Hip-Hop

Machine Gun Kelly Talks Sundance Film Debut 'The Land'

Machine Gun Kelly
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Machine Gun Kelly attends the AOL BUILD Speaker Series: Machine Gun Kelly at AOL Studios In New York on May 26, 2015 in New York City.

There's a running theme in Machine Gun Kelly's life: working while injured. Before his phone interview with Billboard, he complains of pain after a full day of press at Sundance Film Festival in Utah to promote his latest gig The Land -- the Steven Caple Jr.-directed film that follows four teenagers with dreams of becoming professional skateboarders but fall into drug dealing as a way to sponsor their dreams. 

The Cleveland rapper says he has an IV plugged into his arm, the result of a serious shoulder injury that happened a week prior. "I have to hook that shit up wherever I'm at even if I'm traveling so I'm in the middle of wondering if I should rip this shit out because my vein is hurting real bad," said Kelly, who also shared a photo on Instagram of his IV treatment. 

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As he recalls filming for the Cleveland-based drama, MGK (real name Richard Colson Baker) mentions that he had a leg injury and hobbled around on-set. "The day I was there to film, I ironically had had another injury and couldn’t really walk on my right leg so there was a scene where I had chased the boys out of the corner store ‘cause they were trashin’ me and I had to hobble out and it everyone on set laughing," he explains.

Aside from touring in support of his 2015 No. 1 studio effort General Admission, the Shaker Heights rep has been racking up an impressive on-screen resume. The Beyond The Lights star recently put in work for his hometown in The Land, a tale that resonates with his personal come-up beyond music. Here, the hometown hero discusses the flick's humble beginnings and its most important lesson.

Billboard: What pulled you into the script?

Machine Gun Kelly: I had met [director] Steven Caple Jr. with my daughter at a coffee shop downtown two years ago and this is back when The Land was a thought in his head. He was basically like, ‘I want to make a movie about Cleveland.' With anything that happens in Cleveland, I always get involved. I’ve been a big part of the culture for the past five years there so he wanted to make a movie about some young cats like myself. Watching it go from his mind to the script to another version of the script, seeing certain actors and actresses sign on and it becoming reality was insane. It represented the city well.

Courtesy Photo

The film follows Cisco and his crew of friends. Did any of the characters remind you of yourself? 

Well, actually the role of Patty Cake -- his nickname is PC in the movie -- was originally for me. I actually think it was better [actor] Rafi got it because his look was a great look for that character. I thought it brought that comic relief to the film. My tour is the reason why filming as PC didn't work out but Steven still wanted me to be a part of the film so he wrote that part of Slick in so we had fun. 

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In the film, the teens resort to drug dealing to pursue their passion for skateboarding. Did you ever make a choice that seemed right at the time to achieve a bigger end goal?

Oh, definitely. I think moreso when I was actually having my daughter and got fired and was quitting from a couple of jobs I had. Stealing pampers was a reality. Doing what you had to do to get some money for formula was a reality. Asking friends for favors, etcetera. A lot of poor choices were made when it was drastic measures that needed to be taken. Again, it makes you better for it because Steven wouldn’t have been able to write that movie if he wasn’t in those same shoes as those characters were in.

What do you think is the film's most valuable lesson?

Because I was involved from the beginning and now I’m here at Sundance, seeing all this excitement about this film that I literally watched come from Steven’s brain and being able to sit next to Erykah Badu and Nas -- what I take from it isn't just in the movie but the whole thing. You can make something out of nothing. I proved that with my career, making it out of the city that I’m from. Steven did the same thing and he’s doing it on a whole different spectrum. I just keep getting inspired to believe that dreams come true and anything can happen ‘cause I’ve watched so many impossible things happen. I was never supposed to get a record deal -- that’s one in a million. This guy was at a coffee shop telling me he was gonna make a movie about Cleveland and saying he was gonna get this person and this person to act in it. You’re sitting there and half of your brain is going, ‘Is this dude crazy?’ Then the other half is [saying], ‘Maybe he’s crazy enough to make it happen and actually do it.'

Sundance 2016