Machine Gun Kelly (named after the infamous early 20th Century gangster) is well-known for his rapid-fire delivery, rabid fan base, "Wild Boy" persona and crazy antics (during a performance for a Microsoft Store, he was stomping across tables, destroying several computers before getting shut down by the very company that hired him). MGK asserts that he is also a superior lyricist and anybody who doesn't see it isn't on his level. The rapper's first studio album, Lace Up, has done well, debuting at number four on the Billboard Charts and receiving generally positive reviews. MGK is only 22 years old, and with his career only really beginning, he has plenty of time to convert the nonbelievers.
Westword: Tell me what it was like to be a XXL Freshman. Was there anyone there that you were unfamiliar with, and did you discover anyone that you really liked from getting to do that?
Machine Gun Kelly: Only person I didn't know who they were there was Macklemore.
Are you a fan of his now?
Yeah, I mean, he's a good person. His music doesn't really speak to me 'cause we don't like... I don't know, he hasn't lived the life I've lived, so it doesn't really speak to me. So he's a good person and a cool friend to make.
Now that you're a XXL Sophomore, who do think should be included in this year's freshman class?
Shit, I couldn't even tell you. For real.
Is there anyone new that you're a fan of?
That's what I'm saying; I don't even know who's coming out right now.... I've been in Cleveland for the past month straight. I took the beginning of the month off, so the only new artists I'm paying attention to now are the ones in Cleveland.
You have two of the best all-time fast rappers on your "Edge of Destruction" track? Who would you say is the best fast rapper other than yourself?
Probably Tech [N9ne]. Tech and Busta Rhymes.
And I imagine Bone Thugs have been a source of inspiration for you. Do you have any plans to work with them?
Yeah, of course. We already have worked together....This song from this mixtape called Bitch I'm From Cleveland, but we worked on a song back in the day that we never released, either.
I feel like you get most of your credit for your technical skill and your speed when you rap, but you obviously have a lot of passion, too, and you come up with some really visceral images....Can you talk about what you feel you bring to the table besides the flow and raw energy that you're known for?
First off, we bring the best live performance, any genre of music, that you've ever seen. Not any genre, I take that back, but we bring the best live performance hip-hop has seen. Period. I think also we cross genres and do it the right way.
Yeah, that's one of the things I was going to ask you about because I know you were a punker before you were a rapper...
Yeah, still am. You can see it in my performance.
Yeah, and I was just wondering what sort of similarities you thought there were between punk and rap.
I don't know. I guess I've never really thought that deep on it. I was just a young kid, and I just kinda, like, I was into both, and I couldn't sing, so I was like, "Shit, let me try rapping."
Is being really lyrical a goal of yours?
Yeah, I think I already am! I think I'm just ahead of my time. I think people just don't understand the way that I present my lyrics. I don't, like, give them an obvious way in obvious metaphors; the way I speak on my shit is very, very, you know...
Like a line I said, "Fought every temptation, shit, I guess I'm David Ruffin, huh?" That's a very deep line, you know what I'm saying? There's many different meanings in that line, but a lot of people that line would probably blow over people's heads. They wouldn't get it. I'm already very lyrical; motherfuckers just listen too slow.
So you think in ten years people are going to go back and say, "Damn, we missed the train on MGK."
Yeah, they're going to be, "Holy shit! I missed out on this? What the fuck was I thinking?"
Would you still call DMX your all-time favorite?
Not all time, but definitely in my top three favorite rappers: 2Pac, Eminem and DMX.
You got a chance to record with him on your album. What was that like?
Ah shit, it was deep, it was dark. It was like an emotional rollercoaster, you know what I'm saying? Me and him are very relatable, so we got along really well, you know what I'm saying? We spent like ten straight hours together, just kickin' it, talkin' shit.
Speaking of your darker side: On the one hand, your audience, in general, is on the young side, but on the other hand, you have some dark themes in your music. Why do you feel like you haven't caught on with an older audience, or what do you think the older audience may be missing with you?
Shit, I mean, they just haven't given me a chance yet. That's all it is. You can't just judge somebody off a single. You know what I'm saying? You gotta listen to that person's music. I mean, even my singles are fire, in my opinion. I wouldn't put shit out that I didn't think was hot. You know, I'm definitely not no label whore, so I'm definitely not no motherfucker who's gonna let a label just put shit out.
I don't think "Wild Boy" is wack. I don't think "Invincible" is wack. I don't think shit I did was wack. "Wild Boy" was genius: The flow on there was crazy. The shit I was saying was still crazy; I talked about partying in a cool ass way. As far as older motherfuckers, I mean, I'm still young. They probably just don't get it. They're not ready for all this energy.
The motherfuckers are drinkin' lean and sittin' on the house all stupid, so I don't know. Their time will come. They're gonna catch on after this "Peso," with me, Meek Mill and Pusha T, that releases this month. After that "Peso" drops, they're gonna be like, "Oh, shit, this kid is fire."
You were born in Texas, you've lived in Egypt and you've also lived in like Chicago, California, a bunch of places...
Yeah, none of that has to do with anything, though. I'm a Cleveland muh-fucka.
Exactly. You're so firm that Cleveland is where you're from. So I was wondering if you could talk about what Cleveland has meant to you.
I don't really think that's a question you want me to answer. You know what I'm saying? I've answered that question so many times, I don't even feel like it's worth it. I don't want to give you something that I've said a million other times.
But moving around so much, did you feel like you didn't have a sense of home until you got to Cleveland?
Yeah, of course. Definitely that's how it is for sure. If you're a kid and you keep fucking moving and you're like, "God dammit. Why the fuck do I keep starting relationships with people and then it keeps getting torn away from me?" The only place where I've kept close with is Denver. I lived in Denver for a long time. My only family still lives there. My aunt, she works at Target there. That's like my closest family member I have.
Do you have any particularly fond memories of living here?
Oh, man, everything. I went my freshman year of high school there, played on the football team at Thomas Jefferson High School. I went to Hamilton Middle School there. I mean, we would just be badass kids. I remember going to pool halls with Mountain Dew bottles full of alcohol -- cheap-ass vodka -- getting in fights, running out, getting chased. You know what I'm saying? All types of dumb shit.
Do have any plans to revisit anywhere?
Yeah, a lot of my really close friends are in jail right now out there. I'm always back there seeing their families and making sure what's good.
Is there anything else you would want to tell people who haven't given you a chance yet?
Yeah. They have another chance to fuck with me after I drop this Black Flag mixtape.
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