In this FRONTPAGE feature taken from HIGHStyle, a print magazine by Highsnobiety (available from retailers around the world and our online store), we spent a day with the incomparable Travis Bennett, a man you may know better by his alter ego, Taco.
Tomorrow, Travis Bennett is filming. Today, he has a lot to do.
There’s a COVID test — even though he got vaccinated in April and was recently told by a random woman outside that God would protect him from catching the virus (he believes her). Later, there’s a table read for a mystery project. And at some point, he has to get his hair re-faded into what has been his signature look since he cut off his iconic Afro years ago.
Back then, he wasn’t Travis — he was Taco. You knew him as Odd Future’s rambunctious, paintbrush-shaped ruffian with a penchant for swearing, wild stunts, and DJing. Odd Future started in 2007, became internationally known in 2011, and, until its soft breakup in 2015, Taco was its face (apart from its founder and creator, Tyler, The Creator). He was recognized for being one of the group’s most popular non-music making talents; on their sketch show, Loiter Squad, he starred in a number of its most popular skits.
Now, Taco is dead. Out of the ashes, Travis has risen. “I feel like there are two chapters in my life: the Odd Future chapter and now this new chapter I started,” he ponders over Zoom, lounging in a Utah bedroom. “I feel like I’m a whole new person now. And not to say I’m not still a kid who was in a crazy group, but when I walk around, it’s like I get a different response from people.”
This different response perhaps stems from interacting with Taco himself. Past videos of his social exchanges (such as debating with someone about using the N-word), painted him to be prickly, perhaps argumentative, and, seemingly, an asshole. But now, he’s reserved, calm, and respectful. Casual conversation about his life turns into musings on anime (he’s never seen Dragon Ball Z because of the racist Mr. Popo character), nosy YouTubers who focus on tearing down rappers’ careers, and how polite Lil Wayne is.
Let’s take it back — before Odd Future, before the celebrity. As a kid, Travis was an extrovert. Heavily into basketball and “a lot of outside shit” like football and riding bikes, he’d walk up to random people to introduce himself. He couldn’t play mature-rated video games growing up, so he spent a lot of time with Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and the Tony Hawk franchise, when he wasn’t sneaking to play Grand Theft Auto behind his parents’ back.
That was the start of a rebellious streak, one which involved meeting Tyler, real name Tyler Okonma, when Travis was just 12 years old. “One day, somebody said I acted like another kid, and I was like, ‘I don’t act like anyone else,’” says Travis about the chance meeting. “And then I met T and was like, ‘I’m not weird.’”
Tyler would start recording music at Travis’ house a few years later, around the same time that Travis was actively pursuing music himself. He was in a rap group with his older sister, Syd of The Internet, that featured two of their neighbors. “We used to just write terrible raps and record on tape recorders,” he remembers. “I did it, but I never really wanted to be a rapper. I wanted to be an NBA player who was also a DJ.”
Bad grades prevented Travis from seriously pursuing basketball, eventually crushing his NBA dream. But thanks to his growing connection to Tyler and the guys who would become Odd Future, he found a place within their ranks, with the group practically forming around him. After the group went mainstream in 2011 when Tyler snacked on a cockroach in the music video for “Yonkers,” Travis was everywhere. He was the group’s DJ, but he jokingly refers to his job as being there to “get made fun of.”
He recalls touring Europe and sleeping most of the time. Being woken up to go onstage and doing entire shows foggy (not because of drugs or alcohol — Travis wasn’t a big fan of either at the time), having to be reminded to respond to messages from his family.
“For the most part, it was literally just being with your homies, making jokes and shit,” he says about the time. But beneath the shits and giggles, Travis was learning and evolving underneath the hood.
“I don’t want to be the issue anywhere,” he explains, one of the two things he’s learned from his time in Odd Future. “I always want to be the least abrasive person as far as coming into a situation.”
His second lesson learned is a deeper, more mature take that some people twice his age may still have problems understanding — being present in the moment. “We’d be on tour in another country and I’d be asleep in the hotel majority of the time,” he says. “We were all fucking jet-lagged and I didn’t appreciate traveling the world at the time.”
“Now, I appreciate it,” he continues. “When I go places, I go do more shit. When I was younger, I definitely would say that I was a little more closed-minded, so as I’ve gotten older, it’s about trying new things and seeing new shit, being present for what I can remember.”
Over the years, Travis has made good on his promise to try new things — even if they don’t work out. Years back, he contemplated starting a record label, before realizing he was in over his head soon after. He announced an album to come in 2018, but then he decided to scrap it after realizing he didn’t want to do it. When talking about both, he speaks with his chin up — adamant that these missteps were lessons learned and have contributed to him being where he is today.
One pursuit that has become his bread and butter is acting. After an elementary school play where he forgot all of the words, Travis had hung up his acting dreams, but he flirted with a future in Hollywood through his work on Loiter Squad. Today, thanks to his role as an audio engineer and friend for Lil Dicky’s character on the show DAVE, it seems like that dream is now a reality — one he’s intent on pursuing.
How Travis got the role is a simple story of two friends vibing. Travis and Lil Dicky met at Camp Flog Gnaw and they started to play basketball together afterward. Dicky then brought up the idea for Travis to do it, but at first, he had to seriously consider it. He’d done one audition before that, and he didn’t get the part (which he says he’s now happy about). “Honestly I was really hesitant to do it, because acting for me just didn’t seem right,” Travis says. “And I thought the show would be corny, just being honest. But I read the first script and I laughed. So I went out and auditioned for it.”
Now, Travis is in his second season of the show, and there are surprises in store — but none that he can say over Zoom, or even recall. “If somebody put a gun to my head right now and asked me that, I would have no answer because I don’t remember,” he says about the upcoming season. “I’m not good with my memory when it comes to this right now, just because of how long we filmed it for. It all feels like a fucking blur.”
DAVE is just step one. Travis, evident by his forthcoming table read, is fully focused on growing as an actor. “It’s like the opportunities keep coming,” he says. “So I’m just trying my best to do it properly and be respectful of the people who do this craft. I don’t want to be the dude who starts super late and just goes straight to the top and doesn’t respect the fact that people are trying to do this for their career and shit.”
Travis is already planning everything out and, because of that, has two roles that he fantasizes about: playing tennis star Arthur Ashe and playing Kobe Bryant.
It’s not all about the roles either — Travis wants to get behind the camera just as much as he wants to be in front of it. He expresses that he wants to potentially create his own show, but if you’re looking for something like Loiter Squad, you’re out of luck. “I probably wouldn’t do another thing like Loiter Squad, pranking people on the street, just because that takes so much time,” he says. “People do not understand. You got to respect the Jackass dudes so much, because, bro, a majority of the time, people don’t give a fuck what you have to say when you’re walking down the street. They don’t really give you any response.”
Travis doesn’t have any solid creative plans yet, but he’s gained a whole new level of respect for creators who bring film and TV to life. “It’s a cool process, but you don’t realize how much goes into it until you start doing it,” he says. “So you come up with some dumbass idea in your sleep and you’re like, ‘Oh, that would be great.’ And you write it down and you’re like, ‘Okay, I can only do two episodes and then it ends.’”
“You need to have something that you can actually talk about and a vision,” he continues, before returning to DAVE. “The one thing I will say about Dicky is he has really stuck to his vision, regardless of what anybody says or tries to steer him to. And I respect the fuck out of that.”
At 27 years old, Travis is inching closer and closer to 30 — an age in which society drills into you that the fun you had in your twenties is over. Travis may be more mature than ever, but he’s still dead set on having just as much fun. “Age is such a mindset,” he says. “It’s like when you turn 30, it’s based on who you are and how you are. If you turn 30 and you’re like, ‘I’m fucking 30,’ yeah, you’re going to feel 30. But if you turn 30 and you’re just like, ‘I’m 30 and tomorrow is Wednesday,’ like, who gives a fuck?”
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