Gym Class Heroes: Who Needs A Hero?
Sometime around the mid 90s, a group of young kids decided something was missing in music. It needed fun. It needed a broader range of style. It needed heroes. Thats where they stepped in. These youngsters would go on to become The Gym Class Heroes. Together, with a rapper and a rock band, they were dead set on creating what they felt was beautiful music the game had been missing.
Yes, we said a rapper and a rock band. Youve heard this before, right? Wrong. They didnt want to sound like anyone else and they definitely didnt do it all for the nookie. Listen to GCH once and you know: they aint Limp Bizkit.
I think anybody who knows Gym Class knows we are the furthest thing from that, Travis McCoy, (the emcee) says with conviction. I mean, before, it was a concern [to be compared to rap/rock bands] but now its just like I could care less. People who actually listen to us will definitely know that were nothing like that. But rap/rock? Even those two words put together make my stomach turn, he adds with a laugh.
The comparisons stop. Its actually quite clear upon a few listens that this man knows what hes doing behind the mic. With introspectively compelling story telling to coincide with intricate rhyme patterns and wit, the New York based emcee knows what to do with a pen. His voice, one that speaks out on everything from gay bashing to cupid, can go from emotional to hilarious from track to track. His multifaceted persona matches the eclectic mix of musicians that make up GCHs core.
Growing up, I was put onto a lot of different music. My Dad was a bass player and he was listening to all types of stuff and I used to like Guns N Roses, you know what Im saying? And my Mom was really into all types of soul and Sade and stuff like that. So, I just got to see a huge broad spectrum of music, he says of his upbringing. But as far as the Gym Class Heroes sound, we all listen to all different types of music.
Eventually, McCoys love for that broad spectrum of music allowed him to become an avid fan of Hip-Hop.
Slick Rick, he was my shit. Kool G. Rap...But the one who really hit the nail in the head was Jeru. When Jeru dropped The Sun Rises in the East, it was a wrap for me. I loved that, he says of his Hip-Hop influences.
And much like some of his influences, hes tackled subjects by using storytelling techniques to deliver powerful messages. In 2004s Faces in the Hall, McCoy addressed High School bullying, gay bashing, along with teenage drinking/drug use, and the difficulties of growing up in a single parent household. All in one song. Who does that? The same man who goes on to flip the script and lace the album with humorous punch lines. Example: It feels like a midget is chillin in my boxers. Its not all serious and its not all a joke. But its all them.
Thats their deal. They arent trying to be Rage Against the Machine. They arent trying to be Linkin Park. They arent trying to anything other than Gym Class. Why change that? After all, the group has recently linked up with Decaydance, a label backed by the huge success of rockers Fall Out Boy. Their new album has been backed by several artists from rock chart toppers to Papoose, whose worked with GCH on a remix to their newest single New Friend Request.
More emcees may land on Gym Class future projects. When asked about who hed like to collab with, he shoots out a very diverse group of emcees. Note the diversity.
Right now, honestly: Im feelin Young Jeezy. I think Young Jeezys the shit. He takes everything seriously. This is a dude who takes his ad-libs seriously. Its crazy! Ive been feelin Cee-Lo since the first OutKast record when he dropped the Get Up, Get Out verse. He just impresses me non-stop every time he puts something out. Murs, hes the shit, he says of his current favorites. With the success Gym Class is receiveing those emcees may end up on future LPs.
But this isnt his first time hes getting some shine. And though we previously mentioned how ill he is with writtens, its important to note that hes ready to battle, too. And hes been battle tested on national television. After defeating competitors to win the freestyle crown on MTVs Direct Effect, before Gym Class truly took off, he received a cameo in Styles Ps clip for Daddy Get That Cash. But he didnt want to be just another freestyle champ. So, he used that small success to catapult his own groups triumphant rise.
After releasing a couple of indie albums, the crew copped slots opening up for Hip-Hop heavyweights like Fat Joe, Mobb Deep, CamRon, Jurassic 5, Blackalicious, Run DMC and more. They used that platform in order to showcase their live act to more people than ever before.
Which brings us to the live show. Doubted? Yup. Nervous? Nah. They took it on with fury and impressed heads in the process.
We stick out like a sore thumb...When kids initially see us, its the same reaction at Hip-Hop shows as it is in rock shows: Who the fuck is this? But by the end of the song, people are into it. So, we never had it easy on either end of the coin, he says of their shows.
But that balancing act between rock crowds and Hip-Hop crowds is what has helped them become so unique. They have the ability to bounce from a show with Fall Out Boy and open up for Don Cartagena like nothing. Few others can do that. Thats what makes Gym Class special. Thats the beauty of it, he adds.
And thats what makes their newest album so compelling. Matching Summertime fun, live instrumentation and lyrical defness the crew manages to make a feel-good album with substance.
Musically, I would say its a step up. Lyrically, I would say its a step up...I kind of wanted to touch on that early 90s vibe, sort of like Brand Nubian where theres substance to the lyrics but at the same time, you can play this shit in the club and people will dance to it, you know what I saying?
Indeed, he mixes skills, concepts and varying flows with the groups uplifting melodies. When the beats do get semi-dark, the rhymes manage to keep the vibe alive with powerful messages of empowerment. Peep Shoot Down the Stars for a glimpse of that. In it, McCoy analyzes the groups rise to the top.
Been shitted on since the first show, but we turned feces to fertilizer, he says on the latest album, showing off the motivation for a group that went against the grain. The seeds that were planted did indeed grow, and the results are unique.
Never compromise the art to make the crowd clap, he adds on the track. With that, McCoy displays the artist in front of the band. His charismatic leadership makes the crew gain that Hip-Hop flavor. The soul comes from every member, embodied by the emcee who just hopes you remember one thing about him when hes gone.
I would just want to be recognized as that dude who stayed honest, you know what I mean?
And The Gym Class Heroes have remained honest artists from the jump. While many rock/rap groups have come into the game solely to milk the cash-cow, GCH remained true to the craft. They remained true to their hearts. They remained true to Hip-Hop. They remained true to themselves and that alone deserves applause.