Black Apple jacket; Levi's jeans; Converse sneakers.
Whoever woulda thought that a little mothafucka from the Land
woulda came up and made them stacks?
It never was warm in my city so I had to get on the record
and come blaze these tracks.
—“Chip Off the Block”
Machine Gun Kelly is straight out of Cleveland, the town that fostered the music of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Kid Cudi. But he’s more similar to Eminem, who hails from the other side of Lake Erie. That’s not a lazy description based on race. Marshall Mathers and Richard Colson Baker (MGK’s real name) both grew up in rough Midwestern neighborhoods where they were outsiders, they both have issues with confidence and drugs, and they both express themselves honestly, breathlessly, and with staggering turns of phrase. With candor and a talent for (underdog) storytelling, Eminem gave himself a Hollywood ending; now, a more dynamic Midwestern dark horse is trying to do the same.
Every day I wake up to the same shit, in the same house,
with the same bricks, and the same clothes, with the same kicks.
I might as well be in jail, caged in, staring at the wall, waiting for a change
but dad tellin me I got to get a job,
couldn’t pay the bills so the light’s turned off,
them Cleveland boys got it hard.
MGK won Amateur Night at the Apollo; he was voted MTV’s Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2011; his song “Invincible” serves as the score for a commercial featuring HTC’s Rezound, the first phone with Beats Audio; and he just signed with Diddy’s Bad Boy Records. “But Puff didn’t give me any handouts,” the rapper says. “I have to earn.” Monetarily he hasn’t hit it big yet, but he’s hoping that will change when his first studio album, Lace Up, drops this summer. “My aunt raised me. She still works at Target and can’t wait for my album to come out—” he pauses, “so she can sell it.” He’s going to pay her back for the love and care she gave him, but the blue-collar mentality won’t let her quit her day job just yet.
Who gon stop me?
Who gon stop me?
Underdog of the year call me Rocky.
Underdog of the year call me Rocky?
Don’t act like you ain’t copy.
“He’s a crazy inspiration,” Ryan Yex, a teen with cerebral palsy, told Cleveland’s Fox 8 about MGK. “I know where he’s coming from, what he’s been through. I know that you can come from nothing and follow your dreams.” When Yex met MGK at a Blink-182 concert last summer he promised the rapper that he would walk for the first time at one of his concerts. In December of last year, MGK welcomed Yex up on stage, where he made good on his promise. “I had so much adrenaline going through my body that I was just ready to walk,” said Yex of the night.
I close my eyes, woke up and I saw my dream.
Yeah and they told me all the glitters ain’t gold
but I really wanna shine right now.
Some of MGK’s music is thoughtful and contemplative and some of it is pure adrenaline, like the rhythmic “Wild Boy,” which wouldn’t be out of place echoing through an Ohio high school locker room before game time.
There he go, that’s John Doe.