Opinion: The Travis Scott Burger is tasteless marketing

Raghav Raj | Staff Writer

 The collaboration between rapper Travis Scott and fast food giant McDonalds asks a simple, terrifying question: what does a soul taste like?

As I found out when I visited the McDonalds drive-through for the first time in maybe over a year, not very good. The burger that features Scott’s namesake — a quarter pounder with cheese, bacon, lettuce, ketchup and mustard — felt limp and squishy, and I think I managed a good four bites before the sharp sting of regret kicked in. The fries with barbecue sauce were the same old McDonalds fries I think everyone’s had at some point in their lifetime. 

Yes, they became soggy almost instantly; yes, I ate them all. 

After I washed them down with some Sprite (served “Straight Up!” with extra ice as the ad campaign so hamfistedly phrases it), all I could feel was a crushing sense of emptiness. Yeah, maybe it’s because I was still hungry after eating half a burger and some fries. But I think most of that emptiness came from trying to process how soul-suckingly absurd this collaboration between Scott and McDonalds really feels.

Because, taken at face value, the idea of a hip-hop star like Travis Scott teaming up with a company — a fast food company no less — as widely saturated as McDonalds seems uniquely ridiculous. 

The only precedent I could really find for such a large-scale collaboration between hip-hop and a food company was that one Honey Nut Cheerios ad campaign from 2013 that featured Nelly giving the anthropomorphic bee mascot a hip-hop makeover so he could bust some sick rhymes about cereal. (And even then, Nelly was over a decade out from the peak of his career, whereas Travis Scott’s latest single with Kid Cudi topped the Hot 100 just this May.)

But look past this overwhelming absurdity and you find an exchange between artist and conglomerate that feels deeply cynical. For the entirety of Scott’s career in the mainstream, he’s attempted to offer up the idea of his distinct personal brand as an extension of his art, whether he’s designing collaborations with hip-hop and designer fashion mainstays like BAPE & Saint Laurent, or orchestrating elaborate virtual concerts to showcase his music like those from the video game Fortnite. 

But with his McDonalds collaboration, there is artlessness at play. To simply latch himself onto a commodity and throw his name on some bizarre, branded merch doesn’t feel natural, even for someone as gifted with self-promotion as Scott. 

The marketing campaign comes off as exactly what it is: a way for Scott to boost his ubiquity, and a way for McDonalds to use that ubiquity in order to appeal to his fans and the hip-hop scene at large.

And honestly, the premise doesn’t feel that absurd anymore. Instead, it just feels bleak. 

The Travis Scott burger, at heart, becomes a perfect representation of the way our late-capitalist society commodifies art and the artist behind it.’ 

It is a hollow, lifeless endeavor, and in more ways than one, it leaves a profoundly bad taste in my mouth.