Travie McCoy recently came to the UK on a whirlwind tour including a stop at the prestigious MOBO awards to perform with boy band of the moment, JLS. I was lucky enough to pin him down for questioning shortly before he hit the stage in Manchester.
So, how were the MOBOs?
It was great, we had a great time. I was super impressed.
Did you spend most of your time working on the performance or did you get a chance to hang out?
No, we got a chance to hang around for a bit. I mean we did the performance but that was it. The rest of the time we got to hang out. I got to see some friends I hadn’t seen in a while, Professor Green, I’m stoked for him, he won Best Hip Hop award. Which was cool and I got to meet a lot of artists that I’d love to work with.
What do you think of the British artists you’ve met while you’re out here?
I love them. Tinie Tempah is amazing. I met Tinchy Stryder a while back at a dinner for Staying Alive, which is a HIV and AIDS awareness campaign that I work with. It was cool to see all those dudes again and it was cool to meet other artists. Whenever I come out here I always like to see what’s poppin’ as far as the music scene and I go back to the States and play it for my friends. Last time I was out here Atlantic gave me the new Plan B record before it came out and I went back to the States like “Yo, you guys need to hear this shit!” and I played it and all my friends were like “Aaargh, I need this in my life!” and I’m like “Sorry, you can’t have it!” It doesn’t come out in the States for another year or something but I think it’s going to do really well.
He won a MOBO didn’t he as well?
Yeah, I think so. I think so. Best R’n’B.
Were you pleased to be singing with JLS?
Yeah man, those guys are so talented. The day before the MOBOs we rehearsed. I walked in and I was just like “what?” They were doing the kind of acapella thing they did before the performance and I was just blown away. Those guys are definitely, definitely, definitely talented.
Had you heard of them before this collaboration?
When I got asked initially if I wanted to do the MOBOs they were like “Yeah, you’ll be working with this group, JLS.” I did my homework, you know looked them up or whatever and found out about the whole X Factor thing. It was cool, I listened to some of their songs. I don’t like to go into things blindly, so I did my homework.
So, what’s it like releasing a solo album as opposed to a group effort? Is it a different experience?
I don’t really look at it as a solo record. Since the beginning of Gym Class Heroes we’ve all had side projects. I have six or seven other albums outside of Gym Class Heroes, it’s just that you’ve probably not heard of the other ones. It’s that this one has been put out on a bigger scale. I think that, the fact that, it’s being pushed on such a big level think that I’m kind of going solo or I’ve abandoned Gym Class. We’ve been working on the new Gym Class album this entire time.
So you’ve stayed in touch the whole time?
Yeah, Matt from Gym Class actually plays drums for me. You know, we’ve been working on the new Gym Class Heroes record the whole time. We’re sixteen demos deep into the new Gym Class record now so I’ve been pulling double duty, promoting this album and touring this album but also working and writing on the new record.
Do you write all the lyrics?
So you’re pure lyrics? Do you write lyrics and try and fit music around it or what?
It varies, it varies. It can go either way. It depends on how I feel about it. If I already have the music, I whip out a stack of notebooks sometimes and just go through stuff. I’ll just start rapping and if something feels right , I’ll go with it. Sometimes though I’ll just write, I’ll play the music and just write the song, like write the entire song. Sometimes, I’ll just write a song and we’ll work around that. It changes all the time.
So you’re writing all the time then?
I’m the type of dude that has to be productive in some way or another, or I get depressed. Whether it’s photography or painting or whatever.
Yeah, I’ve seen some of your artwork. Is it mostly brushwork or paint spray or…?
I use spray paint, acrylic, paint markers, all kinds of stuff. I’m working on a show right now actually where I’m painting on naked girls using poster markers. Doing like graffiti pieces on girls and then taking photos. I mean it’s fun for me but also the girls. The cool thing about it is that all girls are shaped differently so I make sure the pieces go with the contours of their body.
It’s sort of like tattooing?
Almost, almost. I mean I’m also a tattooist and have been for like eleven years.
The last tattoos you got were Hall and Oates on your hands weren’t they?
They look sick. Have you got anymore lined up?
Oh yeah, I’ve got tons of ideas but you know. I get the itch every now and then and sometimes I’ve gotta scratch it and sometimes I’ve just got to wait it out and see. It depends on where I’m getting it, with performing I have to make sure it’s not somewhere I’m going to be bumping it and give it time t heal and all that. All that shit comes into account you know.
You’re massively into trainers and stuff, are you planning to release any of your own or you planning on just keeping collecting?
I’ve talked to a couple of different companies about releasing my own sneaker. I sketch sneakers all the time. I sketch sneakers I’d want to wear and I’ve pitched them to a few different companies. I’ve just got to make sure I find the right company to work with. I’m a Nike fan till the day I die, they’re my favourite sneakers, but if a company comes around that digs what I want to do and they can make it happen and it doesn’t happen to be Nike I’ll still be stoked.
I saw on your blog you had a pair that go with a pink and blue AK-47?
Yeah I found all these crazy pictures. An artist took all these guns and refurbished them and made them like art and I have a pair of sneakers that go with the AK-47s. I was like if I ever have that AK-47 I’d wear those sneakers with it! I’d just wear it as an accessory, you know, on like a strap or something. *laughs*
Your style is so unique, I don’t think it’s like anything that’s happening at the moment. It’s very you.
I get that all the time, people ask who’s my stylist or whatever. Why the fuck would I pay somebody to dress me? That whole concept has always seemed so bogus to me. I’d never pay someone to pick out my clothes.
You looked nice on the red carpet at the MOBOs.
Thank you, I picked out that outfit myself! I pick out all my outfits.
Do you like those sort of red carpet things?
Oh no, I’m basically a vessel and they just pull me to whoever they think is the most important. I usually answer the same question over and over like a million times. It is what it is, it’s all part of the game and you’ve got to play the game if you want to win the prize. For me the prize is getting to do what I love for the rest of my life and not have to worry about my future kids tuition or whatever.
Well, thanks so much for your time.
No problem, thank you.
Travie McCoy’s album, Lazarus is out now.