Hip Hop having fun.....

Matt and Disashi have a natter with Ross Halewood

Somewhere along its journey from humble Bronx beginnings to the unstoppable billion dollar industry it is today, Hip Hop lost its sense of playfulness; an element so vital during the genre’s formative years. But, if you’re bored with the ‘bling-bling’ and ‘thug life’ ethos, salvation is at hand in the form of fun-packed New Yorkers Gym Class Heroes. Their new album, ‘As Cruel As School Children’, evokes the positive daisy-age rhymes of De La Soul by way of lost 80s funkateers, The Time and Fishbone, with a touch of Emo sensitivity thrown in the mix.

Speaking just before their ass-shakin’ show at the Cockpit in Leeds, drummer Matt McGinley, with guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo sitting in, gives a brief summation of GCH’s ten-year history.

“I met our singer Travis McCoy in gym class during our freshman year at college. We played parties and stuff for a while but, when we recorded ‘The Papercut Chronicles’ (2004), we signed to Fueled By Ramen. That’s when we brought in Disashi and Eric (Roberts, bass).”

Eschewing the standard Hip Hop practice of sample overkill, Gym Class Heroes make good use of in-house resources. Labelmate and Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump reprises the hookline of Supertramp’s classic guilty pleasure, ‘Breakfast In America’, on timely new single, ‘Cupid’s Chokehold’. The three-year old track is currently blowing up across the pond, recently hitting number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, although Disashi isn’t surprised at the track’s belated success.

“Honestly, I am more surprised it didn’t catch on sooner because it’s a really accessible song. I’d like to show what we’ve got off the new album but ‘Cupid’ is a good launchpad.”

“The fans spoke for themselves,” chips in Matt. “We had no intention of pushing that song out to kids but radio stations were getting a lot of requests. So we figured we might as well make a new video and officially re-release the song.”

Stump also stamps his mark on a cheeky reversal of Jermaine Stewart’s supreme 80s classic, ‘We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off’, brazenly retitled ‘Clothes Off!’ Perhaps it’s because of the wintry weather the Cockpit crowd has kept its clothes on, though some audiences have been known to act upon the song’s rather liberating sentiment.

“I can’t remember which show it was,” laughs Disashi, “but I saw a couple of girls and dudes in the front row taking the lyrics literally. In fact, we’ve done a couple of shows in the States where the stage has been bum-rushed by a bunch of naked dudes!”

Of course, that’s not to say the Cockpit is a conservative crowd. Although the gig isn’t quite a sell-out, everyone present has their dancing shoes on, having it to the shimmering ‘The Queen And I’ - a worthy successor to Outkast’s ‘Hey, Ya!’ - and the surprisingly inspired ode to MySpace puppy love, ‘New Friend Request’ (“I guess it’s the first ever popular song about MySpace,” ponders Matt. “I think we’ve pulled it off in a tasteful way because it tells a story too.”).

Travis McCoy is a wonderfully charismatic frontman, introducing ‘Scandalous Scholastics’ by reminiscing about his hopeless attempt at chatting up an attractive teacher whilst at school. With all this in mind, Gym Class Heroes’ mix of lovelorn Hip Hop and warm humour will hopefully not be lost on festival organisers this year.