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Artist to Watch: Machine Gun Kelly

Posted by Lindsay Carolla on 12/06 at 12:31 PM

Machine Gun Kelly is a tall tattooed white kid with a bad attitude that reps Cleveland, Ohio. He’s is only 21 years old, and has already had public disputes with fellow emcees Yelawolf and Kid Cudi, called out Lebron James for being a weak athlete, and been arrested for disorderly conduct after he single handedly organized a flash mob in a suburban mall via Twitter. Machine Gun Kelly is loud, obnoxious, and he really doesn’t care about anything but music and enjoying himself - or what he calls “raging.” But, despite, or perhaps in spite, of his abrasive demeanor, this kid can rap. Not only can he flow faster than Twista, but Machine Gun Kelly can rhyme about pretty much anything. Together his talent and rebellious nature produce the perfect recipe for the next big thing.

Born Richard Colson Baker, Machine Gun Kelly was given his stage name partially after the late Machine Gun Kelly, a notoriously elusive gangster during the prohibition era – quite fitting. The nickname also refers to the rapid fire of a machine gun that helps to describe the incredibly quick manner in which he presents his material.

In fact, MGK and/or Kells as he is also called got his start winning back-to-back amateur nights at New York City’s Apollo Theater. With limited monetary resources and an undeniable affinity for rhyme, he entered as a means to end. Little did he know it would lead to something larger. His first attempt secured him as champion when he debuted a crude version of “Chip Off The Block,” a song that later made him an instant underground favorite. His win made history as the first ever rap victory at the Apollo, a stage where greats like Billie Holiday, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and the Jackson 5 launched their careers. It may be a stretch, but there is a good chance this record-breaking artist might one day be listed among the immortals.

Sean “Diddy” Combs must share my prophecy for this rookie from the Midwest. The mogul signed Machine Gun Kelly to Interscope and Bad Boy Records on August 3, 2011 after watching him perform in an SXSW show in Austin, Texas. The young rapper received numerous offers, but decided to go with a seasoned veteran of the game who is credited for discovering the Notorious B.I.G. (back when he was known as “Puff Daddy”). Not a bad choice. Machine Gun Kelly may be volatile, but there is no denying his intelligence.

Though MGK or Kells as he is also called has yet to release a bona fide album, he has release multiple mixtapes. The two that brought him most underground attention were 100 Words and Running and Lace Up both released in 2010.  Lace Up is definitely worth a download and a blown speaker in your car. Though the entire album is great, a few songs stand out. First a track dedicated to his city appropriately titled “Cleveland.” The song has secured itself as an anthem for the city and plays at Cavaliers home games.

A full version of “Chip Off The Block” with its impossible-to-ignore bass behind Kells rapid and venomous cry for respect appears on the mixtape in a completely unthrottled form. In this properly recorded version, listeners get to experience an overly excited hype man shouting MGK’s praises in the background. It’s just one more addition that helps to pump more adrenaline into fans’ veins in order to begin the hip-hop anarchy Machine Gun Kelly implicitly urges.

Lace Up also features other notable songs such as “End Of The Road” with guest vocals from Mat Musto. “End Of The Road” shows a bit of a softer side of MGK. The rapper reminisces about his naïve days before receiving the respect and attention his talent deserves. Another track, “Alice in Wonderland,” as the literary allusion suggests, describes effects of illegal drug use. Though its subject matter is typical, the screwed up vocals, clean production, and lyrics only Machine Gun Kelly could deliver make the song valuable. Last but not least, my personal favorite joint is “Stereo” with Fitts of the Kickdrums on the chorus. This song specifically showcases the unprecedented variation and rhyme skill of Machine Gun Kelly. The artist poses as the voice of a stereo in love with his female owner. Kells stays in character for the entire four-minute song to tell the story of his dedication. Sure it helps that the beat and hook are catchy, but truly MGK demonstrates his deft ability to succeed with any subject.

Since being signed, MGK has also released the mixtape Rage Pack. Like the title suggests, Rage Pack includes Machine Gun Kelly is his most riotous form. Wacka Flocka Flame as part of the “pack” appears on the track “Wild Boy.” Unsurprisingly, the song and corresponding video allows the two troublemakers to exemplify a proper “Wild Boy,” bottle smashing, drug usage, and middle fingers all included. And fans, hip-hop enthusiasts, and general nonconformists alike are eating it up. Many believe it to be the single off the forthcoming official album. Mike Posner lends his smoky vocals and cool harmonies to proclaim he belongs in the “pack” as well. MGK and Posner team up for “On Fire (Drug Dealer Girl Part II) which like the title admits is a follow-up to Posner’s fan favorite “Drug Dealer Girl” from his 2009 mixtape “A Matter of Time.”

One thing is for sure: Machine Gun Kelly won’t be quick to fade into the shadows. Diddy gave him an inch and MGK intends to see through to the mile while speeding, running red lights, and smashing the figurative car into a figurative lamppost. But, unlike gimmick rappers trying to get rich quickly, Machine Gun Kelly has the artful technique and explosive flair to convert his popularity into something legendary.

The now-signed rapper is currently working on his freshman album Lace Up (same name as the mixtape) set to release early 2012 under his new label.  All of Machine Gun Kelly’s mixtapes to date can be downloaded for free at Datpiff.com.

{name} Author: Lindsay Carolla
Bio: Lindsay Carolla is a senior studying English, and Italian language and literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She is an on-air personality for the Lion 90.7fm on the Jam 91 Show. She finds pleasure in traveling, attending concerts, and literary symbolism. Lindsay has an eclectic taste in music which ranges from her favorite rap artist, Notorious B.I.G., to her favorite indie darling, Modest Mouse. But what she enjoys most is when two unlikely musical genres successfully combine to create a new aesthetic, such as can be found in the band Brokencyde.

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