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Houston police chief says he met with Travis Scott to express safety concerns before concert

Chief Troy Finner said he asked the rapper to work with HPD during all Astroworld Festival events. He also said the criminal investigation continues.

HOUSTON — Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said Monday that he met with Travis Scott before his concert Friday to express concerns about public safety at the Astroworld Festival.

The chief said a criminal investigation continues into the events that led to the deaths of eight young people during a crowd surge at Scott's concert. The investigation includes a security guard who said he felt a prick on his neck before he passed out in the crowd. Finner confirmed that medical staff found what appeared to be a needle prick in his neck.

Fans caught up in the chaos said people in the crowd of 50,000 started pushing toward the front as a timer clicked down to the start of performance.

RELATED: Astroworld Festival timeline: Cell phone videos show how tragedy unfolded at Travis Scott concert

RELATED: Crowd surge never mentioned in Astroworld Festival emergency plan

Fans say they were begging Scott and his team to stop the concert when dozens of people passed out. Scott did stop, at one point, to ask for help for one unconscious fan but then continued performing for more than half an hour after the Houston Fire Department declared a mass casualty event. 

The rapper has a history of encouraging fans to bypass security and rush the stage at previous concerts, including Arkansas in 2017 where he was arrested. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to reckless conduct charges after an incident at the Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago.

Scott has faced lawsuits and even an arrest in the past. But this was the first time, anyone has died and there's already a stack of lawsuits on behalf of the victims.

Finner released the following statement confirming the New York Times report about the meeting with the rapper and festival host.

"I met with Travis Scott and his head of security for a few moments last Friday prior to the main event. I expressed my concerns regarding public safety and that in my 31 years of law enforcement experience I have never seen a time with more challenges facing citizens of all ages to include a global pandemic and social tension throughout the nation. I asked Travis Scott and his team to work with HPD for all events over the weekend and to be mindful of his social media messaging on any unscheduled events. The meeting was brief and respectful, and a chance for me to address my public safety concerns as Chief of Police. 

As I have previously stated, our criminal investigation continues. We are asking for everyone to be considerate for the grieving families during this incredibly difficult time. Please continue to lift them up in prayer."

Past issues at Travis Scott concerts

Scott's high-energy concerts are known for being chaotic and fun-filled shows with concertgoers encouraged to take part in a raucous nature involving mosh pits, crowd surfing and stage diving. On Friday night, something went wrong.

“Travis Scott’s whole aesthetic is about rebellion,” said HipHopDX editor-in-chief Trent Clark, who has attended several of his performances. “The shows have a lot of raging. With the death of punk rock, hip-hop has indeed adopted and patterned the new generation of mosh pits. It’s not uncommon to see a lot of crowding and raging or complete wild behavior at a Travis Scott show.”

RELATED: Astroworld Festival security guard said he was 'pricked' in neck, injected before passing out, Houston police chief says

“Travis Scott is legendary in the hip-hop community for his beyond high-energy performances, where he really tries to rile up the crowd,” said Noah Shachtman, editor-in-chief at Rolling Stone. “That makes for some really fun shows and made for a couple of scary incidents.”

Who is Travis Scott?

Scott's real name is Jacques Webster and he was born in Houston in 1992. He also lived in Missouri City and graduated from Elkins High School.

Scott attended the University of Texas San Antonio about dropped out to lpursue his music career.

His debut album "Rodeo" came out in 2015 and reached number one on Billboard's rap albums chart.

The eight-time Grammy-nominated rapper founded his festival in 2018 on the heels of his chart-topping album “Astroworld,” which was led by the infectious song “Sicko Mode.”

The spotlight on his personal life got intense when he started dating reality TV star and entrepreneur Kylie Jenner.

Jenner gave birth to their daughter Stormi Webster in 2018 and she announced in September the couple is expecting their second child. Jenner and Stormi were at the Astroworld Fesitval concert Friday night.

RELATED: Full refunds offered to those who purchased Astroworld Festival tickets, organizer tweets

In a tweet posted Saturday, Scott said he was “absolutely devastated" by what happened. He pledged to work “together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need.”

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People in the crowd reported lots of pushing and shoving during the performances leading up to Scott’s set — which is normal at his shows. He’s often encouraged fans to bypass security and rush the stage, but none of those previous situations resulted in fatalities.

RELATED: Astroworld Festival tragedy: What we know about the eight victims

“Travis Scott’s whole aesthetic is about rebellion,” said HipHopDX editor-in-chief Trent Clark, who has attended several of his performances. “The shows have a lot of raging. With the death of punk rock, hip-hop has indeed adopted and patterned the new generation of mosh pits. It’s not uncommon to see a lot of crowding and raging or complete wild behavior at a Travis Scott show.”

RELATED: Astroworld Festival security guard said he was 'pricked' in neck, injected before passing out, Houston police chief says

Scott is an eight-time Grammy-nominated rapper who is music’s biggest young stars. The Houston-born musician founded his festival in 2018 on the heels of his chart-topping album “Astroworld,” which was led by the infectious song “Sicko Mode.” He also has a 3-year-old daughter with Kylie Jenner, who announced in September that she is pregnant with their second child.

RELATED: 'Broken and devastated' | Kylie Jenner posts statement following Astroworld Festival tragedy

“Travis Scott is legendary in the hip-hop community for his beyond high-energy performances, where he really tries to rile up the crowd,” said Noah Shachtman, editor-in-chief at Rolling Stone. “That makes for some really fun shows and made for a couple of scary incidents.”

In a tweet posted Saturday, Scott said he was “absolutely devastated by what took place last night.” He pledged to work “together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need.”

RELATED: 'Absolutely devastated' Travis Scott releases statement following deaths at Astroworld Festival

No matter where the investigation ultimately leads, tragedies like the one at the Astroworld Festival have been happening for a long time. In 1979, 11 people died in a scramble to enter a Cincinnati, Ohio, concert by The Who. At a soccer stadium in England, a human crush in 1989 led to nearly 100 deaths. In 2015, a collision of two crowds at the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia caused more than 2,400 deaths, based on an Associated Press count of media reports and officials’ comments.

But with Scott getting into trouble before for the two past shows, Shachtman thinks the rapper will get a “hard second look.”

In 2017, Scott was arrested after he encouraged fans to bypass security and rush the stage, leaving a security guard, a police officer and several others injured during a concert in Arkansas. In a separate incident, he was sentenced to one year of court supervision after pleading guilty to reckless conduct charges stemming from a 2015 incident in Chicago at the Lollapalooza music festival.

At the time, Chicago officials said Scott encouraged fans to vault security barricades. However, no one was injured.

RELATED: What happened at Travis Scott’s Astroworld concert? Crowd surge explained

“In terms of energy, he wants the energy he’s giving out on stage to be reciprocated from the audience, almost in defiance,” said Julian Kimble, who wrote a concert review on Scott’s 2018 Astroworld performance for the Washington Post. He called the rapper one of the most electrifying performers he’s seen.

“I’ve seen him tell people like ‘Don’t listen to security. Forget security. This is for y’all. This is for the fans,’” he continued. “With regards to last night, that’s an example of how things can go wrong. There’s a lot of negligence across the board. I don’t think there’s one bad guy or culprit. It’s a sweeping structural failure with what happened.”

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