Interview: Machine Gun Kelly Goes Gonzo
Hunter S. Thompson was only 22 when he wrote his first novel, The Rum Diary, and from then on, he gradually built upon his public persona until Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came out in 1972, and everyone expected the dude to go bat-wild on booze, drugs and adrenaline whenever he made a public appearance. If you ask me, that’s a hell of a lot of pressure to deal with each time you exit your homely abode in Aspen, Colorado, where Hunter resided up until his death in 2005. Hunter committed suicide at age 67, by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Now, I hate to make this analogy, but Machine Gun Kelly will be close to 22 years old when he releases his own debut, Lace Up, and already his fans expect him to be raging and out of control each time he makes a public experience. Hell, the pressure has surely begun to bog MGK down, which comes across in our recent interview with the dude. Kelly sounds tired, disconsolate, and really doesn’t give a fuck. But hey, at least we still have his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to look forward to.
I was just watching the “Wild Boy” video again with Waka. It’s an incredible record and video. I watched it for the first time at 10 in the morning and I was ready to rage. I wondered how you get so hyped up when there are cuts and breaks filming the video?
Well, it comes from a lot of alcohol consumption. I don’t know. It’s crazy, all my friends, the four or five people I’m always with, we all have an unusual amount of energy that we seem to only have in our camp. Everyone else seems a little weird. We’ve always been like that, like super, super hyper. Everyone’s always looked at us like, “What the fuck’s wrong with these kids?”
That’s good. You bounce energy off each other. And you had Katt Williams on-set for “Wild Boy”. How’d you lock that in?
He showed up.
Yeah, man, everything was pretty random with that video shoot, everything was, the mattress on fire was random, I saw a mattress, grabbed the mattress, and set it on fire. That was random.
A lot of improv. [laughs]
Everything was not planned except for the first scene with the mom and dad.
You channel Rick Ross’s flow on that track at least two times, with “Hustle Hard (Remix)” and then “Tupac Back”. Is it safe to say you’re a MMG fan? Who still influences you that is in the game today?
Fans inspire me more than anything. I don’t really listen to too much outside stuff. I listen to a lot of street stuff though, from like Jeezy to… Nipsey Hussle is my shit right now.
Yeah… yeah. I don’t really listen to that much hip-hop.
But did you hear about Ross and the whole exhaustion thing, when he had the seizures?
You have rappers like Ross, or even Joe Budden, and yourself who run on adrenaline a lot. I wondered what’s the craziest or most impressive thing you’ve done solely on adrenaline?
Good question… Probably pull off three threesomes in one night, while doing a show, yeah.
You must have a lot of stamina.
Yeah, before the show, after the show, and then right after the one I did right after the show, so three.
Maybe you need to incorporate it into the performance.
And managed to party during it.
You have the lyric that you “black out every night on tour”, and I’ve even used one of your other quotes in an article, “I don’t care if there’s two people or 200 people I give my best every time.” How important are these mottos to you, because professionalism is big in hip-hop, and I feel a lot of younger artists overlook it?
Dude, the moment I stop giving my best performances is the moment I won’t be shit, because that’s really what we live off of. I don’t really have that many records out. I have a decent amount of mixtapes out, but as far as the mainstream goes, they’re not aware of it. My reputation’s solely off of, “Yo, this kid gives a killer performance. Like, no one knew who he was and it was crazy.” You know, shit like that. Or, “There was no one there and he still performed like it was a coliseum.” My performances are what we live off of.
What do you need to keep that up? What keeps you going? Is there a recipe, or preparations you make before each show?
No, I’m still very young and wild. Like right now I haven’t slept, so I’m trying to sleep now before the show, because we partied a shitload.
You do anything to recover?
Naw, man, it’s just adrenaline really.
Yeah, you sound tired. I won’t be too long. [laughs]
Naw, I don’t give a fuck, man. I’m down.
You’ve talked before about the drugs in hip-hop. Obviously some rappers are exaggerating, but others feel pressure to put out three mixtapes a year, which are really like albums, and they need to work every night, so they smoke and do drugs to stay awake. Do you believe this, or how do you combat over-saturation?
Oh, I don’t. I put out a mixtape every year. I put out one great quality mixtape every year and tour off that for a whole year. I don’t oversaturate shit. I want people to want my shit. The thing with us, we get a lot of saturation through videos, like Youtube videos.
You have Kelly Vision.
Yeah, that’s my shit. You get to see me as a person and an artist, it’s win-win.
I was watching Day 15. You were stopped by the police. Did you actually have anything on you guys?
Yep, they couldn’t find it though.
Was your heart racing at that moment, or what?
I was too drunk so I didn’t really care. I was more like, “Get the fuck-” You know where I was? I was hiding in the trunk.
Not hiding in the trunk, when they pop the thing open you’ll notice I was sitting in the trunk that whole ride.
That was cool you guys showed that. And you’re dropping Lace Up, your debut album, at the beginning of 2012-
I wouldn’t say the beginning. I’d say the end of first quarter. We need time to push a single.
How will the album differ from the mixtapes?
Because it sounds like it belongs in a fucking coliseum. And there’s features on it, which is very rare for me. I never get features.
Who’s going to be on it?
I can’t tell you, man, because I’d spoil the excitement. But it’s not normal features at all. None of the features are like normal features.
You said it’s going to be timeless. What did you do differently in the process to really ensure the music lasts?
I didn’t speak on any subjects that can limit that. I didn’t speak on any subjects- there’s no cars, money, clothes, hoes. I think it’s been the same with all my mixtapes really. I think all my mixtapes- I mean, Rage Pack is kind of for the now, but Lace Up mixtape and 100 Words and Running mixtape, where I spit over all industry tracks, are timeless raps. I think you could go back and play those records 15 years from now and be like, “Goddamn, that kid could rap his ass off.”
Longevity’s everything. And you’ve worked with some pretty crazy artists lately. You were in the studio with DMX and then you performed with Drake. DMX’s voice is crazy when you hear him just talking. You think he got made fun of as a kid with that voice?
Yeah, DMX is the realest person I’ve ever met in my life. He’s exactly what he says he is.
It must have been surreal.
Yeah, he actually came in when I was on top of a table rapping one of his songs, so it was like an awkwardly good moment.
And Drake brought you out to perform “Wild Boy” in Cleveland. What does someone like Drake mean to hip-hop? He shows so much love to everyone? He embraces all the younger artists.
It’s fucking cool. It’s tight. You know, I learned from that. I learn from him when he speaks how he does, when he acts how he does towards other artists. It definitely makes me mature as a young artist, it makes me be like, “Okay, maybe shunning people is not the route.” Not that I do that, per se, but I definitely do have a lot of competitiveness in my blood, where I’ll be like, “Shit, muthafucker, I want that number one spot.” But when you see Drake who has the number one spot so willingly give it all, it’s cool.
Was that planned when he brought you out, or was it a spontaneous, last-minute thing?
And was there a specific moment when you chose raging as your thing, like that was going to distinguish you from the pack, or is this inherent to you?
It was inherent for sure. Everyone was always like, “What in the fuck kind of Jesus juice do you sip?” I wasn’t on substances or anything. I was just always crazy.
But was there a moment when that clicked, and you were like, “Okay, this is my thing,” when you really became aware?
I think that’s a good question because it definitely came out more this year for sure. Let’s see… Probably when we started fucking up hotel rooms and fucking up green rooms and stopped really giving a shit about what people’s requirements were for us.
Is there a specific hotel room that comes to mind?
Vegas definitely because we put a hole in the fucking wall.
[laughs] How did that happen?
We were being idiots and my friend threw a wine bottle at the wall trying to break it and it went through it.
I think that speaks volumes about hotel construction.
Very good point.
So you have this performance that’s unique to you, but do you ever worry about the extreme amount of raging consuming you, or you getting lost amongst it?
Always, that’s like my biggest concern. It sucks because you set yourself on this pedestal of what people expect, and they expect it 24/7. They see you at a fucking grocery store and they expect you to be trashing the fucking grocery store aisle, and all I want to be like is, “Fuck off.” That’s why I got this shit tatted on my wrist. I got ‘Fuck off’ tatted on my wrist.
Are you doing anything to combat it?
I just tell everyone to fuck off, and just live my life.
You had one lyric which really stood out for me recently, “Colleges only come around here looking for Brett Favre.” The record industry seems like the perfect analogy for college these days because you can become educated on your own. Like Mac Miller sells 100,000 records and becomes number one. How do we break down the stigma attached to not attending college, for artists?
Fuck this industry, man. I can’t tell you anything about it. I’m not an industry muthafucker. I don’t pay attention to shit that goes on in the industry. I don’t give a fuck who sold 100,000 records. I don’t give a fuck if I sell 100,000 records. I don’t give a fuck who’s number one. All I want to do is change the world for my generation of kids, and I know that no artists who’s out, or is coming out, is going to do that except for me.
How do you want to change it?
Because no one speaks to the group of kids I speak to.
What are some of the messages you want them to absorb?
In order to not be corny, I’m not going to say them, because that would be corny. I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching. That’s not cool. These muthafuckers can take what they want from the music. There’s a lot of fake fans now coming around because of “Wild Boy,” and I fucking hate that song now, so whatever.
A lot of it’s the vibe of your music, that speaks to kids as well.
I read you learned Arabic before English. Is that true?
You think that has anything to do with-
-why you rap so fast?
Nope, nope, nope.
Makes no difference whatsoever?
Do you have memories of learning English afterwords?
Not a fucking bit.
[laughs] Anything else to say to the fans?
Yes, lace up. Come catch the show whenever I’m in your town.
Toronto, perfect. I was actually there before. I loved it there. I was at The Mod Club.