For Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy, whose biggest song to date is the 2006 #1 smash "Cupid's Chokehold," talking about the highs and lows of love has never been a difficult task. So to deal with his onetime relationship with Katy Perry—which ended in 2009, at which point she began dating Russell Brand, who she's now engaged to—he couldn't help but poke fun at his situation with the upcoming Forgetting Sarah Marshall-inspired mixtape, Forgetting Katy Perry.
The New York native's first solo release, Lazarus, which will be released on Fueled By Ramen/Decaydance, as well as T-Pain's Nappy Boy records, stays in line with the mixtape's humorous, self-deprecating tone. It also boasts collaborations with T-Pain and Cee-Lo, as well as the Bruno Mars-assisted lead single, "Billionaire," which currently sits at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100. Complex sat down with McCoy to chop it up about what he's learned about from working with T-Pain, what he told Lil Wayne before the rapper started his prison bid, and (of course) his relationship with a certain busty pop vixen.
Interview By Toshitaka Kondo
Complex: How involved was T-Pain in the recording process of Lazarus?
Travie McCoy: He was working on his record downstairs in the Hit Factory while I was working upstairs. He was like my big brother. I'd record joints, go downstairs, and get the okay. If he was bobbing his head and laughing, then I knew we had one. If not, go back upstairs and get to working. He was basically there for the whole process, but he was caught up in doing his record. He was more on some Mr. Miyagi shit.
Complex: He didn't produce anything on the album?
Travie McCoy: No, there's three or four tracks on the mixtape that he did. I'm giving everything to Clinton [Sparks] tomorrow. So it'll drop in a few weeks. It'll be out before the album for sure.
Complex: You got the same release date as Plies. Do you share his affinity for gaudy chains?
Travie McCoy: I got a big Nappy Boy chain. I whipped it out for the ["Billionaire"] video. I'm not a big bulky jewelry dude. Lately I've been on my antique jewelry shit. I got turquoise jewelry and some vintage shit. I'm on tour all the time, so I stop at thrift shops. The minute we hit a town, I'll have my assistant Googling thrift stores. I have him go check beforehand then we go there. I like little, subtle shit.
Complex: Does T-Pain still wear that "Big Ass Chain"?
Travie McCoy: Nah. It wasn't really a big-ass chain, it was a big-ass charm. The chain wasn't that big, it was the fucking piece that was big. My boy did that. He did a couple G-Shocks for me. He's a sweetheart, man. Customer service at its finest. He'll fly out to clean your shit on his penny.
Complex: What'd you learn from having T-Pain involved in the process of this album?
Travie McCoy: I don't use this term loosely, but he's a genius. Watching him in the studio, he takes the craft of songwriting so seriously. Being around and absorbing all that, I took that upstairs with me. It was really helpful to have him downstairs while I was working. Anyone who takes the craft of songwriting seriously I radiate towards. Spending time with Daryl Hall was a dream come true. I picked his brain a lot because Hall And Oats is timeless. Pain is definitely a genius in his own right. Thr33 Ringz is definitely one of my top 10 albums. It's one of those albums you listen to front-to-back.
Complex: Moving on, how have things been going with your cousin Tyga?
Travie McCoy: He's working on the Chris Brown mixtape. I put out his first record on my imprint, Bat Squad, off of Decaydance. I put him in front of Wayne at the VMAs and they hit it off, and now he's Young Money and I couldn't be more proud of him.
Complex: How did you meet Wayne?
Travie McCoy: I met Wayne before the whole VMAs thing. It was kind of on some mutual respect for each other-type deal. We did the "Viva la White Girl (remix)" and he killed it. I was like, "Wow."
Complex: Was that the first time you ever met him?
Travie McCoy: Yeah. I had bumped into him at events and whatnot, but that was the first time we really chopped it up. That's another dude whose work ethic is amazing and inspiring.
Complex: Did you speak to him before he went to prison, or have you spoken to him since?
Travie McCoy: Actually, I did speak to him beforehand. He was at Hit Factory grinding, like when he was making ten videos [during Super Bowl weekend]. I basically told him to keep his head up. I haven't had a chance to write him, but I just got his address.
Complex: Did you hear he just got in trouble because he had iPod headphones, which are considered contraband in there?
Travie McCoy: Really? Wow, I didn't know that. That's crazy. That reminds me when I was younger, I had been writing graffiti since I was 11, and when I was grounded not only would my dad take away the TV and the Nintendo, but he would take away all my pens and shit. I couldn't even draw. So I couldn't imagine not having music. Well, 1) being in Rikers and not having your livelihood and 2) not having your music. But I can imagine what's going to happen when he gets out and what he's going to have for us.
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