With a rat-tat-tat flow and a taste for pushing the envelope, Machine Gun Kelly lives up to his moniker.

Words: Kazeem Famuyide
Images: Marc Lecureuil

Cleveland has always taken a lot of shit. The city still hasn’t recovered from two-word failures such as “The Drive (John Elway),” “The Shot (Michael Jordan),” “The Catch (Willie Mays)” and lately, “The Decision (LeBron James).” So what happens when the city has something to be proud of? We will soon find out with the excitement surrounding Colson Baker, better known as Machine Gun Kelly. Not to be confused with Kelly Barnes, the American gangster whose notoriety rose during prohibition in the 1930s, 21-year-old MGK has been one of the most talked about emcees on the underground hip-hop scene. “I love controversy, and it’s a controversial name,” says MGK. “I’m named after a gangster, but I’m obviously not a gangsta rapper or anything like that, but I just got that rapid-fire delivery. And on top of that shit, the name just describes me perfectly. I’m just a loose cannon. Wild muthafucker.”

The well-traveled, “rapid-fire” emcee was raised in the home of the Cavaliers, but as a son to two missionary parents, the kid saw much of the world before reaching his teenage years. Born in Texas, MGK has called places like Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Egypt and Germany home before settling in the Buckeye State. “I was in Kuwait when I was in ninth grade. They were in the middle of a war and I saw a Hummer get blown up,” MGK recalls about his travels. “Saw people shoot the fuck out of this car on the way to school, so it was random shit like that man, no rules. It was crazy. I was literally over there for a month before I got into so much trouble over there that I had to go back.”

For a while, rumors circulated that the up-and-comer was linked to hip-hop mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs; and those rumors intensified when the Bad Boy Founder /CEO sought out MGK to check his performance at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX. “He’s very much involved with the movement, not involved actually, but you know, I guess, he’s interested in my movement,” MGK says about Puff. “What’s cool about Diddy is that he’s not so much interested in me, he’s interested in the fact that my fans are bananas. He kind of takes a liking to that shit, he really cares about it. Also, we are in the middle of a little bit of a bidding war as well and I just want to roll with someone who will cater to my movement the best and not just be another sellout.”

It’s not surprising that MGK’s crowd control is what drove Puff to take a liking to him. The artist who recorded most of his music in a place called the “Rage Cage” has the sound of a needle injected shot of pure adrenaline straight into your ears. “The Rage Cage is a studio in my manager’s mom’s basement where we recorded 100 Words and Running and Laced Up in there. That’s where we are recording my debut album. We just get so fucked up and we go down there and have the illest moments of life, just tweaking down there,” MGK says about his rapping lair. “We play air guitar, and just do dumb shit man. It’s hard to explain but the element down there is just dim lighting and we sit 50 people down there, and it brings our energy out. I don’t really like recording anywhere else.”

My first time seeing MGK perform was at the Bamboozle festival at the Meadowlands. Kelly shared the stage with relatively established artists including Pusha T, Big Sean, Lil’ B and more. However, when MGK took the stage, the energy he exhibited was reminiscent of a young rapping Axl Rose, complete with a photo-pit-clearing stage dive that Julius Erving would be proud of.

Although he says he’s been rapping since age 14, people really took notice when the viral video for “Chip Off The Block” hit the net and his moniker matched his delivery. “Whoever would’ve thought that another motherfucker from the ‘Land would’ve came up and made them stacks, It never was warm in this city so I had to get on the record and come blaze these tracks,” MGK spat rapidly on his breakout song. The video plays a slick trick on you and plays on your own racial bias. As the video starts, a young Black kid is the focus of the video as the familiar machine gun sound effect is let off shortly before the camera pans to the skinny, tatted up rapper. Did I mention that Machine Gun Kelly is White? That’s kind of important…

“So, I read in XXL about you being a part of this new White rapper movement…” I said to him briefly before he cut me off with a simple one-word response.

“Wack,” as he went into a bored silence. “I don’t really like that ‘White rapper’ shit. I think it’s corny as fuck; I don’t like that label,” Kelly says with an annoyed groan. “I got my credibility in the streets, not from doing any crazy street shit, but my whole fan base is like inner city before any of this shit happened. So I feel like it’s taking away from me, almost putting me into some frat-rap type of shit. Only time I ever stepped into a fraternity was to perform there and I don’t know anything about that fucking lifestyle. I should be put in the category with the Jeezys and the DMXs, and the Tupacs and Eminems, you know? But that’s all shit I’ve got to earn, because I’m not shit yet. All things I’ve got to do in time.”

Images by Marc Lecureuil.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

More from the Stark staff