MGK & Camila Cabello Talk 'Bad Things': Exclusive

Mike Pont/WireImage; Allen Berezovsky/WireImage
Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello.

'There's something about America's sweetheart and America's bad boy,' MGK says.

Every generation gets the bad boy/good girl story they deserve -- at least, according to Cleveland rapper Machine Gun Kelly. "There's something about America's sweetheart and America's bad boy," MGK tells Billboard about "Bad Things," his climbing hit with Fifth Harmony's Camila Cabello. "That juxtaposition is what everyone desires. Prior to this it was 'Bonnie and Clyde' from Jay and Beyoncé, going back further you have Romeo and Juliet." 

That description pretty much sums up the ear-wormy "Bad Things," the instantly catchy collabo that debuts at No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated Nov. 5 -- on sales of 26,000 during the week ending Oct. 20, according to Nielsen Music. "The first time I heard the song, I felt an instant connection to it," Cabello tells Billboard, describing how the "haunting" intro goes right into her angelic vocal. "To me it's sexy, but I didn't really think about it as being edgy and a step further, because it represents feelings about love that I related to."

Though MGK's verses definitely take things into edgy territory with their talk of "scars on my body," Cabello says for her the song is about, yes, "a good girl who is in love with a bad boy and just can't deny her feelings.

"You feel them both in the vocals and it's just a beautiful juxtaposition," she says. "I think everybody can relate to loving somebody and them bringing out a wild side in you." 

Cabello was not familiar with the 1999 Fastball hit "Out of My Head" that makes up the backbone of the chorus, but rock lover MGK says when he started working with the song's producers, The Futuristics, he was psyched to hear their interpolation of the alt-rock hit. "We went through and we started to add more, 'Let's put two guitars on it, let's add some strings,'" he explains. "And when we were listening I thought, 'Man, everything else on my album and everything I've been doing lately has a very authentic feel... so I wanted to put that realness to it."

He found the voice he was looking for to add that authenticity after he heard Cabello, who blew him away when he watched a YouTube clip of her singing with just some guitar accompaniment. "She was belting the notes out, not using AutoTune, and it was just beautiful," he recalls. The collabo was long-distance and involved a lot of phone calls, but after they recorded it, MGK went to see Fifth Harmony perform and was even more amazed: "It boosted my enthusiasm for my record because I was like, 'Oh my god, she doesn't stop! She's a full-on star!"

While recording the track, MGK says the pair would constantly FaceTime to discuss the direction, with Cabello doing nearly 100 takes to get it just right. He was so focused on making it feel real that though he'd written and recorded his verses earlier, he went back and did them again, while rapping to a photo of Cabello as if delivering the lines to her in person (but not at all in a creepy way, he promises). "Bad Things" isn't the first song MGK has sung on -- check his single "Spotlight" from earlier this year -- which is why Cabello said she wasn't surprised by his solid crooning on the song's pre-chorus. 

"I think he sounds amazing!" she says of the MC, whose live show features almost as much singing and rock elements as rapping. "It's one of my favorite parts of the song, and he kills it. He's a really versatile vocalist and artist."

MGK is confident "Bad Things" is the song that will help him go supernova, and teases that it's just one aspect of a much larger picture he's painting on the in-process follow-up to last year's General Admission. "I'm a storyteller," he says. "I gotta write movies and books every day. I'm finishing up this album now, and 'Bad Things' plays a part in the story of it."