“I just fucking hate getting arrested, man,” Travis Scott exasperatedly sighs after being released from an Arkansas Sheriff’s Office in the opening stages of his new Netflix documentary Look Mom I Can Fly. “That shit is whack.”
The May 2017 incident which landed the Houston rapper in hot water occurred after he allegedly “incited a riot” during a gig where fans rushed security to get closer to the stage. But given that so many wide-eyed kids are seen rhapsodising on camera post-gig about how much fun they had at said “riot” — one teenager on crutches beams: “I survived, I survived! It’s all good!” — the local police were clearly in the minority in feeling nervous about being exposed to a night of Travis-mania. A potentially career-affecting night, it turns out, actually enhanced Travis’ status as an electric live performer further.
The growing phenomenon around Travis has led to him regularly selling out arenas, founding his own record label and securing this, his very own Netflix documentary: and you really know you’ve made it when the streaming behemoth comes calling. Filmed over the course of two years to largely document the making and release of his acclaimed third album ‘Astroworld’, Look Mom I Can Fly provides a swooping, lightning-quick overview of the rapper’s rising fortunes. In addition to ample in-the-studio footage and, of course, dazzling crowdsurf-heavy shots of Travis’ frenzied live shows, there’s also a contrasting mix of heartwarming home video footage of the rapper’s childhood in Houston with shots of the grown-up rap superstar enjoying family life with his partner Kylie Jenner and their young daughter Stormi Webster (who, brilliantly, is credited as a producer on the film).
Fans of Travis will revel in all of this behind-the-scenes access, with the recording of ‘Astroworld’ a definite highlight of the film. “[It’s] one of the best albums of all time,” Travis confidently tells us early on. “At some points in life, you have to be extreme… I’ve been working on ‘Astroworld’ since I was 6.” The self-confident hyperbole may be in overdrive, but there’s a real care for his craft. We see an in-the-zone Travis in the back of a car trying to piece together bars over the thudding beat of what will become ‘Butterfly Effect’, before there’s an elated squad reaction to hearing the ‘No Bystanders’ instrumental coming to the boil and short glimpses of Travis working with Tame Impala‘s Kevin Parker and James Blake in the studio on ‘Skeletons’ and ‘Stop Trying to Be God’ respectively. And then there’s the sheer joy that is the rapper’s response to Drake’s contribution to their international superhit ‘Sicko Mode’.
Joy turns to despair, however, when ‘Astroworld’ manages to strike out at the Grammys by crashing to defeat in all three of its nominated categories. This is where the Look Mom I Can Fly‘s filmmakers really earn their corn with their backstage cameras trained on Travis as he just about manages to keep a straight face upon learning that he’s lost to Cardi B for Best Rap Album. Out of the glare of the public eye (for now), Travis is fuming as he storms off down the labyrinthine corridors of the Staples Center and yells “FUCK!”: no gracious loser behaviour here.
He’ll always be a winner in the eyes of his hometown of Houston, though. “You didn’t lose,” Sylvester Turner, the Mayor of Houston, is seen saying to Travis in consolation. “Sometimes you don’t get what you want, but that doesn’t mean you stop… when I put AstroWorld back in the City, that’s gonna be your Grammy.” Yes, that is Turner promising that, thanks to Travis’ efforts, he’s planning on bringing back the original AstroWorld theme park, which was demolished in 2005, to Houston — how about that for a bit of hometown pride, eh?
That’s just one example of the clear reverence Travis has for Houston — a city that the rapper now has the ceremonial keys to — and it’s intriguing to see a side of the rapper that isn’t all about starting mosh pits and conjuring chaos. Look Mom I Can Fly‘s more candid moments present Travis Scott the person, from his genuine delight at reuniting with the principal and counsellor from his old high school to the wholesome shots of Travis dressing Stormi in an oversized ‘Astroworld’ hoodie at home. N’aww.
Look Mom I Can Fly offers a rich variety of snapshots into Travis’ life, but, at just 85 minutes, snapshots are all the film is really able to provide. Many scenes don’t get the time to settle before we’re then thrust into the next sequence in the rapper’s whirlwind life, and the two-year journey from the tail-end of the Bird’s Eye View Tour to Travis receiving the aforementioned key to Houston on stage back in February feels incredibly swift — too swift, if anything. We don’t hear much from those closest from Travis, either: his mum, dad and grandmother are all featured in the film, but their presence is fleeting and they don’t get too much of an opportunity to share their take on their son’s ascent to stardom. The home videos are a nice touch, but you can’t help but feel that there are elements missing from the narrative that the film could’ve easily delivered.
Look Mom I Can Fly is a project that will primarily appeal to Travis’ fans, “the ragers” — and it’s their testimonies that bring home the mass devotion among young music fans in particular to the rapper. “It’s crazy how one man’s music can transform us into a family,” one muses, while others eulogise about how Travis’ music has “changed” their life. “He let me know I wasn’t alone, and saved my life,” another fan, tears in his eyes, adds. Travis Scott’s Astroworld is a hugely welcoming and inclusive place, it seems: and Look Mom I Can Fly is a visual testament of its power.