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Will the tragedy of Astroworld change the future of hype?

The eight deaths at last Friday's concert cast a heavy shadow on the world's most famous rapper

Will the tragedy of Astroworld change the future of hype? The eight deaths at last Friday's concert cast a heavy shadow on the world's most famous rapper

On Friday night, at the Astroworld Festival in Houston, during a performance by Travis Scott, eight people between the ages of 14 and 27 died overwhelmed by the crowd, eleven others were taken to hospital for cardiac arrest and another three hundred were injured. In the aftermath of the concert that The Guardian called «one of the deadliest live music events in US history», the authorities' investigations began revealing a situation of absolute chaos in which, on the one hand, Scott had not fully realized the gravity of the situation even after interrupting the concert and, on the other, the music itself was so loud as to cover the many requests for help that came from the tide of 50,000 human bodies pressing against each other - with survivors now blaming Scott himself,  guilty of having continued his set for 37 minutes from the first calls for help; now Kylie Jenner who has stated that she was not aware of the incidents even though in her IG Story you could see an ambulance in the crowd; now to the audio and video operators, guilty of not having stopped or having reported accidents even if standing on their stations in the crowd.


I don’t like what I’m seeing in the reports and footage from last nights AstroWorld music festival. Part one of two.

original sound - Moe the Lawyer

Without wanting to speculate on the responsibilities of the tragedy, which will be determined at the end of the investigations, it can be said without a doubt that the deaths of the Astroworld Festival have cast a heavy and dark shadow on the largest ad personam marketing machine in the Western world, the one that surrounds the rapper Travis Scott, whose reputation has suffered a very hard blow that could in fact rewrite the very dynamics of hype culture as we know it. Scott is in fact today the last representative of the hype culture as we knew it during the streetwear wave that started in 2016 and went out in 2020. Scott's sneakers, his merch and his sold-out tickets in an hour were the only releases (along with those of Kanye West) to still possess that irrational and irresistible charm, as well as that universal recognizability, that The Ten by Off-White™, the Triple S of Balenciaga or the collaborations of Supreme had a time and now have lost. An event so catastrophic that he himself called "devastating" could become an opportunity to rewrite the very dynamics of hype culture by slowing down a continuous and desperate chase of fans both when it comes to cupring the last dunk and grabbing the first at the concert.  

The hysteria and crowd turnout aroused by the presence of Travis Scott and Drake suggests a dangerous drift of hype culture, which has led so many people to pile up against each other in the grip of a sort of collective fury only to get even closer to the stage, incited by the singers and to create those human tides that left 300 wounded and 8 dead on the ground.  Among other things, Scott had already had problems with crowd management at Loolapalooza in 2015, when the rapper was arrested after inciting the crowd to take the storm stage while in 2017 Scott was arrested again for inciting the crowd again at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion while the same year,  At Scott's concert in New York's Terminal 5, a man named Kyle Green even ended up in a wheelchair for months after being pushed by the crowd over a balcony. Most of the testimonies of those who attended the concert said that "it seemed to be in hellish" and that "no one was really having fun", which seems to be a tragic metaphor for this deformation of the hype culture.  

The intensity reached with the tragedy of Astroworld has however been cultivated and increased over the years, the result of precise and intense PR and marketing strategies designed to reach everywhere on the world market, product after product, event after event, gossip after gossip – the negligence of the organizers did the rest.  Specifically, Travis Scott's audience is more overstimulated than the others: in 2021 alone, Scott collaborated with mastermind JAPAN, Neighborhood, Byredo and with Hiroshi Fujiwara; signed a production deal with A24, launched a legal cannabis brand and a beverage brand, partnered with Dior for the brand's SS22, but also sang for the Tenet soundtrack and created a capsule and menu for McDonald's. Its next sneaker release is still scheduled for November 16 but after a tragedy of this magnitude (the seventh concert by number of deaths in US history) will they really be sold-out in less than an hour? To sum up the point of view of public opinion, which has not exactly sided with Scott, here is what a Twitter user writes under the apology post published by the rapper: «This man basically committed manslaughter, saw literal bodies being dragged out by medical staff, continued the show even after seeing the bodies and his response is 12 lines of text in notepad».

The tragedy of Astroworld has revealed to the world the dark face of hype culture, just as the tragedy of Marilyn Monroe revealed in the 60s the dark face of Hollywood star system and the attacks on the US Capitol last January revealed the dark face of political propaganda driven by the algorithms of social networks. The most fitting parallel, however, can be made with the Woodstock '99 festival - whose story is told in a remarkable documentary - in which a mixture of bad organization, toxic college culture and a progressive musical excitement created the conditions for a social disaster that highlighted the darker sides of the 90s.

It's hard to think that Scott's career will be cut short by this incident – although surely this will be the last edition of Astroworld that we will see for a long time and it is likely that the flurry of releases related to Scott's name will have a setback while the rapper will stand aside from the scenes. It remains to be seen how Scott will deal with the media backlash of the tragedy and how intact his reputation will come out of the affair – but above all how his fans and the fashion brands with which Scott has associated himself in recent years will react now that the pedestal on which the character-symbol of hype culture had been raised has broken so ruinously.