Cleveland bred rapper, Machine Gun Kelly is someone you either love or hate— it's that simple.
Signed to Bad Boy/Interscope Records, the 24-year-old wordsmith who is most known for his hit single "Wild Boy" featuring none other than College News' most recent cover artist, Wiz Khalifa. Since his early days, MGK has been on an entirely different wavelenth compared to the competition. In fact, despite his popularity among his fan base, fame is something he wants nothing to do with.
This past November, MGK celebrated the premiere of his Hollywood film "Beyond the Lights," a tale about an up-and-coming singer named Noni who struggles with the pressures of stardom. MGK plays Kid Culprit in the film, a rapper and Noni's bad-boy love interest. He will star in two more films in 2015 in addition to the highly anticipated release of his sophomore album. MGK gave fans a sneak peek of his lead single, "Till I Die" at his Toledo show, a sample of what they can expect in the coming year which he claims is a year that belongs to him and what he claims are "the best fans in the music industry."
We caught up with MGK next to a toilet in a back room at his recent show in Toledo, the first of the final four stops that wrap up the No Class Tour which ends in Cleveland on Dec. 21. We talked about his evolution as a songwriter, his continued involvement with his fan base, pressures as a 24-year-old and more.
Adrianna Velazquez: So this is the first of four shows in Ohio to close out the tour, how excited are you?
Machine Gun Kelly: I’m so fucking happy. This is what every artist does music for— well, the real ones anyway. The real ones do it because they want to come back home and see their home be proud. It’s like if you win a championship, that’s kind of how I feel. I’ve been playing all year at these away games and I’m ready to come home and slam fucking dunk.
AV: Do you have anything special planned for Cleveland, your final show?
MGK: Aside from a priceless vibe— you know when you can look at an artist when he goes on stage and you can tell he wants to be here, he looks so happy. Other than that— nah, I don’t want anyone to go and expect anything else other than good music and just to be able to feel that feeling and that’s a priceless feeling. I love my city so much that it bleeds out and you’re not going to have a choice but to smile with me when I step on stage. You’re going to be so proud. I haven’t performed in Cleveland— outside of the festival we do every year— but I haven’t performed there since my album release.
AV: So you moved around a lot as a kid, in what ways do you find that Cleveland is more of a home compared to other places you’ve lived?
MGK: Well, the years that I was becoming a man were spent in Cleveland, like the important years. The years that I spent there, those are the years that you get your first job, you get in your first fight— well, I got into my first fight way before that. -laughs- That was a pivotal era of my life determining what kind of man I was going to be.
AV: And where did you develop your stage name, Machine Gun Kelly?
MGK: A homie gave it to me because I used to rap fast as fuck.
AV: You’ve undoubtedly become an idol for a lot of people.
MGK: Thank you.
AV: Do you feel that it makes you more conscious about your work?
MGK: Very much so. You can’t be corny or come out with anything corny when someone has your face tattooed on your body which is a lot of people.
Danyyil Nosovskiy: How do you feel when people do stuff like that?
MGK: I feel honored, but the pressure is insane especially when I’m such a young artist and I have so much room for error. But it’s so cool because that’s the most punk-rock part of it all is that we don’t know what the fuck is gonna happen and like— if I’m the person that we all think I am, I’m gonna be any adversity and go through and overcome whatever stereotype or bullshit is being said about me and that I’m going to be the reason that they got that on their body will all make sense in the end. Hopefully, 50 years from now hopefully we’ll be talking about this shit like our generation talks about Aerosmith or something like that.
DN: What’s the most memorable fan tattoo that you remember?
MGK: Obviously the first Lace Up tattoo was mind blowing. I’m still friends with that person til this day. First time I saw my face on somebody’s leg, that was extremely crazy. Seeing my name tattooed over heroin track marks or seeing my name— my signature, excuse me— tattooed over cuts on a wrist, vertical cuts, all that...like suicide attempts, it’s like…”Holy shit.”
DN: You’re saving lives.
MGK: Yeah, man. It’s just so much bigger than what we thought, like the reason behind it all is broader than we had thought originally or anticipated it ever being.
MGK: Can you take a picture of this interview in this bathroom, please? -gives disposable camera to security guard standing near the door-
AV: Speaking of that, Lace Up was the name of your album but it developed into a culture brand almost. So what does it mean to you and how would you describe it to anyone who has never been introduced to your music or is the first time being introduced to your music and your following?
MGK: Then I wouldn’t even tell them what it is. I feel like they’d have to discover it on their own. That’s the beauty of it all is that it’s not commercialized or made out to be this thing that I want people to accept. You know? I’m just like, if you like it— if you get it, rather, then you get it.
AV: So then in that sense, it’s almost like it’s self-developed right? For every person it’s different.
MGK: It is self-developed. For every person it’s different and it’s not ever meant to be in the hands of like the Bill Gates or you know, like the Apple Marketing team. It’s not meant to be that. It’s not like a brand— I mean it became a brand in a cool way but it’s like a brand that the people fucking know. I don’t ever want to force that shit.
AV: Right. In what ways do you think you’ve developed as a writer between Lace Up and Black Flag?
MGK: I think I got better about putting my story on paper and it was less about— I think it was more specific; you could tell a little bit more about my life than I was telling in the last one. That’s what's cool about this next album coming up is a lot more detail and just realizing that I left a lot of parts of the story out so I’m coming in and making it very clear to everybody. I’m just kind of filling in the voice that if you have a question about where exactly in Cleveland was this going on at, I lay it out there and I show it. I didn’t really answer your last question, I’m sorry.
AV: No, it’s okay. I understand. But in that sense do you think that a clearer story line comes from you developing both professionally and personally? In the sense that you feel more comfortable in front of everyone? Like I guess being more vulnerable to share more details?
MGK: Yeah, but I’m also starting to see there’s a gift and a curse with the fan base I created because a lot of people don’t understand that when you come up to me and tell me that you’re 300 days sober from heroin or that your best friend just died and this concert is the best thing that’s happened to you and all that, it’s hard to comprehend but that puts so much weight on you and when it happens everyday... -cont'd-
You can listen to the rest of our exclusive interview with MGK below.