“AstroWorld?” the Uber driver echoes solemnly, as if being reminded of a long lost friend. “I used to have season passes for the kids. Used to go there in the summer, it would be packed.” He pauses for a moment, the excitement of his memory quickly burning out. “I still don't understand why they closed it down. I'd end up paying $20 for parking just to get near it.”
We reach the site on the Southside of Houston, where the theme park stood proudly from 1968 until 2005. It was levelled off to be used as an overflow car park for the rodeos that take place in the overlooking NRG Stadium, neighbour to the “Eighth Wonder Of The World” - the Astrodome, home of the Houston Astros baseball team. Twelve years since its closing, it's a sparse wasteland that spends the majority of its year deserted, fenced off to stop intruders from even wandering across it.
To Houston natives AstroWorld represents youth; either through their children, or memories of their own childhood. A young Beyoncé Knowles tasted stardom there, performing as part of Girl's Tyme, and Travis Scott spent his formative years there, allowing his imagination to run wild. The 25-year-old rapper and producer is currently in his hometown for the 'Birds Eye View Tour', in support of his second album 'Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight', which scored him his first Billboard Number One when it was released in September last year.
We're taking an early ride to the site, sounding out the area ahead of our cover shoot later in the day. An icon of contemporary youth culture, Travis intends to reconnect with the “pure life” that comes with being a carefree teenager on his forthcoming third album, which will be named after the park.
That night two cars pull up to a service road around the back of the site: a blacked-out Escalade and a white Maybach. Upon arrival, Travis and his crew hop out of the Maybach, and he wanders over to the industrial wire fence, wrapping his fingers around it and peering through over the land that was once so important to him.
“It got taken away from the city. It was like taking our heart out,” he laments. “We were having fun at that place. It represented imagination; it was our Disneyland. A lot of my ideas were sparked at AstroWorld.”