Machine Gun Kelly is more vulnerable than his "wild boy" persona lets on. The Cleveland, Ohio rapper, whose clamorous live sets and fanbase of "ragers" have branded him a contender for hip-hop's resident rocker, reveals a softer side on his Half Naked & Almost Famous EP, his first official release through Diddy's Bad Boy label and a companion piece to a 90-minute documentary.
On cuts like "See My Tears" and "EST 4 Life," Kelly points the pen inward, reflecting on his mainstream ascent and questioning what the future holds. The five-track set also includes two previously released tracks – the blistering "Wild Boys," featuring Waka Flocka Flame, and the Cassie-assisted "Warning Shot," where Kelly barks over bombastic soundscapes.
"I'm probably one of the wildest, most out-of-control people in the industry," says the 21-year-old, who was arrested for disorderly conduct in January after a gig in Florida. "I don't give a fuck about the masses; I'm not here for them. I'm here to make an impact on the kids who truly care. I'm not going to beg for attention and shit."
MGK is at his most raucous in the documentary, which was shot during last year's Warped Tour and features footage of him coughing up blood from a throat infection ("We fuckin' bleed this shit," he boasts) and tripping on mushrooms ("I'm definitely a boomer").
"I was a huge punker growing up," says Kelly, whose real name is Richard Baker. "On my body, shit, if you want to talk about rock stars, I've got Tommy Lee's Mayhem (logo) tattooed on my wrist. I got fuckin' Chili Peppers on my elbow. I got scars all over my fuckin' hands from fighting and just dumb shit. Hip-hop influences my talent, but I think that punk and everything else I listened to growing up was who my idols were. That's why drugs also got involved in my life. I idolized the wrong people, like Nikki Sixx and Kurt Cobain."
Kelly's rise has caught the attention of Tech N9ne, who invited the rapper to join his Hostile Takeover; the trek will hit 90 cities in 99 days and kick off on March 24th in in Kansas City. The rapper's history of road rage preceded him, resulting in an imposed list of guidelines for him to follow over the three-month run. "No afterparties, no clubs, no smoking...We have a very bad road reputation," Kelly says. "Rules are meant to be broken."
Kelly, who is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, also plans to showcase his more extreme and subdued sides on his upcoming summer debut LP, Lace Up. Recorded before he signed with Bad Boy last August, it features a collaboration with Tech N9ne – but the rapper remains tightlipped about the rest. When asked why "Warning Shot," which originally featured Livvi Franc on its hook, now features Cassie, his tongue turns cold. But he assures that he maintained creative control over the project.
"Lace Up is going to be recognized by the Grammys. It's going to be one of those things that goes down in history as one of the best albums, period. It's kind of like Adele's 21. It was this perfect time in a person's life, and she made a soundtrack for it. Lace Up is the same way," says Kelly. "When it's time for you to know who I am, it'll be the right time. I'm not going to convince you to know who I am. I don't care."
- Machine Gun Kelly