Have no fear, fans of Gym Class Heroes. Travie McCoy hasn't deserted the band that made him famous.
Though "Billionaire," the first single from McCoy's solo album, "Lazarus," has proven to be a big hit, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and landing on Top 10s all over the world, the 29-year-old is still devoted to the hip-hop tinged band he co-founded in 2001.
"We're about 15 demos deep into the new Gym Class (album)," McCoy told the Mirror in a recent phone interview from a Houston tour stop. "Even though I'm doing double duty, I'm really stoked. A lot of people thought I was gonna kind of put this record out and we weren't going to hear any new music from Gym Class Heroes for like 10 years."
Travie McCoy will perform at the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, he said.
"Since kind of the beginning of Gym Class, we've all had side projects and other outlets musically," McCoy said. "I'm the type of dude who constantly has to be doing something. I have to have five different pots on the stove at once. The minute I'm not doing something productive I start getting depressed."
Depression is something the lanky, tattooed rapper and singer knows very well. McCoy's humorous, self-deprecating lyrics often address his struggles with love and life. And he revealed a long battle with addiction (to both opiates and pharmaceutical drugs) in a 2006 post on his blog (traviesblog.com).
If you go
Who: Travie McCoy and B.o.B.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
More recently, he dealt with the very public breakup of his relationship with pop singer Katie Perry.
In press materials for "Lazarus," McCoy says that he threw away much of what he had written for the disc about halfway through the recording process.
"A lot of the songs were pretty dark and gloomy," he says today.
The direction of the album changed during a trip - to South Africa, India and the Philippines - with the HIV and AIDS awareness group Staying Alive.
"I think really a pivotal moment in making this record was when I was taking a trip with the Staying Alive Campaign," McCoy said. "After coming back from that it was like seeing things with a new set of eyes. I feel like, for a long time with touring or whatnot, I was just getting by, instead of living life."
He's certainly living it up on "Lazarus" - the tour for which stops at the Bryce Jordan Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The show also features fellow hip-hopper B.o.B.
Like his work with Gym Class Heroes, it's tough to nail McCoy's sound down into one style. Some songs on "Lazarus" make you want to get up and dance, while others have a more laid-back, lazy day feel.
It all comes from the same source, McCoy said: a sheltered childhood in Geneva, N.Y., where GCH formed.
"It's something that comes from being so isolated for so long," he said. "Growing up in upstate New York, there isn't like the thriving music scene. We were drawing influences from just whatever we were listening to, from underground rap ... to Smashing Pumpkins.
"We never really set out to say we were going to be this kind of band. I like to call it Choose Your Own Adventure music, like those old books. ... If they wanna call it alternative hip-hop or whatever, that's fine."
Whatever "they" call it, it's clearly McCoy behind the music. Laid-back and introspective, he's hesitant to let his guard down; but once he does, it's clear that the failed relationship with Perry is one he's tired of addressing. The on-again, off-again relationship ended for good in 2009; Perry is now engaged to actor and comedian Russell Brand.
Though the singer apparently knocks him on her new album, "Teenage Dream," McCoy said he bears her no ill will.
"Recently, Katie threw some shots at me in a song and I kind of laughed and said, 'Yeah, but that's stuff that's been out there for years,'" he said, referring to his drug use.
Early rumors say that his next single, "Need You" - a song about being hesitant to enter a another relationship after a painful breakup - is a shot at Perry, McCoy said that isn't the case.
"A lot of people thought that was about my past relationships, but it's been (a while) now," he said. "I've never had a credible rap beef, so why ... would I start with going after a pop star?"
Instead the song is simply another case of him baring his soul to his audience.
"I think I've always been the type of dude to wear my heart on my sleeve, ya know?" McCoy said. "'Need You' is just me being brutally honest, that I've kind of (messed up) my last relationship.
"That song is one of my favorites. There's a lot of emotions behind that song anyways, but (producer Lucas Secon) helped me reach down there and grab those feelings and let loose."
The Bryce Jordan Center has given fans a chance to cut loose, as well. According to the venue's marketing director, Bernie Punt, the concert's seating will make the show a special one.
"Our setup is not the standard arena setup," Punt said. "We've configured it in a theater setup, (but) there won't be any seats on the floor, and it's almost like a club."
Punt thinks the BJC has managed a coup with the teaming of McCoy and B.o.B. - one recently returned Penn State University Park students should appreciate.
"Both are upcoming artists and I think this is the only date they're doing together," he said. "We knew that when the Penn State students returned this week, our sales would explode. And they did."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.