Exclusive: Machine Gun Kelly Talks Surprise New Mixtape 'F-- It,' Frustration With Label
On late Thursday (July 23), Cleveland hip-hop artist Machine Gun Kelly unexpectedly released the new 10-song mixtape, F--- It, while on tour. It perhaps serves as a preview of his still-forthcoming second album, General Admission, which has already seen the release of singles "Till I Die" and "A Little More," the rapper's duet with Victoria Monet.
It's been almost three years since MGK's debut album, Lace Up, and two years since his last mixtape, Black Flag. Even with two singles out, Bad Boy/Interscope hasn't set a firm date for General Admission's release. The previously prolific MGK has been frustrated with the delays and his label's desire for a bigger radio single.
"I started the tour and I realized this is probably the third or fourth time we've been on the road playing the same songs, because that's how long it's been since I put out music. And I was like you know what, 'f--- that,'" MGK told Billboard from Cincinnati, the latest stop in his 10-week tour that began in early July.
In the opening line from the mixtape's opening track "Almost," MGK sings that "hesitation don't get none." The 25-year-old rapper knows how quickly the pop culture's sands shift and is anxious not to get left in the dust.
"The last thing I want to do is be complacent. That's why I was like, you know what, if they're not going to put this album out, I'm going to put out my own album," he said. "If a release date is not going to come, I mean f--- it. I'll take the shit into my own hands. I've been doing it for years already so f--- it and that's what it's about."
Kelly initially said the album took a week to come together before correcting himself a little later, trimming the time to three days. He found a studio during their recent tour stop in Milwaukee and did some of the work there. He was still working on it Wednesday before attending the Alternative Press Music Awards in Cleveland that night.
The cover features one of those little mountable press lights, which they got at Target, spray painted it black and put the words "F--- It" on it. They took a picture of it on a red table and viola -- one album cover. But MGK quickly corrects the misperception that these tracks are in any manner throwaways or leftovers.
"A lot of people feel these are songs that got left off the album. But theses were all songs that I recorded not knowing it was going to be specifically for this project," he says, suggesting he's got 20 more in his head.
For him, nothing about F--- It is filler.
"Every song on there could be on a f---ing album," he says. "The thing is, man I'm just in a position, in a place right now, where I'm making music that is satisfying my soul and my ears. I feel like every song I'm putting out now is album quality, because I accept no less. I don't want to be like a lot of these people right now putting out 30 millions songs of bullshit until one catches."
It certainly sounds like a Machine Gun Kelly album in its widescreen take on hip-hop. It's got everything from electro-tinged weed ode ("Thoed Ass") to bloozy rocker ("Rolling Stone"), jazzy conscious-rap ("The Register"), strip club booty tune ("Biggie") and a fist-raising, slow-rapped, Rocky Balboa-biting anthem ("Conversations").
"Almost" is as sharp as anything MGK's done. He works off a trebly little soul-jazz riff, meditating on his career and the chase for success.
He wonders how to balance chilling ("go to the basement put Vice City in the Playstation, get away from the stress, keep J's rotated") and his rising ambitions ("driving 12 hours to the perform in the cold, getting to the door and being told no, bitch, I want all that back times 10"), while giving haters the back of his hand ("This is all my shit, don't worry about where I'm at or who I'm with, commenting on the words that come from my lips").
At its core "Almost" is about how immaterial fame is and how quickly it can pass through one's grasp. Rather than conclude the song sort of peters out without finishing.
"It's part a play on being almost famous," MGK says. "Almost everything. We almost made it. We're almost superstars. We're almost selling every show out. It's so close. We're on this cusp and we're trying to break the cusp. The cusp sucks, but plenty of shit happens while I'm down on the cusp."
For this self-described loner, stoner, outcast, F--- It is about reclaiming his purpose and seizing the moment.
"Every night we put on shows that are deteriorating our bodies' life span... we don't do it for it all to be in vain," he says. "I forgot we had the power. They don't have the power, and you know exactly who I'm talking about when I say that."