Travis Bennett Is Shaking the Taco Away

A decade after his rise in Odd Future, Travis “Taco” Bennett is shifting his focus to TV and film. He talks about his career goals, OF's legacy, and more.

Travis "Taco" Bennett

Image via Travis Bennett

Travis "Taco" Bennett

This is a story about a man named Travis Bennett, but you probably know him as Taco.

He first rose to fame a decade ago during the explosion of Odd Future, and immediately became a fan-favorite, cracking jokes in interviews and hyping up crowds at concerts. But now, Bennett downplays those accomplishments.

“I really didn’t do anything,” he says. “I didn’t rap. I didn’t produce.”

He’s being hard on himself, of course. Bennett played a pivotal role in Odd Future, DJing many of their shows and acting as the charismatic, likeable glue that helped the collective attract a cult fanbase. 

A decade after Odd Future first emerged, though, Bennett is on a mission to prove his talents in TV and film. As he explains it, part of that process is to shake free from the “Taco” identity that many still associate him with from the Odd Future days.

“I’m just trying to shake the Taco away,” he says. “I’m trying to make that disappear slowly. First, it’ll start with Instagram one day. I’ll figure out how to get a better name.”

Bennett is already finding success in his pursuits away from music. He stars in Dave, a critically acclaimed TV show created by Lil Dicky that is currently in its second season on FX. And he’s about to co-star in Hanging With Kuz, a series that follows LA Lakers star Kyle Kuzma as he gives fans a look at his life away from the court. Bennett, who has been friends with Kuzma for years, describes the premise as: “Me just making fun of Kuz for like 12 minutes.” The series, which is a part of LG’s “Only on OLED” campaign, debuts July 15 on Kuzma and Bennett’s Instagram pages.

That’s not all, though. Bennett reveals he’s been writing TV shows and working to get them sold. Oh, and he’ll get out and DJ again when the opportunity presents itself now that COVID restrictions are lifting. 

As he speaks about his future plans with wide-eyed excitement, it’s clear Bennett is motivated by a strong sense of self-belief—a trait that was instilled in him by Tyler, the Creator, who he says still motivates him to pursue his wildest dreams. The Odd Future days might be a thing of the past, but the collective’s anything-is-possible ethos still sits at the core of each member. Taking a step back to consider the influence of OF on a whole generation of kids, Bennett beams with pride and talks up the accomplishments of everyone in the crew.

Fresh from jet skiing on a lake in celebration of Tyler’s new album debuting at No. 1, Travis Bennett hopped on a Zoom call with Complex to discuss Hanging With Kuz, the legacy of Odd Future, and everything else going on in his world. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.

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How did you first meet Kyle Kuzma and become friends?
I met him his rookie year through another friend of mine who played for the team. And just being around in LA, I’d run into him in places, so we started kicking it. We’d go eat and shit.

Why do you think you two get along so well?
Because we’re both goofy idiots. We both laugh at stupid stuff. And basketball shit. And just being young, successful Black men.

You’ve got this new series with him, Hanging With Kuz, debuting this week. How did that come together?
He hit me one day, and said, “Yo, I have this idea.” And then we started speaking about it [with other people on the team]. It came together with good creative and a good team. We got really lucky as far as who was a part of it. It was just easy-peasy type shit—just an obvious thing to do.

How would you describe the series for people who haven’t seen it?
Me just making fun of Kuz for like 12 minutes. [Laughs]. Me asking Kuz questions for five minutes, shit like that.

What is your role in the series? Are you sort of like a host?
Not a host. More like a gnat. I’m just annoying. I want to know everything about what’s going on in the crib and all that shit, so I’m just asking him questions about his clothes—because he wears a lot of weird clothes. I’m a subtle dresser, so it was interesting to see somebody’s closet that had so much range in it.

Is it similar to your guys’ actual friendship? You clowning him all the time?
Oh, 100 percent. Oh, my God. It’s actually way more toned down. In real life I say more. You know, I can’t curse on the show really. It’s a lot more vulgar in real life.

“I’m just trying to take things on as Travis Bennett instead of Taco. I’m just trying to grow in this world.”

Obviously this isn’t your first time on the screen. Dave is in its second season right now and people are loving it. What’s your favorite thing about making that show?
During quarantine, it wasn’t the most exciting thing to make just because of all the testing. Every day, there was testing. It was brutal. But my favorite thing about doing the show, really, is the results I get from it when I talk to people about it. Because when I was touring and stuff [as a DJ], it was so instant. You see those people for that fucking hour you’re onstage, and then you never see them again. The difference here is I don’t get to see them enjoy the show, but when somebody talks to me about [Dave], they’re so excited and spitting shit at me: “Oh, and this and that and this and that.” I never get those moments [as a DJ], because usually you’re so separated from a crowd.

Having spent a lot of time with your co-star Lil Dicky, is there anything that would surprise people about him?
Nah. That n***a is how he is, bro. [Laughs]. It’s pretty spot on, to keep it a buck. So, no, he’s honestly as transparent as he can be without giving up where he lives. He is himself as hell on the show.

What’s it like working with him?
Funny. A lot of basketball arguments. He’s a Sixers fan, so, you know…

There have been a lot of guest stars and cameos on the show so far. One of my favorites was Young Thug. Were you on set that day?
Yeah, I was on set that day. We shot that one at some random gallery. On set, I just be on my own, though. I just sit around on my own and be on the phone half the time. I’m not really one to go kick it with the others. The only person that I was really kicking it with on the show was Tierra Whack when she came, just because I had known her prior a lot better than I knew some of the other guys.

Do you have a favorite memory from filming Dave so far?
The basketball scene. That was fun to do just because we’re both competitive, and we were actually just playing basketball. 

Concerts are coming back. Do you have plans to DJ soon?
I honestly don’t have any plans. I’m currently in Utah shooting a movie for the next month. When the opportunity comes, then yeah. But as of now, I’m just here working.

So you’re in acting mode right now.
One hundred percent.

What are some of your goals in the film and TV realm?
Writing more. Writing and selling shows. That’s the new goal. It’s so different from the music world. It’s a whole different game. So I’m just trying to learn more when it comes to that. But, yeah, acting definitely is the lane that I’m in, and trying to succeed in.

Tyler’s album just went No. 1. How did you guys celebrate?
We were at a house on the lake, just jet skiing. Just chilling. I feel like most people in that situation are like, “Let’s go to the club. Let’s throw a party.” But for us, it was really just on some: let’s just kick it, bullshit, make jokes, eat food.

You’ve been with Tyler since the very beginning. What’s it been like watching him grow from those early years to the success of these last few albums?
It’s been fun as hell, and as entertaining as you can imagine. It’s been really fulfilling. You know, there are a lot of those Cinderella stories where somebody goes, “Oh, I have nothing. I need to get something.” Or, “I want to get to this goal.” Tyler is one of the only people I know who is really on some shit like, “I set a goal, and I go and do it, and there’s nothing in my way.” He sticks to his gut, and he pushes me to stick to my gut. Like, “Do what you know, not what you think. Just go. If it feels right, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t.” It’s pretty simple. He just instilled that in all of us.

“We [celebrated Tyler’s album] at a house on the lake, just jet skiing. Just chilling. I feel like most people in that situation are like, ‘Let’s go to the club. Let’s throw a party.’ But for us, it was really just on some: let’s just kick it, bullshit, make jokes, eat food.”

Yeah. I mean, he was tweeting about wanting a Gangsta Grillz mixtape 10 years ago, and he just made it happen.
It’s crazy seeing all these things coming to fruition. Especially being there for half of those things. He’s always been, like, “This is what I’m trying to do.” I’ve never ever asked him, “Are you sure?” I just kind of let him do his thing and follow suit. Like, “Just let me know what you want to do, big dog.”

What do people get wrong about Tyler?
People always used to think he’s a mean dude. For a long time, people were like, “He does drugs, and he’s mean.” But that’s one of the nicest people on Earth. If you just look at the surface, you might think, “Yeah, that dude’s crazy. He’s loud. He probably does drugs and crazy shit.” But nah, he’s a lot more simple than people think. And I don’t mean, like, he’s a simple-minded person. Just, like, he don’t be trying to do all the extra shit.

It’s been 10 years since Odd Future first popped off, and it’s been fun to watch so many of the original members find success in so many different lanes—from Tyler to Syd to Earl to Frank to you. Jasper is even on Jackass this month. Has any of that surprised you?
This is how you want it to happen. As a kid, it’s just what you would imagine. This is the end goal. This is the perfect story. So am I surprised? Yes. But at the same time, I’m not at all, because I’ve seen the time that’s been put into this shit. It’s just fucking crazy, man. I feel like we’re like the Black version of Mickey Mouse Club. It was a group of kids that were together, and then when they separated themselves—and it’s not like we separated ourselves and don’t talk to each other, not some shit like that—it’s just we work on our own things. And to see everybody thrive in what they’re doing is the most amazing thing. It’s the most satisfying thing.

A decade later, we’re seeing how much influence you guys have had on a whole generation of kids. Have you seen the impact and influence firsthand?
It’s always random. It’s always somebody who I wouldn’t expect. It’s always some random-ass rapper who’s like a hood n***a who comes up, like, “Bro, OF. Y’all n***as changed my life.” And you’re like, “Really, bro? You kill people in your songs.” [Laughs]. Stuff like that. And just seeing kids try things, I think. That’s the most important thing that I could say that I’ve witnessed: people just trying to do the things that they want to do, rather than the things that they’re told to do. I’ve had friends who quit their jobs to go chase dreams, and those dreams come true. I won’t say it’s because of us, but I think that’s the energy that we put forward: Just do it, go and do it. Don’t say it; just do it. Stick to your gut, and don’t sell yourself short.

I remember you started a record label a couple of years ago. Is that still something you’re trying to do?
Hell, no. That shit is too crazy. I don’t know how people do it. My problem with that was, like, I didn’t like having somebody else’s career in my hands. It just gets weird. And I’d feel bad if I was the reason that something didn’t go right. I had to let that dream fly. But honestly, that was one of those things that wasn’t my exact dream. It was an opportunity that came about, and I was pushed to do it, and I did it. Looking back at it, I learned lessons. I can’t complain about that. But yeah, I would never do that again.

It sounds like most of your creative energy is going into writing and shooting stuff for TV and movies.
Yeah. The film world is where I’m at right now, mentally. And I’m really enjoying that. I’m just trying to grow in this world. It’s a whole different game. In music, you put out a song, and then people go and look at it. No offense to anybody who creates music, but that can take like, 12 minutes or 12 hours. But filming something takes so much more fucking time.

Yeah, and it’s not just filming. First, you come up with the idea. Then you write it. Then you have to figure out the logistics. Then—
You can come up with an idea, and you think it’s the most genius idea. Then you start writing about it, and you’re like, “Well, I have an episode-and-a-half, and then it ends.” [Laughs]. Fuck.

What else is happening in your world that people should know about?
I’m shooting two movies this summer. I also did some quick shit the other day in Boston and filmed something. I’m really excited about all that. I’m just trying to shake the Taco away. I’m trying to make that disappear slowly. First, it’ll start with Instagram one day. I’ll figure out how to get a better name. But for now, I’ll still be @yungtaco. [Laughs].

I had a meeting a few years ago, and somebody said, “What do you want to do?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I’m just tired of being this guy.” And they were like, “You’re thinking about the million people who know who you are. But think about the rest of the world that doesn’t, and focus on those people.” So for the past few years, I’ve been trying to focus on growing myself outside of the OF umbrella and everything that was surrounded by that. It’s obviously not the easiest thing to do, just because of the success around it. But trying to become successful in another realm of this entertainment industry, it’s like… I’m going straight Ludacris, bro. [Laughs].

I just want to be better than what’s expected of me. I was in a group. I really didn’t do anything—I didn’t rap, I didn’t produce. So I want to show that I can do shit. There are a few tweets that I have saved just because n****s was talking shit. I’m warning you, I’m going to get a little petty in a few years. Don’t worry. It’s coming.

You said you want to “shake the Taco away.” So, in five or 10 years, what do you want the perception of you to be?
I’m just trying to take things on as Travis Bennett instead of Taco. I’m just trying to grow in this world. I planted the seeds recently, and now it’s about watering those things, maximizing the opportunities that are sent my way, and trying not to be just some other fucking dude who was in a group. There are those people who you see years later, and I always hear, like, “What happened to him?” And it’s, like, “You don’t know what the fuck happened. He could have a great fucking life.” But yeah, I’m just trying to show, like, “Oh, yeah, that n***a did do some shit. He grew. He figured it out.”

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