Machine Gun Kelly is one of those artists who are foremost a sensation in their own country. In France, his name only comes up in the news as the new fiancé of bimbo actress Megan Fox. The two celebs are often talked about for their rock’n roll antics, reminiscent of Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton’s in the 2000s, and the wild romance between Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. They once walked the red carpet chained by their fingernails and celebrated their engagement on 11th January by drinking each other's blood. But MGK, or Colson Baker (his real name), 31, is no newcomer to the game.
The Cleveland, Ohio based singer and musician (drums, guitar, synth) is known for his rapid-fire lyrical flow that rocks energetic mixtapes and proficient LPs that switch from rap to rock. Influenced by the likes of Ludacris, Eminem and DMX, MGK began rapping at 14 before heading to New York's Apollo Theater to showcase his vocal talent and vent his anger. He became the first white rapper to win a battle in the legendary venue before wowing with other freestyles, notably on MTV. Endorsed by P. Diddy, he has collaborated with Wiz Khalifa, Cassie, Yungblud, Trippie Red or even his idol, the late DMX. In 2018, he even created a buzz by writing a track in response to Eminem’s insults.
Also an actor, Machine Gun Kelly has appeared in about 15 films, including Bird Box (2018) and The Dirt (2019) in which he plays Tommy Lee. But his fame comes mainly from the character he has created off screen and on stage. The father of a teenage daughter he had at an early age, he was addicted to heroin, something he showcased in his music, and ended up homeless in 2010. He also attempted suicide and underwent therapy. Painting his tongue black or wearing a leather jacket isn’t simply putting on an act for MGK. His pop-punk aesthetic reflects a checkered journey (he worked for a Chipotle shop while starting to rap) and a personality that is as free as it is rebellious.
Smoking cannabis during interviews and dating a porn actress (Rachel Starr), Machine Gun Kelly seems free of boundaries and exudes the aura of an authentic bad boy who grows more appealing by the minute. Like Travis Barker, who won over Kourtney Kardashian and with whom MGK has collaborated, and Pete Davidson, the actor and Kim Kardashian's latest boyfriend, he has a crafted a look that combines tattoos, nail polish and tattered rock outfits, reminiscent of the 2000s emo style. A musical movement glorifying extreme emotions that also recently influenced Willow Smith and Oliva Rodrigo.
His toned-down punk ebullience –gothic, fun and not especially dangerous– which mixes safety pins with cathartic or political lyrics, is gradually establishing itself as a serious competitor to rap, which up to now had remained unchallenged. The rise of Machine Gun Kelly is a perfect example of the growing popularity of this trendy imagery. The fashion and beauty worlds are now snapping up the lanky, bleached young man. As a model and singer, he rocked the Dolce & Gabbana show in Milan on 15th January. And in December 2021, he caused quite a stir with the launch of his brand, UN/DN LQR, which offers fashionable genderless nail polish.
The principle he goes by? To worship the God of love with his creations in their ultra-designed packaging. "Many of the men in mythology were warriors, soldiers or gods who had used their strength, and then there was Cupid, who was poetic and beautiful" he told Allure magazine. Despite his belligerent alias and dark looks, Machine Gun Kelly, who collects works of art –he recently ordered a $20,000 book signed by Picasso from a Greek bookstore– only aspires to love and the sublime. A philosophy that suits our world disrupted by the pandemic, which is just waiting to be appeased by youths with a more vibrant and much less toxic masculinity than in the past.