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Travis Barker Is Drumming Up Pop-Punk’s Gen Z Revival

The backbone of blink-182 plays beau to Kourtney Kardashian and musical mentor to TikTok stars — ushering in a punk comeback. I guess this is growing up?

Welcome to the Travis Barker amusement park, where you can take a ride with Machine Gun Kelly, learn TikTok dances with Jxdn and hit up the kissing booth with Kourtney Kardashian

For blink-182’s longtime drummer, pop-punk reigns supreme like it’s 2000 all over again. Except it actually is. Uggs are back. A Juicy Couture jumpsuit is stylish. And Barker has somehow entered the spotlight (again!) as music’s hottest drummer.

The Travis, Travis and Travis Show

Let’s break down the Travaissance — and its key players.

  • Barker is dating reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian. It’s not a huge surprise that Barker, 45, is seeing the oldest Kardashian sister, 41. They’re neighbors and operate in the same social scene. (Barker dated singer Rita Ora in 2015 — who once was romantically linked to Kourtney’s brother, Rob Kardashian.) 
  • What’s more interesting is that Barker and Kardashian both moonlight as mentors to TikTok stars. Kardashian jet-sets for lavish shopping trips with Addison Rae, 20, while Barker signed TikToker Jxdn (real name Jaden Hossler), 19, as the first artist on his record label, DTA.
  • Jxdn is buddies with fellow TikToker LILHUDDY, aka Chase Hudson, an 18-year-old who just released his debut song — a wait-it’s-actually-good track — called “21st Century Vampire.” It’s got an early aughts power-pop Weezer/Wheatus vibe with a My Chemical Romance aesthetic.
  • LILHUDDY stars alongside Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney in Downfalls High, a new movie featuring music from Machine Gun Kelly’s pop-punk record Tickets to My Downfall. Both Barker and Jxdn make appearances in the film.
  • Of course, all the small things (sorry) lead back to Barker, because he produced and drummed on MGK’s latest album. This also connects Barker to Megan Fox, the actress we all owe an apology to (and MGK’s girlfriend).
  • Rounding out Barker’s latest crew are British punk rocker Yungblud, Florida rapper Blackbear, singer Halsey, rapper Trippie Redd and even Asher “I Love College” Roth

How’d Barker become the Dr. Dre of pop-punk (or the less-sad Jack Antonoff)? Once known for streaking through blink videos, Barker has since turned himself into rock’s wise elder and family man. He’d probably hate just how calculated this sounds. Barker’s production and collaboration work isn’t a new initiative to secure interest among Gen Z — some of whom weren’t born yet when Enema of the State was a TRL mainstay. 

Since the late ’90s, when the former Aquabats ska drummer helped usher pop-punk into Top 40, Barker has waded through genres like EDM and emo rap. Barker has a talent for taking underground music scenes and turning them into profitable mainstream commodities. “He’s like a gentrifier of sounds,” says Josiah Hughes, host of the punk podcast 155 and a blink-182 historian.

A more favorable interpretation, says Atlantic staff writer Spencer Kornhaber, is that Barker’s “sort of the Forrest Gump of the music industry.” (Not to be confused with Alex Rodriguez, the Forrest Gump of baseball.)

Barker’s talent is drumming, not singing or playing the guitar. “[Drums] are his way of taking up space and expressing himself, but there always needs to be lyrics and vocals,” Hughes says. So, naturally, he’s turned to collaborations.

Online Songs

In the 2010s, Barker found his first post-blink job as rappers’ go-to drummer, working with old-school lyricists like Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes as well as newcomers Ghostemane and XXXTentacion. Emo rap was on the come-up, combining grunge and punk’s warped, guitar-heavy sensibilities over conventional hip-hop beats and lines. A decade later, emo rap (like its parent category, SoundCloud rap) has now reached a fever pitch. It was the fastest-growing Spotify genre in 2018. 

Emo rap’s popularity has partially resulted in a pop-punk renaissance for young millennials and older Gen Zs. Soon after, the mainstream pop-punk era would see Fall Out Boy, Paramore and My Chemical Romance land on Top 40 charts.

Unlike Kevin Hart, Howie Mandel and other thirsty celebrities who’ve pivoted to TikTok for clout, Barker’s presence on the app appears unintentional. He’s not performing TikTok dances or lip-synching to viral memes. Most of the time he’s in the background of a recording studio or set, just drumming. 

How’d he get on TikTok in the first place? Jxdn, whom Barker signed after hearing his pop-punk single “Comatose.” (Low key, the song is kinda good!) Most recently, Barker appeared on Jxdn’s TikTok account last week, singing the No. 1 song in the world, Olivia Rodrigo’s teen anthem “Drivers License.” Jxdn just released a pop-punk cover, too, which Barker produced. 

@jadenhossler

travis was actually the one singing

♬ original sound – jxdn

What’s My Age Again?

Punk’s roots are in teenage angst, so it only makes sense then that an elder statesman would strike up a relationship with today’s brooding kids (some of whom are wistfully recreating 2005 high school yearbook photos as if low-rise jeans aren’t an abomination). They’re looking for guidance and entry into the music scene, and Barker’s got a knack for identifying young talent.

Not that Barker isn’t trying to stay in the spotlight himself. “Blink-182 is at once a nostalgia relic of a different time, but they’re also still trying to release new albums and trying to engage with the [pop-punk revival],” Hughes says. Blink-182, now featuring Alkaline Trio singer-guitarist Matt Skiba, released Nine in 2019 to largely favorable reviews. (Former member Tom DeLonge founded entertainment company To the Stars in 2015 to focus on ufology and fringe science theories.)

Still, Barker has managed to create a lasting name outside of his most well-known band. “Travis Barker, for all his tattoos, ridiculousness, dating celebrities and just king of being this absurd relic of the MTV era, is aging more gracefully than other people,” Hughes says.

It surely helps that Barker is a dad to two teenagers; he knows the kids are all right. (His son Landon Barker is an aspiring rapper.) “I don’t think Travis Barker is a poser at all,” Hughes says. “He’s just kind of being himself earnestly, loving the things that he loves and just blowing up.”

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