While performing with Drake at a sold-out show in London on February 1, 2017, Travis Scott marched across the stage, took a wrong step, fell into a giant hole, and disappeared completely. Drake looked puzzled as he watched Scott get swallowed up by the Earth mid-sentence. Nine seconds later, Scott reemerged and soldiered on, unphased. A video of the incident soon appeared online and quickly went viral. It was an embarrassing moment for Scott, and not even the first time he’d fallen off stage. But something changed on that fateful night, and Scott’s career was never the same.
We at Noisey have spent hours examining this pivotal moment in Scott’s career, and our findings are startling. Our lawyers tell us that we cannot report this conclusively, but it is with a great deal of certainty that we submit the theory that in that short time when Scott was out of view, he wasn’t simply in a hole; he ripped through some sort of space-time continuum, transporting him to a parallel dimension that served as the inspiration for his next album, Astroworld.
In this alternate universe Scott inhabited, our worldly concept of time was suspended. While he was only missing from our sights for nine Earthly seconds, he lived on this other plane of existence for an untold period—perhaps even a lifetime. (We will call this immeasurable stretch the Dark Time.) This may sound incredible to the close-minded, so to the non-believers, we say: There’s the door. But for the adventurous readers ready to have their minds expanded, we welcome you on this psychedelic journey.
Before we take a closer look at what happened to Scott in the Dark Time and how it transformed him as an artist and a person, we must first look back at Scott’s pre-hole career. Prior to 2017, Scott was a divisive figure in hip-hop whose musical output had been met with mixed critical reception. In a review of his 2015 album, Rodeo, Pitchfork noted that Scott had “quickly earned a rep as a shameless biter, an aesthetic bender with no regard for ownership or authorship” and called him “a middling talent” who “isn’t good at rapping.” SPIN called Rodeo a “cold, calculated record lacking in personality” and Rolling Stone deemed it a wasted major label debut. His 2016 follow-up, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, didn’t fare much better, with many critics noting that the best part of the album was when Scott was absent. Deadspin even once dedicated 2,700 words to the opinion that Scott is a relentless plagiarist and an industry plant. This was largely the reputation that plagued the early years of Scott’s career—until 2018, that is, when he released his post-hole album, Astroworld.
Unlike Scott’s previous output, Astroworld was lauded as the work of an artist who had taken a giant creative leap forward. The same outlets who had deemed Scott a hack punching above his weight were suddenly praising him as a “visionary” “living up to his ambitions” and “making his strongest work to date.” So how did Travis Scott go from hip-hop hack to hero in a brief few months? It all happened in that hole, in the Dark Time.
Let’s explain what we talk about when we talk about “the hole.” During his Boy Meets World tour, Drake’s big finale in his stage production included a giant globe that inflated and illuminated on a platform a few yards in front of the stage. The finished product looked like this:
But no one warned Scott about this, and as he ran onto the platform while performing “Goosebumps,” he stepped right into the globe’s launching pad and dropped in face-first, apparently damaging it so badly that Drake refunded the 20,000 fans in attendance at The O2.
Now, what we find most interesting about this is that although numerous videos of the fall taken from many different angles have surfaced online, all of them seem to completely lose sight of Scott’s body while he’s inside the hole. Even this one, taken from a high vantage point, fails to capture Scott as he gets sucked into the abyss:
For a full nine seconds, in front of 20,000 people, Scott was missing in plain view. Is it possible that this was a plot by the Illuminati or the Freemasons to swap Scott out for a lookalike through a trap door like at the end of the movie [spoiler alert] The Prestige? Could a secret society of powerful black celebrities have kidnapped Scott and swapped him out for a clone like they tried to do to Dave Chappelle? We considered this possibility, but it doesn’t explain how the experience of the fall so closely correlates with Scott’s vision for Astroworld.
Astroworld sets itself apart from Scott’s previous straightforward rap albums by virtue of being a concept album. Scott has said in interviews that the album was based on Six Flags: AstroWorld, an amusement park he attended while growing up in Houston, Texas. The park closed when Scott was just 12 years old, and yet, Scott’s recollection of it is captured in such great detail on Astroworld that, in a five-star review of the album, NME noted that it “is the sound of a musician who has worked to forge an entire world, an empire, around himself.” How did a man once widely considered hip-hop’s premier biter conjure up an entire world based on childhood memories? It’s almost as if he didn’t imagine it, but he saw it with his own two eyes.
Scott first gave the public a glimpse at his vision of his Astroworld in April of 2017 with a video for “Goosebumps,” the song he was performing with Drake in London before he momentarily left this astral plane. The video begins with a skeleton reverse-combusting and taking the shape of Scott. This is meant to signal the moment the old Scott was set ablaze and, like a phoenix arising from the ashes, he was reborn. Aesthetically, “Goosebumps” was a huge shift from his previous videos, incorporating psychedelic elements that would be used in subsequent videos for the album cycle.
But when Scott unveiled the trailer for Astroworld on July 30, he fully showed the world what he saw in the Dark Time. As the trailer opens up, we see Scott floating down an escalator.
This represents his journey into the underworld, the place beyond the hole. “But Travis didn’t float into the hole. He fell into it. I saw it on Worldstar’s Insta,” you’re saying, very stupidly. That may be what you saw, but what did Scott see? In his first big post-hole interview, with British GQ, Scott had a different account than what was captured by the human eye. “I didn’t fall, dude, I flew. I was floating,” he remembered. “It’s like getting in a plane. I just flew, man.”
Scott then walks through an abandoned mall. It is dark and frozen, and particles float around him in this other, parallel world. In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, they called it Narnia. In the hit Netflix original series Stranger Things, they called it the Upside-Down. Travis Scott called it Astroworld. Scott continues to survey the area as the world rots away in specks and chunks. Oh, and did we mention that “Astroworld” is an anagram for “a world rots”? Interesting.
Another immediately noticeable feature of Scott’s underworld is the presence of globes. Here’s one:
A bunch of globes in this shot:
Oh, here’s a big-ass globe:
Hm, globes. Where has Scott seen globes before? Oh, that’s right. Drake’s giant globe was the last thing Scott saw before he slipped into the Dark Time. Why is Scott’s mind so fixated on the images of globes? Did he suffer a bad concussion when he fell into the hole in London? Yeah, sure, if you believe what “science” will tell you about the human body. But those who possess the skill of critical analysis know that he sees globes as the link between two worlds—a portal, if you will.
Another theme in Scott’s world is wolves. There are dozens of them prowling around. Honestly, we’re not sure what they represent since we’re not big into animal culture but if you know, you’re welcome to email us!
Months after the Astroworld trailer’s release, Scott dropped the video for “Sicko Mode,” featuring Drake, further revealing his experience in the Dark Time. Here’s a shot of Drake in the video, standing in front of a giant globe. Do we have to even explain what this means? This is obviously what Scott saw as he finally re-entered our world after a trip through the Dark Time.
Even a recently as two months ago, Scott was still trying to recreate his Dark Time experience in his videos. The video for “Yosemite” opens with a child falling endlessly into the underworld where he is surrounded by—what else—globes. The boy climbs out of the globe-filled underworld and into AstroWorld.
The album artwork for Astroworld also reflects the duality of the worlds Scott inhabits. Shot by acclaimed photographer David LaChapelle, there are actually two versions of the Astroworld cover.
In the one on the left, we see the AstroWorld Scott remembers from childhood, and on the right, we see the one he remembers from the Dark Time. Although their respective tones differ, one element they share is the image of Scott's head as an entry point. Did Scott inhabit the underworld for so long that he grew to power and became a revered God, worshipped by the inhabitants of AstroWorld in the Dark Time and immortalized via statues? Perhaps only he knows the answer to that.
So while it may still be funny to watch Scott take an unfortunately placed step into a huge hole in front of thousands, what’s less talked about is how this moment changed the course of his career. A simple trip down a hole is all it took for hip-hop’s punching bag to radically transform into one of the biggest stars in the music industry today. In just two years Scott ascended to his status as hip-hop royalty and one of the most bankable stars on the planet, all because he didn’t watch his step.
This article originally appeared on Noisey US.