They shoulda never let me into the buildin’
with a stereo, a pen, and a pad, I do damage.
Can’t nobody ever do it like I do
since a youngin I’ve been goin’ hard,
I’m the baddest.
Everybody from around the way that I knew in the past calls me my city’s savior,
but the people in the class wanna put me in the hall cause of my bad behavior.
—“Chip Off the Block”
Rebellious, not malicious—that’s MGK’s path. He’s weaning himself off drugs, but he and his crew drink enough to flood the Cuyahoga. He got his first tattoo young, but in honor of his elders. “When I was little, my dad said, ‘Son, you have a choice on your 16th birthday—to either get a car or a tattoo,’” Kelly says. “I knew he was testing me, so I said tattoo to piss him off.” He didn’t even wait until his birthday for the ink; when he was 14, his grandmother died on Valentine’s Day and he headed to the tattoo shop. “I told them I wanted it on my forearm,” he remembers. “They said that if they put it on my forearm it would be tough for me to get a job. I told them I would be a famous rapper someday, so I won’t need a job.”
Show me a rapper that you think is iller than me,
I bet I pull they fuckin’ tongue out.
Now-a-days everybody be thinking they ballin,
I came along and home-runned all these players from the dugout.
Lyrical postulating aside, humble and modest are good descriptions for Kelly, who refuses to wear anything that his fans can’t afford. “I was doing photo shoots with all these crazy clothes on and I wasn’t myself,” he says. “I was the kid that couldn’t afford anything but the Salvation Army and Chucks. I’m not better than any of my fans—they all are probably really talented at something that I don’t know about. I just happen to be good at rapping.” He also abstains from wearing sunglasses because he wants to always be able to connect with people face to face. “I’ve gotten so many endorsement offers from sunglass companies, but I would never do that shit, money doesn’t mean shit to me.”
Got these crazy white boys yellin’ Cobain’s back.
I call my weed Nirvana, smells like teen spirit.
And my pack’s so fuckin’ loud you can’t hear it. —“Wild Boy”
Like the disciples of the early grunge scene, MGK fans are a group of people who have gravitated to a new message. Uniting under his battle cry, “Lace up!” (in a nutshell, life can suck, but stop feeling sorry for yourself and take ownership of your own destiny), they’re strong people who overcome adversity and don’t pay mind to haters. And as his first major release reaches an international audience, a whole new group will answer the call to “lace up,” tighten their own Converse All-Stars, and walk with Machine Gun Kelly.
Man I come from holes in the wall,
but they don’t know the past.
Even if I told them it all
they wouldn’t know the half.
So maybe I fill up my luggage
with all these dreams,
and pull on my black coat and my black Chucks and nothing in my jeans.
It’s just one, til the day come
like Rocky’s movie scene.