 single “The Eulogy Of You And Me”. “Seeing him work with newer artists gave me a new level of respect for him. He’s not just a collaborator, he’s like a mentor to me.”
Forget hunting for aliens, like Blink-182 member Tom Delonge. It all goes back to the music, man. “Every time you work with him you always want to get back in the studio,” says Yungblud. “He understands culture and knows where music is heading and is building with the younger scene of music."