Meaning of “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy (featuring Bruno Mars)

“Billionaire” is a song performed by American singer Travie McCoy of the rock band Gym Class Heroes featuring fellow American singer Bruno Mars. Lyrically, “Billionaire” sees the singer imagining the amazing things he would do if were a billionaire. Among the numerous things he mentions doing if he were filthy rich include offering a helping hand to other in need (including helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina), gracing the front cover of Forbes along with Oprah Winfrey and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and “playing basketball with the President”. It is apparent the president he is referring to here is the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama. FYI: During his tenure as President, Obama was known for his immense love for basketball and was often seen playing the game.

In an interview with MTV, McCoy shed more light into the meaning of the song. According to him, the lyrics of the song see him telling the world of what he would do with his money if ever somehow ended up becoming a billionaire. He said in addition to that the lyrics also bring forth the question of what you’d do if you found yourself with a “decent chunk of money”.

“I wanna be a billionaire” – Bruno Mars

The song’s hook was written by Bruno Mars. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Mars said he came up with the hook while he was in London working on a record with an artist. According to him, his record label gave him only £250 to survive on for the entire trip which was supposed last 11 days. He revealed to the magazine that while in the English capital, he became broke since everything in the city was very expensive and the money given him was woefully insufficient. It was at that time that he came up with the famous line “I wanna be a billionaire, so frickin’ bad”.

Lyrics of "Billionaire"

McCoy initially uncomfortable with song’s idea

In an interview with Alternative Press, McCoy said he was initially not comfortable with the theme of the song when Mars first sang it to him. According to him, he knew the song was cool but since America was in a severe economic recession at that time, he felt the idea of singing about wanting to have a truckload of money was “kind of awkward” and selfish. However, having modified the song’s lyrics and asking the listeners what they would do with a billion dollars and mentioning things such as going to the aid of the victims of Katrina, a significant percentage of the song’s lyrics became “pretty selfless” and positive. According to McCoy, the song went from being selfless to a “humanitarian statement” of having a lot of money and rather using it for the good of humanity instead of bragging about it.


Facts about “Billionaire”

  • The song “Billionaire” was written by Travie McCoy and the American songwriting and production trio The Smeezingtons. The trio, which was made up of Bruno Mars, Ari Levine and Philip Lawrence, was active from 2009 to 2015.
  • The production of this piece was handled solely by The Smeezingtons.
  • This track was released on March 9, 2010 as the first single from McCoy’s debut studio solo album Lazarus.
  • The music video of “Billionaire”, which was shot in Los Angeles, features a cameo appearance of bassist and songwriter Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy fame.
  • On the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, “Billionaire” peaked at number 4. On the UK Singles Chart, the track climbed up to number 3.
  • In the United States alone, the single sold over 3 million copies.
  • In 2014, about 4 years after “Billionaire” was released, an artist named Demetrius Orlandus Procter sued Travie McCoy, Bruno Mars and the two other members of the Smeezingtons for “willful and intentional” stealing the song from him. The interesting or rather weird thing about Procter’s suit is the fact that he claimed he owned the rights to both the lyrics and music of “Billionaire” since March 2011. What is so weird about this? We hear you ask. The thing is “Billionaire” was released in March 2010, meaning McCoy and Mars had to travel into the the future in order to steal the song from Procter. Interesting!


What genre is this piece?

“Billionaire” falls into the following categories: reggae-pop, pop-rap and alternative hip hop.

Has “Billionaire” been covered?

Yes, it has been covered multiple times. One of the most notable covers is 2010’s cover on Audition – the episode 1 of the second season of the American TV series Glee.

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