In his first interview since the Houston festival on Nov. 5 that killed 10 people, the rapper claimed he did not know anyone died until after his performance.
“I’ve been on different types of emotions, an emotional rollercoaster,” Scott said. “It gets so hard because I always feel connected to my fans, and I went through something and my fans went through something and people’s parents went through something and it really hurts. It really hurts the community, it hurts the city. It’s just been a lot of thoughts, a lot of feelings, a lot of grieving, and just trying to wrap my head around it.”
As for why he decided to sit down for an interview a month after the tragic events — as well as the pending litigation against him and the festival’s organizers — Scott added, “Something happened and I needed just a way to communicate.”
Charlamagne asked Scott when he first realized people were killed at the Astroworld festival. “It wasn’t really until minutes until the press conference [after the show] that I figured out what happened. Even after the show, you’re just kind of hearing things, but I didn’t know the exact details” Scott said. “And even at that moment, you’re like, ‘Wait, what?’ You just went through something.”
Scott added, “People pass out, things happen at concerts, but something like that…”
The rapper claims he didn’t hear fans screaming between songs for him to stop the concert. “It’s so crazy because I’m that artist, too — anytime you can hear something like that, you want to stop the show, you want to make sure fans get the proper attention they need,” Scott said. “Anytime I could see anything like that, I did. I stopped it a couple of times to just make sure everybody was OK. And I really just go off the fans’ energy as a collective — call and response. I just didn’t hear that.”
Scott also said the show continued on for another 40 minutes after Houston police determined it was a “mass casualty event” because he claimed he was only told that the show must end after the guests (in this case, Drake) appeared onstage. However, Scott said he wasn’t provided a reason for why the performance was being cut short.
Scott said that the only time he saw that a fan was in peril, as video of the concert showed, he briefly stopped the performance to make sure medical units could get to the fan. Otherwise, he claimed he noticed the medic lights in the back of the crowd and “double-checked” to make sure everyone was OK. “I got a response everyone was OK,” he said, adding he didn’t know whether the lights were from an ambulance.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, much of the blame has fallen on Scott, even though some — like Chuck D — said the organizers should bear the brunt of the responsibility.
“I’m the face of the festival, I’m the artist, so the media wants to put it on me, but at the end of the day I don’t think it’s more so about that, it’s more so about stepping up to figure out what the problem is. And I could take that,” he said. “I could take stepping out to figure out what the problem is, I could take stepping up to figure out what the solution is so that it never happened again.”
Jennifer Peña, the sister of Rudy Peña who was killed at the festival, tells Rolling Stone she had to turn off the interview because it was too painful. Asked if she believed Scott’s claim he couldn’t tell what was happening from the stage and didn’t know the crowd crush was threatening lives, she said, “There’s videos of people telling him to stop this concert, and he didn’t. How could he not know?” she said.
Scott later talked about reaching out to victims’ families, some of whom rejected his offer to pay for their loved ones’ funerals. “All things are understandable. At a time where they’re grieving and trying to find understanding and they want answers. It’s not about that,” Scott said. “I’m always gonna be here to want to help them. I got to continue to show up for that.”
Scott was reluctant to blame his fanbase and the “raging” culture that permeated through his past performances. He also denied the social media buzz that his shows are “satanic rituals.” “I’m a man of God, that’s the first thing first,” he said. Instead, he mapped out what precautions he said would take to avoid another tragedy when he does return to the stage.
“I’ll do the same thing I’ve been doing, just making sure everybody’s on post and… double down on just making sure that everyone is locked in: Everyone is aware, everyone is on response, everybody’s on it… and look out,” he said.
Additional reporting by Nancy Dillon