His name sounds more like a vigilante from an old western flick than a rapper, but Travis McCoy is as hip-hop as it gets. In fact, the 28-year-old is the older cousin of Young Money’s Tyga and recently signed to T-Pain’s Nappy Boy label as a soloist. Although he’s already made his musical mark as part of alternative rap outfit Gym Class Heroes, Travy plans to show a different side on his upcoming debut, The Lazarus Project. As a warm up, he recently appeared alongside Pain and the rest of his label mates on their mixtape, Nappy Boy All Stars, Vol. 1. XXLMag.com caught up with the sanga-turnt-rappa to see what to expect from his debut offering and what it’s like working with T-Pain as a Nappy Boy.
XXLMag.com: How did you hook up with T-Pain to become a part of his Nappy Boy roster?
Travis McCoy: We did a music tour together that was about four or five months and from the first day me and Pain hit it off. We actually had done a college show before, so I known him. We just hit it off from the jump and after the show was over I was on his bus listening to beats and freestyling and coming up with ideas and one day out of the blue he was like, “Yo, let’s do a record together.” It started off as him wanting to do a remix to my record and I was like, “Why won’t we just do a record together?” Then it became, “Let’s do a record and put it out on Nappy Boy,” and I was like, “Let’s do it” and it just worked out.
XXLMag.com: Gym Class Heroes are signed to Pete Wentz’s Decaydance label. Were you always looking to do a solo deal outside of that deal or did this come about organically?
Travis McCoy: It’s still gonna be Fueled By Ramen/Decaydance and Nappy Boy is going be another label smacked on back of the CD.
XXLMag.com: Okay, so what are fans going to hear on a Travis McCoy solo album that they wouldn’t on a Gym Class Heroes project?
Travis McCoy: It’s a little bit of everything, like Gym Class. It’s more rock type stuff, more straight hip-hop type stuff… I sing a lot more on this record, a lot more melody, a lot more harmony. Being around Pain all the time and cats at Nappy Boy, everybody’s singing. I think it’s something that kind of rubbed off on me and I got a lot more confident with my singing voice and having Pain there like, “Nah, nah, you could hit it better than that. That’s your range so hit it.” He kinda pushes me along and tells me when things are right and when things are wrong, you know it doesn’t hurt.
XXLMag.com: We’re not going to hear you on the Auto-Tune, right?
Travis McCoy: [Laugh] Nah, nah, what you hear on the record is all Travis, no Auto-Tune.
XXLMag.com: As far as production, will your album feature live instrumentation or more studio-driven beats?
Travis McCoy: It’s a lot of raw production, a lot of elements. For instance, a lot of the productions use live drums, they’re guitars; it’s really a lot of organic productions. A lot of producers already knew Gym Class, so they knew my lane, knew what I was into, so at first I had to kinda take a lot of producers [to the side] like, “Listen, you like Gym Class and listen to Gym Class but we going somewhat different,” but that didn’t mean that I didn’t want live instruments on the record.
XXLMag.com: What producers and guests can we expect on the album?
Travis McCoy: T-Pain did a bunch of stuff; Cannon, who’s an up-and-coming producer—he’s amazing—and works under the Timbaland camp; Detail, who’s outrageous—I did a bunch of joints with him. I got Cee-Lo on the record for a song called “Dr. Feel Good,” which might me the unofficial first single to get a buzz going for the record, so that might be one of the first songs your hear.
XXLMag.com: Earlier you said that you were doing a lot more singing on the record. How do you categorize yourself as an artist? Are you more singer than rapper or a little bit of both?
Travis McCoy: I do what the track tells me to do. When I’m listening to a track and I hear it, if I want to rap, I will rap, if I want to sing, I will sing. As far a putting myself in a category, I’m just an artist and I feel like artists should be multitasking and should be able to express themselves in more then one way. I’m not saying that all rappers should be amazing singers but at the same time they shouldn’t be in one form to express themselves.
XXLMag.com: Do you think that a lot of diehard hip-hop fans give you the respect as an MC to do that or has there been some kind of resistance you?
Travis McCoy: Nah, Nah, I think that has a lot of to do with people being familiar with Gym Class and getting to know Gym Class and knowing from the jump that I used to sing. Instead of getting guest appearances, I used to sing on all my hooks. I rap my verses and sing my hooks and as things progress, I sing an entire song, which is an eight bar verse and so on and so forth. I always been my own guest appearance as far as getting people to sing on things. The more I did that the more I got comfortable with my singing voice.
XXLMag.com: Since you’re rolling with Nappy Boy, are you going to come up with an alias or just stick with your government name?
Travis McCoy: Nah, nah, it’s straight Travy McCoy. No one in my family or anyone I know calls me Travis. That’s my government name but since I was a kid, my family always called me Travy, Travy McCoy. When I was younger I had a rap name, it was Slept Rock and I just feel like this record is all me and I don’t feel the need to hide behind any alias. It is what it is—it’s Travis. —Anslem Samuel