Beneath the sweated-out bandana and the cut-up, stretched beater lies the mind and heart of a kid with a lot to say. That kid is Machine Gun Kelly. He shouldn’t be rapping. He shouldn’t be putting out an album. Fuck, he will probably tell you he shouldn’t be alive. But he is, and he’s probably more alive than every before. His freshmen effort, Lace Up, hit stores today. We got the Cleveland rapper on the phone recently, and he shared some great stories that range from Tech N9ne almost kicking him off tour to one of his guerilla fans buying 25,000 MGK stickers and shipping them off to other MGK fans around the world. If that doesn’t command your attention yet, just lace up some chucks and listen to what else he has to say.
Sonically, where is this album going?
MGK: I basically feel the beauty of this project is that I didn’t change sonically who I was from the mixtapes. The music remains consistent from the mixtapes to the album, which is a mistake I think a lot of artists make. Their album will come out– I’m speaking on artists like myself, like lot of guys who came up from XXL freshman covers, like those guys– when we get a chance to do a album we always switch it up when it comes album time and do something totally different than what the fans are paying for. I chose to not do that. I kept the sound pretty consistent with all mixtapes that you heard from me. The only difference I would say sonically is that it was mixed and mastered on a major label budget. The quality is a lot better.
You’re trying to keep the same sound, so it that the reason behind keeping some of the songs on Lace Up the mixtape on the album?
MGK: I only kept two songs from the mixtape and put them on the album. The two that were mixtape songs were “Stereo” and “End Of The Road” and they were intended to be album songs. Honestly, we shot a video for “Stereo” last year and I thought it was so sick we needed an excuse to put it out and I was like, “Fuck it.” I think it tells a great story. If you listen to “Stereo” despite how commercially friendly it sounds, the story on it, hip-hop wise, is fucking nuts. I think “End Of The Road” is a culmination of this whole movement and who I am as a person. I had put that on there and let the hundreds of thousands and hopefully millions of people let them hear what I came from, what my story is because that’s a beautiful song. One thing I want to announce, what I have is between recording mixtape material and album material, so like the beauty of this is there are songs that I wrote before I got a deal and there’s songs I wrote after I got the deal and I guarentee you won’t be able to tell which ones I wrote before and after. Obviously, it’s a blend of all the shit.
How involved was Diddy on this project?
MGK: Puff more just mentored me on who I was as a person than mentoring me musically. You know, I think me and him come from different situations, like where we are right now. When he first heard the entire album he called after a vacation in Ibiza. He’s in a different time period that I am. The time period I’m in right now is a very hungry, blue collar, work-for-everything, underdog type feel and there’s some anger in there. I come from a rough neighborhood, a rough city you could say, and I put a lot of emphasis on what the fuck is really going on where I’m at. A lot people wanted an album that all sounded like “Wild Boy,” but I couldn’t do that shit. I had to stay true to my heart. I had to stay true to what the original sound was like.
What’s your favorite song on the album?
MGK: It switches daily. Today it’s probably “Fuck The World” with Tech N9ne and myself. It flows off the tongue. It is really like in your face, but it’s also very smooth.
The cover is a testament to the movement with the Lace Up tattoos. What are some of your favorite lace up movements? Most of us has seen the video of the young man walking for the first time at your show.
MGK: That was obviously the top one. We have this really tight knit close group of fans. One of them ordered like 25,000 stickers and shipped them to the head fans of each region across the world. That was so trippy. That was crazy. This guy I met, who had a wife and kids, I ended up becoming friends with got my face tattooed on his leg right next to the lead singer of Rage Against The Machine. That some powerful shit. That shows how deep the message is. Sometimes this thing can be their escape from reality.
You’re going on tour with Ross. How did that get hooked up?
MGK: I was about to go to sleep and then my manager came and woke me up. I was in New York doing a whole day of press. Every time I’m in the city that’s all I do, so I kind of just smoked myself into a coma then they woke me up to go to the Meek Mill concert. I ended up going and saw Meek was like like “Why don’t we do ‘Wild Boy’ tonight?” The crowd went fucking ape shit. It was one of those moments where I wasn’t sure if they were going to give a fuck or if they were going to go ham, and they lost their fucking minds. Rick Ross was there. We got the call the next day from Ross asking us. He was like, “ We got to have that energy.” And I was like, “Fuck yeah.”
You also spent a lot of time with Tech this summer. You guys have a lot in common with your cult fans. What did you learn from Tech?
MGK: I learned how to be a better person. They gave me three strikes on that tour. I ended up getting about five strikes. It came to this really dark moment in my life and he was like- it was my fifth time fucking up and this time it was like with his crew on some fighting shit- we talked, he has tired of talking because every time I fucked up I would try to apologize. I think he just saw something special enough to be like fuck it. He let me finish the tour out. If I would have gotten kicked off that tour, none of the other tours would have happened and I would have been in a whole other place. I just learned how to be an OG with that shit. [Tech] was a OG with that shit. I guess if you see something in somebody you just gotta put shit behind you.
How difficult it is to be disciplined on tour?
MGK: It was difficult for me, but also, my boys were ready to quit. If we got kicked off that tour, my whole career was going to be fucked. That was the last straw with a string of wild shit that I’ve done. Everybody was just sick of it. Most people have an image of me as a rapper, but, like, I ended living what my image was. It was too much for people. People were like, “Woah. Woah. You’re fucking bugging out.”
Going with the rager persona, what are five rules for being an official rager?
MGK: Fives rules to being an official rager…
1.You have to have to have some type of negative energy to turn into positive energy. You can’t be some silverspoon as mafucka’. You got to 2.have some type of negative shit going on in your life.
3.You can’t give one fuck.
4.Sex over everything.
In a recent interview you said color has really held you back from people hearing your bars. Obviously you’re not the first white guy to rap exceptional well, so how do you think you can get people past that?
MGK: I just gotta stay on the path I’m going, dude. I’m taking the path less traveled and I just got to keep on doing the same shit. I’m not going to change up for nobody. Fuck ‘em.
You’ve had some pretty dope hip-hop moments so far though like the Rucker performance.
MGK: That’s my point, dog. I’ve had some many more than a couple. I don’t know what the fuck you guys aren’t seeing. If anything I say go watch the Rucker Park freestyle. If anything, what mafucka goes over to Rucker Park and stands on top of that hoop and has no drama and get all love like that. That shit will go down in history mafucka. Anybody you can find, direct them to that video.
Another thing you said that holds the rap folks back from hearing you is the way you dress. We dig it. Who/what has inspired this punk rock look?
MGK: It really comes from me in like 6th grade. I was a huge punker in middle school. When I was a kid I used to idolize Sid Vicious. Obviously, he was a racist bastard, but something about him was really attractive as an idol. Nikki Sixx, Kurt Cobain with his simplicity and grunge. I think Pharrell and Nas are great dressers.
Last question. One word. Say whatever comes to mind. Cleveland.
MGK: Best city in the world. October 9th. Lace the fuck up.
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