Of all the cities in the United States of America, Cleveland, located in the Midwest state of Ohio must come pretty low when thoughts of the newest rap star come to mind. In spite of all this 22yr old Machine Gun Kelly, the latest signing to P Diddy’s Bad Boy Records, has built up a strong cult following and against all the odds stands at the forefront of the new wave of young, confident and original rappers flooding into the game. Ahead of his sold out show at London’s 02 Islington Academy, I caught up with MGK to speak in depth on the key topics surrounding his journey over the past 12 months.
You finish off your European Tour tomorrow night here in London; this is your first time in the country right? How are you finding it so far?
I’ve been here for 30 minutes (laughs) but I’ve been enjoying the time in Europe so far, the food sucks but the crowds are rowdy over here. They’re still quite unfamiliar with Machine Gun Kelly, I’ve gotta change that.
Looking at the KellyVision YouTube series, touring gets pretty wild with you guys. Footage of you smashing up hotels, the label can’t be too pleased.
Nah, man it’s actually on my expense. Physically, financially, getting arrested it’s all my fault and I have to pay those costs. All types of shit goes down man; girls, fights all types of shit. The videos were my idea, mainly because I just wanted to give people a look at how regular rappers really are, cos I know I am.
The album, Lace Up drops October 9th and just looking here at the tracklist, its quite feature heavy. What was the thought process behind this?
We had a long time to make it man. I tried to aim for the people I grew up idolising and got in the studio with them all to make it organic, they were all stoked to do it and money wasn’t an issue. It was a beautiful thing and these are all classic features. They killed their verses.
The album is executive produced by Diddy; just how much input did he have in the creation process?
(Laughs) I only just found out what this means but executive produced just means they funded it.
Really? So he didn’t have a part to play in the musical direction of it all?
That’s what I thought, but nah it really just means he funded it. Diddy just laid back and just let me do the Machine Gun Kelly thing. Everyone expected him to change it up cos he’s notorious for that but he’s just letting me do me.
You recently featured on DMX’s latest album Undisputed, as one of your heroes how did it feel to have him reach out and feature you as the only rapper on the album?
It really set in when I saw his ‘thank you’s’ on the album, he called me his little brother and I was like “damn that’s crazy”. It’s more than music you know, we have a great relationship personally and we can just kick it for hours and talk about life.
Many people wouldn’t expect you two to be as close just from looking at the pairing.
We’re just two wild souls man, we just kick it and rink Hennessey, that’s a mean drink motherfucker and he downs that straight. With him, he has sense when he speaks and I feel like the world doesn’t really care as much anymore but I definitely do. He’s not saying shit that’s not true. When he spoke on the Aaliyah/Drake thing you can’t blame him, Aaliyah was his girl, they worked together and he really knew her. The world is very judgemental now and social networks and shit make it really easy to rip someone apart.
When you went to Rucker Park earlier in the year…
(Deep breath) Damn…
It was crazy. That was a real turning point personally for me in understanding how big your movement is. Rappers from NY rarely get shown that much love in the heart of Harlem like that how did if feel?
I felt like motherfuckin’ King Tut! That was some Malcolm X shit, some wild shit. I think that even if they weren’t up on me before, when I went up onto that basketball hoop and sat down in storyteller mode everyone just had to listen to what the fuck I had to say, like “yo, this kid up there is preaching.”
You’ve been on the road a lot since you signed your deal, have you had time to spend? What’s been your most expensive purchase?
A mattress. (Laughs) A good one, a tempurpedic. To be honest, I’m just into what I already have; Bob Marley said it best “Riches aren’t what you can buy; riches are what you already have in you”. I got friends; that’s so much cooler.
Let’s talk tatts for a second; you’re covered in them and this might be hard, but if you can just pick up your favourite, or the one that means the most to you.
Just got an email from my High School, they want me to go in and speak the day the album comes out and the teacher told me to keep up the follow your dreams message I’ve been spreading. I have that tattooed right here, (lower forearm) and underneath I have the MGK Lace Up kid running to, kinda like a destination to that doesn’t exist. Not knowing where your destination is but believing you’re gonna have one is cool.
You really do have a positive vibe and the few times your name is brought up in beef it never seems to come from your end. What’s the situation if any with Yelawolf who dissed you a few times and you ended up responding, calling him an old man?
I definitely regret the first response I ever had to that cos I came across like a pussy, that was other people speaking for me and they got I my head. I’m a supporter of everyone, I used to be negative and it’s very easy to get that way but I’m over it. Beef and shit? I’m so not opposed to it; I wait for that shit its fun sometimes.
Jay Electronica also tweeted at you saying he would “burn your world down with a verse”, how did that come about?
I dunno but that wouldn’t happen, I’d eat any mother fucker. I couldn’t even tell you what that motherfucker looked like (laughs).
You openly state your love for rock bands like Radiohead and Blink 182. The lines between Hip-Hop and Rock have always been close performance wise, especially with you. Do you ever see yourself venturing all the way out and making a Rock album?
You know what’s cool, they (Radiohead) sent us a message through their manager, they watched one of my shows and they loved it. A lot of my shows are raunchy and sexual and they don’t like that kind of stuff but it was cool they would show love like that. To make a Rock album? I just don’t have the voice for it; ultimately I think I overlook how lyrical I can be. I’ve only just stared getting back into spitter mode. Like with the beef shit, I’d love that just to rip someone apart.
Finally, if you were to die today how do you think you’d be remembered?
Iconic, I honestly think that. The simplicity of my image to the dedication of my fan base, I wouldn’t go anywhere.
Actually, let’s not end it on death, if you were to bring anyone from the past back to life who would it be?
Erm, it’s tough, I’m just trying to think…from a message standpoint I think Jimi. Jimi Hendrix. I think he’s the ultimate. Kurt (Cobain) was very negative, had a lot of issues but Jimi had a really cool stance on shit. Tupac? We have a lot of rappers alive with the same mentality, no matter how much you loved a rapper after a period of time they were bound to fuck up somewhere but with Jimi he was very anti-confrontational, he couldn’t fuck it up - he was all about this [holds up peace sign].
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