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.