Whatever Happened To Travie McCoy?

In 2010, Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy was riding high off the waves of his first solo endeavor, "Billionaire" — the infectiously catchy collaboration with Bruno Mars that was most likely stuck in your head that entire summer. But in the years since this mega-hit, the rapper seems to have largely disappeared from the spotlight. So, whatever happened to Travie McCoy?

McCoy's follow-up singles were no billionaires

After the massive success of "Billionaire," which rose to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was even covered on the popular Fox show Glee, it seemed like McCoy was well on his way to reigning the radio airwaves for years to come. But the rapper's follow-up singles could not match the success of his 2010 debut as a solo artist. 

"Need You" was released in October of that year. While it peaked at #36 on Billboard Pop Songs, it failed to land at all on the coveted Hot 100. His third single, "We'll Be Alright," fared even worse. Released in January 2011, it did not chart at all in the US. 

His debut album fell below expectations

Despite the early success of its lead single, McCoy's debut album Lazarus did not make its mark in sales. Peaking at #25 on the Billboard 200, the June 2010 record only sold 15,000 copies in its first week.

Both fans and critics had trouble separating the rapper from his band during his transition from Gym Class Heroes frontman to solo artist. "I'm trying to kill a lot of the negative connotations out there about me doing this solo project," McCoy told Billboard in April 2010. "A lot of people thought this was the end of the Gym Class Heroes...and I was trying to take the momentum we've built...and use it for my own selfish desires. That's not the case at all."

It was "the longest, I think, I've spent on a record in my whole career," McCoy added, as he aimed to make it "a household object — and hopefully not a coaster." But the summer album would mark a drastic departure from his more serious Gym Class Heroes output. "You want music to have a good time to, music to connect to," he told MTV that March. "You wanna play it at the party." 

Despite his efforts, Lazarus received mixed reviews. While Rolling Stone praised McCoy for inventing "his own market by mixing emo, hip-hop and tween pop," the magazine only gave the album 2.5 stars, stating "his polished croon-rapping is more unctuous than charming." Ouch.

Travie got busted in Berlin

McCoy ran into some trouble with the law while promoting Lazarus on tour in Germany. According to Billboard, the rapper, then 29, was arrested with an unnamed accomplice in late October 2010 after spray-painting graffiti on the last remnants of the Berlin Wall. How was the "Billionaire" songwriter caught? Well, he bragged about it on Twitter. "The Berlin wall," he wrote in the caption of a photo of the wall, which was later deleted. "I'm def gettin up on this before we leave tonight!!!"

After his gig at the city's Magnet Club, McCoy did just that, and shared photos of his handy work — his name in blue bubble letters — on social media. "Told you!!!" he tweeted in the now-deleted photo's caption. "Had to do it, blame it on the devil, everyone else does!" The Berlin police quickly caught up with the rapper, and after being released on €1,500 ($2,081) bail, he continued his tour as planned in Amsterdam. "

Rolling Stone later ranked McCoy's graffiti bust as one of the most embarrassing rock star arrests.

Musical drama with ex Katy Perry

Katy Perry doesn't only write revenge songs about Taylor Swift, she's also taken pen to paper to hit back at her famous exes — including one Travie McCoy.

As Nicki Swift previously reported, the frontman inspired "Circle the Drain" off of 2010's Teenage Dream, and the song's lyrics were anything but subtle. "You fall asleep during foreplay / 'Cause the pills you take are more your forte," Perry sang, in reference to McCoy's drug addiction. He had famously gone to rehab in 2008, when the two were still together.

In October 2010, MTV ventured to ask McCoy about the musical diss. "I heard she put out a song that's about me, or about some old habits or whatever," he said. "[And] I look at it like this: I'm just stoked that she finally has a song with some substance on her record. Good job." Yikes! The rapper nearly followed suit when working on Lazarus. As he told Billboard, he had "scrapped a lot of the early material," because it was "kind of somber and a little too personal" following his "sh**ty breakup" with the pop star.

But McCoy no long harbors any hard feelings. "For me to hold a grudge that long," he told Vibe in 2013, "I'd be a bitter son of a b**ch. I have a lot more interesting things to do than hold a grudge." He added, "I'm super proud of her."

Overcoming addiction

McCoy has long battled drug addiction. While he tried to kick the habit a few times, he finally became clean in 2013.

The rapper opened up about his addiction to pharmaceuticals in 2017 on R.A. The Rugged Man Show. "I tore my ACL, MCL, meniscus; twisted all that sh*t up so I'm in the hospital all summer and they put me on OxyContin," he explained. "And they sent me home with a prescription full [of Oxy]....The first time I ran out, I got h*lla sick withdrawals."

His doctor wanted to up his prescription, but McCoy decided to quit cold turkey. He was clean for a year before turning to the drugs again for recreational use. But with each pill costing $30, he eventually turned to heroine to get his fix. "That's why we have an [opioid] epidemic right now, you know what I'm saying? These kids are like, 'Oh, it's prescribed by a doctor, it's okay,' and it's not," he said. "These doctors are no different than dealers."

McCoy's addiction quickly spiraled, and he became a "functioning addict." The rapper continued, "I've been clean for three and a half years, and it took literally me saying, 'I'm gonna f**king die.' I had to like talk to myself, like, 'Do you want to die?' And I was like, 'F**k, no!' And honestly, it was me having that conversation with myself and the birth of my niece, Farrah — my niece has been my reason [for staying clean]."

The cost of 'Behind the Music'

In 2012, McCoy spoke candidly about his past on the Gym Class Heroes' episode of VH1's Behind the Music. But his honesty may have cost him some fans.

"It was tough, honestly. At some point in my career, my life got put up for public consumption," he told Vibe the following year. "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," McCoy continued. "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."

When pressed on this, the "Cookie Jar" rapper said, "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."

A Gym Class Heroes reunion

After his solo career began to fizzle, McCoy brought the Gym Class Heroes out of hiatus to work on their fifth studio album, The Papercut Chronicles II. "All I got to say is it's definitely going back to the essence of Gym Class Heroes, which is four dudes sitting in a room, vibing off each other and making organic, dark metal," the frontman told MTV in 2009, when work on the record initially began.

The album came out in November 2011 and peaked at #54 on the Billboard 200. But its lead single "Stereo Hearts" is what put hip hop/rock outfit back on the map. Featuring Adam Levine of Maroon 5, the song rose to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on Billboard Pop Songs. The popular hit was even covered on Glee, and was later certified 4X Platinum in the US. The group also found radio success with "A** Back Home," which featured English singer-songwriter Neon Hitch in October 2011, and "The Fighter," featuring vocals by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder in May 2012. 

But the album itself was not a critical hit. Rolling Stone gave it a depressing 1.5 stars, calling The Papercut Chronicles II "the year's most charmless album," and named McCoy a "laughably inept MC." Harsh.

Post-Lazarus solo singles

Fresh off the success of "Stereo Hearts," McCoy began work on his sophomore solo effort, releasing a string of non-album singles to tease his post-Lazarus sound.

The first was "Rough Water" in November 2013. Featuring singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, the song did well among McCoy's fan base. But it did not make much of a splash on the charts, peaking at #82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #20 on Billboard Pop Songs. Still, the rapper was pleased. "The response has been amazing," he told Vibe that December. "I couldn't be more stoked."

In March 2014, McCoy collaborated with Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco on the motivational promotional single "Keep On Keeping On." The following year came the most popular of the three: "Golden," featuring "Chandelier" singer Sia. "It's like second nature working with [Sia]. We have this brotherly-sisterly vibe going on," the rapper told Entertainment Tonight in June 2015. "Once I heard the hook, I kinda knew where I wanted to go lyrically and I wrote it in about 45 minutes... I think a lot of people can relate to having those tinglies in their stomach about that special somebody." Neither of these singles charted in the US, but both earned millions of views on YouTube. 

The go-to feature artist

In addition to having various pop/rock artists guest on his own singles, McCoy paid the favor forward, contributing feature spots on other recording artists' songs.

In 2012, the rapper guested on "Love Me" by the British girl-group Stooshe, and later provided vocals on Olly Murs' song "Wrapped Up." As the lead single off the English singer-songwriter's fourth record Never Been Better, the 2014 song was a hit in Britain. Peaking at #3 on the UK Singles chart, it also broke into the Billboard Top 40 in the US.

The following year, the musician dropped a verse on "Dazed and Confused" by American rapper and singer-songwriter Jake Miller. It was not released officially as a single, but as the titular song off of his third EP, Miller released a music video that Teen Vogue called "an event." "This one is my favorite so far. It was the first time I was able to showcase my quirky sense of humor in a music video, but still keep it cool and fun," Miller said. "The song is about meeting someone that leaves you completely dumbfounded, so we wanted to make the music video feel like a trippy dream." It's definitely a must-see.

Sophomore delays

McCoy's solo debut may not have been the smash hit he had hoped for, but it still made its mark in hip-hop/pop. Fans have been dying to hear his follow-up effort ever since, but as of September 2017, there is no release date in sight for the rapper's as-of-now untitled sophomore effort.

"Anyone knows from the past...that I've always given zero F about catering to one genre or one particular audience," McCoy told Billboard in 2014, while revealing that his second album would feature "a lot of growth." He continued, "I'm influenced by so many different types of music, and this record is no different." The following year, the "Superbad" singer told Entertainment Tonight that the record was actually already "finished." "We're gonna let the single do what it does," he said of his hit song "Golden." "I'm trying to keep this album not as feature-heavy as some of the past albums have been," he added. "I'm trying to focus more on myself."

But McCoy couldn't quiet his love of collaborating completely, as the album will include features by "Happy" singer Pharrell Williams and TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek. Those songs "came out really crazy and different," the rapper teased to Billboard. "There's just an urgency to a couple of the songs I think is going to surprise a lot of people."

McCoy's artistic side

It seems there are no ends to McCoy's talents. On top of being an accomplished rapper, singer, and songwriter, he is also a respected artist.

According to Miami.com, this multi-talent debuted "some of his sketches and tattoo-inspired works" at an exhibition called "The Rich Event" in December 2012. "I went to art school in Utica, N.Y., and I thought, 'When all is said and done, I can either be a starving artist or an art teacher,' so I decided to go for something more structured [with Heroes]," he told the website. "If it hadn't been for music, I definitely would have chased a career in the art world."

In March 2017, McCoy compared his songwriting and artistic processes on The POPaganda POPcast. "There's constantly ideas and chunks of things that eventually become songs," he explained. "But I also have ADD, so it's really hard for me to sit down and write a song from beginning to end, so I really bounce around a lot, and I'm the same way with my painting."

"When I do art, I have to have a bazillion things going on," McCoy continued. "I get kind of bored — not necessarily bored, but, you know, my brain starts itching to like f**kin' do something else, and I have something else going on to play with, and it's the same thing with music." As the painter added with a laugh, "As long as it gets finished [it's okay] — and that's the hard part."

Making time for family

McCoy is a devoted family man, a new role he's taken on recently after making amends with his estranged family. "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," he told Vibe in 2013. "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," he continued. "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."

As mentioned, the musician is especially close to his niece, Farrah. As McCoy shared in a blog post on his website in April 2015, Farrah had "stage 4/5 kidney disease," and eventually needed to get a transplant. In September 2017, the rapper took to Instagram to celebrate the four-year-old's health with a sweet video. "#TBT Back to the day before my baby angel got her Brand New Kidney," he wrote in the caption. "The relief that my baby was finally going to be done suffering was immense. She had been so strong and resilient and I can't thank you all enough for your prayers and well wishes."

A Gym Class Heroes return?

Similarly to McCoy's solo output, the Gym Class Heroes' follow-up to The Papercut Chronicles II seems to have been put on hold indefinitely. "We're constantly working on Gym Class material," McCoy told Entertainment Tonight in 2015. "I think it's safe to say there'll be a new Gym Class album not long after this [solo] album." But the wait has been longer than originally anticipated. "When the time is right and I'm given the chance, we'll get together and start working on the next Gym Class album," McCoy told Billboard in 2014, after hinting that production won't actually begin until after he promotes and releases his second solo record. 

"That's kind of something that never goes away," "The Queen and I" rapper added. "I think anything we do outside of Gym Class Heroes still falls under the Gym Class Heroes umbrella. There's really no method to the madness. With Gym Class it's more of a democratic process, and when I'm working on solo stuff it's just me, either working with producers or sitting in a room by myself. They balance and complement each other."

With no release date in sight, the band recently announced that they are set to join Train's annual Sail Across the Sun cruise in March 2018, suggesting that the wait for new Gym Class Heroes music could possibly be over as early as next year.