Freshman Haze: Machine Gun Kelly Talks Label Bidding War, 'Laced Up' Album & More
The slim, tattooed artist, Machine Gun Kelly, who has rhymed since 14 yrs. old, has recently caught the eyes and ears of many with his raw talent and grassroots following, "Lace Up." His "ragers" - the term MGK uses for his fans - have followed the artist from city to city, performance to performance (SXSW, Bamboozle), leaving his name at the tip of many peoples' tongues. After Diddy showed him respect at SXSW, this year, rumors of a bidding war for the Cleveland raised intensified. Is Machine Gun Kelly hip-hop's most wanted maverick?
In The Juice's new series, 'Freshman Haze,' we're spotlighting rising artists who deserve a double take and extra play time. Allow us to introduce you to our first artist of the series, Machine Gun Kelly.
Resume: Rapper, leader of the "Lace Up" movement and video editor.
Achievements: Won 'Amateur Night at the Apollo' in 2009.
Body of Work: Mixtapes: "Certified" (2006), "Stamp of Approval" (2006-2007), "Homecoming" (2009), "Lace Up" (2010) (Download), "Differenter Gang" with Travis Porter and FKi (2010) and "100 Words and Running" (2010) (Download).
A Few Words...
The Juice: Do you feel that as a new artist you need to do something out of the ordinary for people to notice you?
Machine Gun Kelly: I definitely do so. Every time I perform I always try to have that 'wow' factor. I think more like an entertainer rather than just a rapper. My overall goal is to never be listed as just a rapper. You know how Michael Jackson was listed as a great entertainer? That's what I want to be.
There's been talk of labels courting you...
We've had a major label bidding war for a long time now. I guess you could say the top labels [are] Universal, Jive, Interscope... that whole thing has been present for a while. I'm not talking to any A&R. I'm talking to the bosses. Every label I've met with they've brought out the bosses [to] the first meeting, the whole time, every time.
(According to a source at a label, Machine Gun Kelly has signed to Interscope Records. Interscope would not confirm the signing at press time.)
Do you fear your fans will feel indifferent when you sign?
The thing I stress to my fans is that I've been making big, universally friendly-type music for a long time now. I never really made underground music. It's just all a part of making those executive decisions, and playing it out.
There are a lot of people that [claim] this movement [isn't real]. I'm like, 'No, mother f*cker, we really had that core fan base. There's hundreds and hundreds of kids out there with "laced" tatted on them. I think our movement is just genuinely organic; it's so much realer than all this other bullshit out.
What are things you're considering when choosing which label to go with?
I don't want anyone touching my team, my management. These are people I've grown up with and have been raised with. I want them included in everything that I do. I don't want my engineers to change, I don't want my management to change, my tour manager, none of that shit to change. All of that stuff can kick rocks.
What's the next move for you?
I want to keep the whole "Lace Up" movement going. I want to take it national and international with a machine, a label. "Lace Up" changed my whole life when [it] came out. I found my lane with that [mixtape]. There are songs on there from my personal relationships with my father to heroin addiction to a lot of other issues that touch on things that a lot of kids just really need to hear.
I feel like a lot of people are pressuring me to re-create the actual "Lace Up" mixtape. But the "Lace Up" album will just be a continuation of what's going on in my life at present. Everything's going to be different when you make real music because you go through different phases in life.
Mike Posner and me just did a great, great song. I never made one of those Trey Songz' panty droppers, female friendly songs but I always wanted to. I always try to write songs, love songs, but they just never come out. I realized it's because I'm just not in love and I haven't experienced it yet. Mike Posner pulled this whole other side out of me. We collaborated on a love song that's not so ordinary.
You've been compared to other white rappers, but if you had to compare yourself to any rapper who would it be?
I think a fair sense of myself, if I could be compared to another artist, is DMX. That raw passion. The white rapper comparisons are forced. There comes a point when you have to describe someone for who they are. Not just because someone's white.
Diddy showed his respect after a SXSW show this year. How important are co-signs to you?
I think the right co-signs are dope. Joel Madden from Good Charlotte and me have been talking a lot. I think really cool co-signs that I wanted are coming out. DJ Drama co-signed. I really wish Young Jeezy would co-sign because here's one of my favorite rappers. I'm still a young kid so I'm still a fan. I'm still like 'Oh shit, that's Young Jeezy!'