Q&A: Gym Class Heroes' Travie McCoy Has No Time For Grudges

"For me to hold a grudge that long, I’d be a bitter son of a b*tch"

Since his playground days with Gym Class Heroes, singer/rapper Travie McCoy has been on a constant journey to find love, acceptance and self-discovery while encountering the occasional obstacles of breakups, rejections, and drug abuse. Now he's back after conquering his demons and criticizers with a brand new single "Rough Waters" (featuring the guitar and vocals of Jason Mraz) to show the world he's a changed man who has given up his grudges for a better and fuller life.

VIBE: How would you describe your music now compared to what is was when you first gained fame with Gym Class Heroes?
Travie McCoy: I think it’s hard to put a finger on my music. My music has always been an amalgamation of everything I listen to, which includes everything and anything under the sun. Hip-hop to country to R&B to pop, all the things I’m inspired by find a way into what I do.

What sort of music are you listening to now that has helped inspired your most recent album?
I don’t think I can pinpoint any particular artist, but I’ve gone back and listened to a lot of the stuff that I listened to in 2001 and 2002. A lot of underground hip-hop will inspire me as far as rhyme patterns - really wordy, intelligent lyrics.

Your recent single “Rough Waters” has really taken off, which was collaboration between you and indie rock artist Jason Mraz. How did you guys hook up in the first place?
I actually wrote that songs a couple of years ago, and it was kind of on the backburner. [The track] was produced by Benny Blanco, who was working with Jason when he pulled it up during a session… and asked if Jason would mind playing some guitar on it. He played some guitars on it… and it actually sounded amazing so he decided to run with it. The response has been amazing; I couldn’t be more stoked.

Listening to the track’s lyrics, it sounds like a song of redemption. What was your purpose in writing this song?
There’s really no method to my madness. That song in particular was written about an ex-girlfriend, an older relationship that I was in. I had this knack for dodging any type of confrontation in my relationships, whether it’d be arguments or whatever, probably because I was afraid to face the truth about myself. In this particular relationship, the one the song was inspired by, I manned up a little bit and listened to what she had to say and ended up learning a lot about myself by doing that. The song in a nutshell is just deal with your problems and get through those rough times.

So you’ve worked with Jason, and in the past you’ve also collaborated with Bruno Mars, Lil Wayne, T-Pain… the list goes on. Is there any other rappers out there left that you would still want to collaborate with?
Of course! I say this every time I’m asked this question: I would love to work with Andre 3000. I think the fact that Outkast will come back together for some shows next year proves that it might be something a little more feasible than a few years ago. He’s kind of like this mythological creature – he pops out once or twice a year with verses that destroy some artists’ entire albums. I’ve been a fan since ’93… he’s definitely someone I’d love to model my career after. Just constantly trying to improve what you do as an artist.

What about EDM producers?
There are a few that are actually good friends of mine. DJ Sliink is amazing, and his production is on the next level. There are a lot of EDM producers that I’d like to work with, not for the sake of having an engineered record, but for the fact that I love their production and music.

Do you produce your own work or would be interested in a production career?
I’ve been producing since the early stages of Gym Class Heroes. A lot of the songs on the first ‘Papercut Chronicles’ were actually beats that I made. I think it’s definitely something I might venture into in the near future, writing and producing for other artists.

Last year, VH1 dropped your ‘Behind The Music’ documentary where you really got to open up about your past. First off, what made you want to take part in the show, and second, what was it like to revisit such a turbulent point in your life?
It was tough, honestly. At some point in my career, my life got put up for public consumption. It’s this weird dichotomy where I have to be mindful of the things I do, but at the same time I don’t ever want to become a slave and not be able to do the things I want to do because of it. As far as opening up about my relationships or drug addiction, these are all things I’ve talked about in my music so, in a sense, it’s already been out there; basically, A and C are already out there and that [show] was me putting B out there as well. I got so many emails and people that have come up to me at shows to tell me that the episode helped them get through a turbulent relationship or addiction. At the end of the day, that was me subconsciously taking the spotlight I had and speaking on something that almost took me out in the hopes it would help other kids. It was worth it to me, whether I lost some fans or gained some fans from it.

How would you lose fans from the show?
You’d be surprise at some of the things people had to say. People, at the end of the day, are going to see things the way they want to see it. I do my best to avoid it, but sometimes it’s like a car crash – you can’t help but to look.

Did you ever watch the show after it aired?
I haven’t watched the final, edited version but they sent an earlier version to me for approval so I got to see it before it aired. For me, the best part was going at home and showing people the absolute nothingness we came from. When I tell people I’m from Geneva, they think I’m Swedish but I’m actually from Geneva, New York. So it was cool to kind of show how tiny our town is, and also to show that you don’t need to be from the city to make a single. Just as long as you strive and keep on your craft, good things come to you. It’s been a long, crazy ride but I wouldn’t change anything.

On the show, you confessed your ex-girlfriend Katy Perry had broken up with you over email. Do you still have hard feelings from that moment?
Not at all! That was almost seven years ago, maybe a little more. For me to hold a grudge that long, I’d be a bitter son of a b*tch. I have a lot more interesting things to do than hold a grudge.

What are your thoughts on where she is now?
I’m super proud of her. I never doubted for a second on what she’s capable of as an artist, and I got to see her blossom. It was a beautiful thing to watch, from her going from this cocoon stage to being this enormous butterfly. At one of [Gym Class Heroes] first gigs in the bigger headlining tours, she had the single out “You’re So Gay” and I’d play it on repeat during the exchange over in between bands. It was funny, because she came out to a show one time and all the kids knew all the words to it but had no idea who it was. That was a beautiful thing to see.

On a lighter note how was your Thanksgiving? What did you do and what were you most thankful for this year?
It was great. In the past couple of years, my family and I have been through some rough patches, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to bury the hatchet. This year I surprised my mom by going down to Baltimore (Maryland) to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. It was great and really cool. I have no time for grudges anymore… I’m starting to get old, I’m starting to get right... and sweeter. It was nice spending time with my nieces and nephews – it was like ‘Rugrats: The Movie.’

What’s at the top of your wish list for this holiday season?
I would have to say… I hope things pan out with a certain someone.

What are you going to be doing for New Year’s?
I’m not sure, but hopefully I’ll be in Vegas getting paid a lot of money.

What’s going to be your New Year’s resolution?
The same one I’ve had for the past ten years: to quit smoking.

How close are you to getting there? Did you get a chance to cut back this year a bit?
I did, actually. I switched brands. I smoked Parliament Lights for a long time, and I would literally smoke two and a half packs a day. So I switched to Newport 100s, and they take forever to smoke so I smoked a lot less than I used to. I’m hoping that this will help me quit.

What do you have planned for the following year? Saw an Instagram photo of you and Pharrell Williams – will guys be doing a collaboration next year?
We are actually. That’s been something on my wish list for years. We worked for a week and got some very fruitful outcomes. I’m really excited to go in and wrap up those records. Apparently Pharrell has been fan of Gym Class Heroes and I wasn’t aware of it until I met him.

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Interview: Suave House Founder Tony Draper Links With Celebs Like 2 Chainz, G Herbo and Nick Cannon To Feed Their Cities

The harrowing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately disrupted Black communities across the United States with cities like Chicago being among the hardest hit. Throughout the year, artists from the city have stepped up and held socially distanced food drives and PPE donations across the city’s South and West sides. With his deep ties to Chicago since the early 90s, Suave House Records founder/entrepreneur Tony Draper, alongside NBA veteran Ricky Davis, made the Chi’ their next stop as part of the nationwide Feed Your City Challenge this past October 17th at the Pullman Park Community Center.

The chilly, yet bright and sunny Saturday saw hundreds of people drive through the parking lot of the complex, receiving groceries from the many volunteers, gathered from across the city. Masked up with PPE in the trenches with the civilians were local natives and celebrity supporters like Chitown’s Grammy winning producer/music executive No ID, rap star G-Herbo, new rapper Queen Key, NBA star Jabari Parker to media/music entertainer Nick Cannon. Draper and Davis were handing off items and loading boxes of farm-fresh produce and meats in the trunk of cars, and offloading the 95,000 pounds of food to feed 7,000 residents. While they were not in attendance, Common with Jhene Aiko and Social Justice Collective donated funds for the free groceries.

“You can’t lead the people until you feed the people. We’re out here in the community in a real way. People always talk about what’s going on in Chicago and these are the things going on in Chicago. Positive things for the community during a time like this. People coming together and it’s a wonderful event,” said Cannon.

For Draper, bringing the Feed Your City Challenge to Chicago and being able to pull it off successfully was crucial because October 17th, marks the 24th anniversary of the death of one of Chi’s most influential DJs, Rapmaster Pinkhouse, who passed away in 1996. “It feels like myself and my partner [Ricky] Davis coming to Chicago and partnering with Common, No ID, Jhene Aiko, Nick Cannon, G-Herbo, Jay Allen, [local FM radio] Power 92 and Pat Edwards was a sign from God that it’s meant to happen on this day. Even though Pinkhouse is gone, he’s still influencing the south side of Chicago and he’s still sending us blessings. We had to pull it off, we had to,” Draper said with conviction. 

Meanwhile, Power 92.3’s DJ Pharris, DJ Nehpets, DJ Commando, DJ Amaris and Hot Rod were on the 1s and 2s while Parker, Hot Rod, G-Herbo, and community activists Joey G and Nico Naismith played basketball with the kids. A nonprofit Hoop Bus was set up with a small hoop with Black Lives Matter symbols and the names of victims who were killed by police officers. 

G-Herbo, who has been volunteering his time to the kids of Chicago throughout 2020 says that events like this are important to build and strengthen Black unity across the city. “It’s beyond just being able to feed and provide, it’s allowing people to feel unity in the city. This is the city coming together and a lot of important and powerful people coming from the city, all walks of life coming together for a positive reason and that’s what it’s all about.” When asked if this event defied the stigma of Chicagoans not being unified, Herbo exclaimed, “Absolutely! We unified right now and it’s only gon’ get better, so we’re just trying to lead by example and make this normal. This is not just an event, this gotta be the normal for guys like myself and for the city.”

And the people who showed up to receive their free groceries were more than appreciative. Takara, a mother from the Southside of Chicago says that while she found out about the food drive at the last minute,“It’s a lot of food out here, a lot of good people out here and it’s something that we need. Events like this are very necessary and it’s filling the need for families who can’t feed their children during these times. I wish I could have volunteered and done something more, but we need this.”

In a one-on-one with VIBE, the legendary Tony Draper talks about his connections to Chicago, the importance and impact of the Feed Your City Challenge, the role celebrities play in activism, and more. 

VIBE: Earlier you shared that Oct. 17th was also the day that Rapmaster Pinkhouse passed away. For the younger readers who might not know who Rapmaster Pinkhouse is, could you share who he was and why he was so important to Chicago?

Draper: For young people that don't understand how music was heard back then, there was no social media [in the early 90s], there was no Instagram, so you had to get your record to the hottest person in the city. That person had to make a decision about whether it was good or not. And if that person touched your record in Chicago, that person would spread, it was automatic. That’s what happened to a young Tony Draper with 8Ball & MJG’s first albums. He put his hands around it and he exposed it to the Chicago market. Every time I think about Chicago, I always think about Pinkhouse. Pinkhouse was the main reason why I even came to Chicago.

Talk about that. What was Chicago like for you when you first came here?

Coming to Chicago was a very interesting moment for me because when I came, I had my hat cocked a certain type of way and I didn’t know the rules and regulations. And he told me, “Tony, man you gotta keep that hat straight (laughs). And I kept it straight ever since. So, for me, doing my journey as a young Black man from the inner city, raised by a single parent, establishing Suave House at 16 years old, seeing what I went through to establish [the company], and make it a force to be reckoned with. That was an accomplishment, but also I wanted to touch people I knew understood the music and understood where I was coming from and the importance of a young Black man that was a true, independent CEO and giving me the avenue to get my music heard. I’m from Memphis, raised in Houston, but Chicago is Suave House’s biggest market to this date. They supported everything Suave House did and I wanted to bless them [with the Feed Your City Challenge], the same way they blessed me.

With the conversation within the music business revolving around Black Lives Matter and supporting Black communities, what do you think it’ll take to get many of these CEO and executives from the major labels to support these communities like what you and many of the artists have been doing across the country?

I think they have to be involved with people they’re not comfortable with. Stop giving money to these organizations you think is giving the money to Black people, because they’re not. Nobody is holding these organizations accountable. Do business with somebody that has their finger on the pulse. A person that you know is in the music business that has been very successful in the business. Like right now, the Feed Your City Challenge, we’re in our ninth city. We’ve had eight of the top music artists host these cities without funding from the parent companies. [The artists] are giving the money themselves. Jhene Aiko gave money herself. Nick Cannon, himself. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz…Pee from Quality Control. 

Pee was on vacation in Mexico and he took a private jet back to Atlanta just to attend Feed Your City in Atlanta. He didn’t have to do that, but he did because he cares about where he’s from. He cares about the area. He wants to take [talent] from the area, but he also wants to give back to that community. See, white people want to come and exploit your community, but don’t want to build a library over there, never build a basketball court, never build anything. When an artist is dead, they say ahhh aahh ummm. If you wanted to demonstrate good character, you would have said, ‘I made a lot of money off that artist. Let me do something for that community as a token of appreciation for birthing that particular artist.’

I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.

And you’ll never see it unless I do it and I am going to do it. That’s why I’m in Chicago. I’m going to every city that has blessed me and fed my family because every time I feed myself, I feed my family, my loved ones, it comes from my fans. My fans gave me the opportunity by buying my records. I had a dream, I had a drive, but without the opportunity, you might not have heard of Tony Draper. So, I’m always appreciative of people that have helped me, that’s why I want to help them. I’m in the best place I could ever be in my life. I’m 49 years old, I’m successful, I’m good. Bro, you want to know what makes me happy? Giving to somebody else. There’s another star out there that’s hoping and praying that they could get an opportunity and if I could give them that opportunity, I’ll give it to them. I don’t relish in the attention; I relish in the accomplishment. Let me help somebody. And if I help them and they become successful, they don’t owe me a quarter. I won’t sign them to a management deal or nothing. I just want you to acknowledge it and pass it on. See, we got to learn how to pass it on.

With the timing of this event brought on by the pandemic, how do you feel about it all?

I think it was God’s mission. With COVID that’s really unfortunate, a lot of people lost their lives during this pandemic. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their properties. My heart goes out to them. But if me and Ricky Davis can put a smile on a mother’s face, a father’s face and feed their children, that’s all I need. I remember me and my mother going to churches and food banks, walking with free government cheese, powdered eggs and we was happy. We were so happy, smiling and grateful. I think without that, I don’t think we would have made it to the following week. So, I’m always thankful for everything God blessed me with. I don’t think I’m special. I think that I had a plan and I stuck to my plan and made it happen.

Suave House has had a lot of artists who have always been outspoken about social and political issues, [similar to like an] Ice Cube recently. Considering that, and what you’re doing with these artists for the Feed Your City Challenge, do you think that the role of the celebrity today is to get in front of these issues or to fall back and support the people who're already doing the work?

I think it’s a choice. For me, I’m not a city official, I’m not a politician. I’m more comfortable with doing and getting my hands dirty on the ground. If I was in Chicago building houses for people, I would actually be there. I wouldn’t [just] send no money or send a crew there. I would be there. That’s how I feel blessed. I feel blessed by actually talking to the people and them seeing me out there distributing groceries. I feel good when a person drives up in their car and they pop their trunk and say ‘Draper?! You putting groceries in my car?!’ And they may be happy about ‘Space Age Pimpin’’ or ‘I’m So Tired of Ballin’’ or whatever, but just the mere fact that they were happy about me putting groceries in their car meant more to me than anything else. I think it’s a choice you make as an individual.

For a lot of people, some celebrities end up causing harm because their celebrity and actions might overshadow the actual issue.

You know what though? Without you being a celebrity, you might not be heard. So why not use that platform to be heard? I think LeBron James is phenomenal. I think Ice Cube is phenomenal. You don’t have to agree with him, but you have to respect him for speaking his mind and trying to get something for Black people. Nobody else did it! Nobody else took the initiative to write a Black America contract and present it to both [Biden and Trump] camps. So, I think that was a phenomenal move, whether I agree with it or not, it was still a phenomenal move. We got to stop with all this goddamn talking and do some action.

Draper and Davis’s Feed Your City Challenge will be arriving in Compton, California as their next stop on November 21.

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T.I.

Interview: T.I. Talks Activism, Verzuz Battle, And His Desire To Produce A Biopic On His Life Before Fame

Although Tip "T.I." Harris has earned some very respectable stripes as an emcee for his successful rap career, the self-proclaimed “King of the South” moniker really began to take true form once he stepped into his community activism calling. He’s acted in blockbuster films opposite Denzel Washington, Paul Rudd and Kevin Hart, but his willingness to speak truth to power has shown an unwavering commitment to being on the good side of history, as opposed to choosing silence to secure a spot on the good side of Hollywood.

During this recent conversation, Tip talks about his upcoming Verzuz battle with Jeezy, politics, the Trap Music Museum, and his desire to make his TV/film directorial debut.

Be sure to check out his newest album, L.I.B.R.A available on all streaming platforms.

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Ziggy Marley's First Time Voting In America

No more long talking from politicians. Today, the people have their say at the ballot box. Judging by the number of voters who showed up early this year, the 2020 election is going to smash all records for voter participation. With a deadly pandemic, wildfires, floods, economic pressure, and a struggle for survival playing out from the tweets to the streets, the stakes have never been higher.

If you're reading this right now and you haven't voted yet, it's not too late. Get up get out and let your voice be heard. As Samantha Smith recently discussed on her IG Live, this year's election is too important to sit out.

Snoop Dogg will be voting for the first time this year—and he's not the only one. Ziggy Marley voted for the first time this year also and documented the process on social media. "I decided to vote and I wondered to myself why," Ziggy wrote on his IG. "Then I thought about those who came before, the price they paid. In part, I am voting in honor of them and to honor them, to not belittle their many sacrifices and struggles with my high jaded righteousness and indifference. Many brothers and sisters from numerous backgrounds and origins marched, bled, and died to give people like me basic rights in 🇺🇸 , the right to be treated like a human being, the right to vote."

As the eldest son of the Robert Nesta Marley aka the King of Reggae, Ziggy is part of a mighty musical legacy, but his father is more than a musical legend.  The new film Freedom Fighter—part of the 75th anniversary series "Bob Marley Legacy"—examines Marley as a symbol of human rights with a voice more powerful than any politician.

Ziggy has continued his father's musical mission as a solo artist and part of the Grammy-winning family group Melody Makers. His 2018 album, Rebellion Rises opens with a song entitled "See Them Fake Leaders," leaving no doubt about his views on the institutions of government. Still, Ziggy remains engaged in the political process, doing his part and encouraging others to do the same.

"Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and others thought, 'Voting rights? Civil rights? Who cares? What difference will it make?'" Ziggy wrote on IG. "Just imagine what the world would have looked like now if not for their sacrifices. Go ahead, imagine it. Can you see it? Well, what do you think?"

"To be clear voting is not the end-all," Ziggy Marley added. "It is a small piece of a puzzle and just one of the tools in our toolbox that we must use as part of a larger effort to bring positive beneficial changes for all people. The work must continue at maximum effort after elections regardless of the outcome." Ziggy emphasized that he was not voting for a party or a person for an idea. "Even though we have differences we can be better human beings, more united human beings, more loving human beings, equal human beings, just human beings. The politics will come and go left right and center but still through it all the humanity that we must show to each other is not negotiable."

Ziggy voted by mail this year, but for those of you standing in line today to exercise your right and let your voices be heard, Ziggy curated a special playlist for Tidal's "Hold The Line" campaign. Music to vote by—from Ziggy and Bob to Fela and James Brown, not to mention Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine.

Ziggy Marley’s new album, More Family Time, is out now on all music streaming platforms.

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