By: Eli Duah-Mensah
Picture a rapper. Who is the first one who comes to mind? If you are more old school, you may think of Ice Cube, OutKast, Jay-Z, Snoop Dog, or Method Man. Or perhaps you are more of a modern person who prefers artists like Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, J. Cole, or Big Sean. But maybe you just don’t like rap at all; maybe you are a pop-punk fan. You like the Blink-182s, the Paramores, the Green Days, The All-American Rejects. Okay, do you have your picture now?
Did you think of Machine Gun Kelly?
Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. A lot of people enjoy Machine Gun Kelly’s music, and that’s fine; everyone has the right to listen to whatever music they please. However, while you can enjoy Machine Gun Kelly as an artist, it is hard to respect Machine Gun Kelly as a person. This is why rap and rock fans have a new common enemy: MGK.
History & Early Career
Richard Colson Baker, professionally known as Machine Gun Kelly, was born April 22nd, 1990. Born to missionary parents, Baker moved around frequently. Up until he was four, he and his family had lived in Egypt, before moving to Germany, and eventually the United States. Even still, Baker was constantly moving–from Chicago, to Denver, and to Cleveland. Baker stayed in Denver for middle school, and eventually moved to Cleveland for high school. Baker recalls frequent bullying and poverty, with his father struggling with his mental health and unemployment. For refuge, Baker turned to music as an outlet. Baker had gotten into rap in middle school, with his favorite rappers being DMX, Eminem, and Ludacris.
Baker began cultivating his rapping career in high school, when he began releasing mixtapes, MCing, and gaining exposure. As he was about to get kicked out by his father, he moved into the Apollo Theater. Shortly after, Baker became the father of Casie Colson Baker, born July 2009. Baker was slowly gaining clout in the music industry,being featured on MTVs Sucker Free Freestyle, creating a freestyle for his singles “Chip off the Block,” and releasing “Alice in Wonderland”. Shortly after creating his second mixtape 100 Words and Running,originally intended as a mix interlude, Lace Up became his debut album, with “Wild Boy” being the lead single. Along with “Wild Boy” peaking at ninety-eight on the Billboard Top 100, Baker was featured on XXL’s 2012 “Top 10 Freshmen List,” being featured alongside Iggy Azalea, French Montana, and Macklemore. His single “Invincible” became used on NFL’s Thursday Night Football shortly after. It was also in 2012 that Baker released his mixtape Black Flag, where Baker touches on his late father, and rediscovering his love for music. Four years later, Baker released “Bad Things” with Camila Cabello, peaking at fourth on the Billboard Top 100.
Eminem vs. MGK
This is where things start to go off the rails. In 2012, Machine Gun Kelly often stated that Eminem was one of his biggest influences, and he respected him highly. But this same year, the grudge began when Machine Gun Kelly made a tweet about Eminem’s daughter, Hailie Mathers. The tweet begins “[O]k so I just saw a picture of Eminem’s daughter, and I have to say, she is hot as [expletive].” Though the tweet ended with “in the most respectful way possible cuz Em is king,” the damage was already done. Even without a response from Eminem, MGK claims that throughout the years, some critics would not review his work due to his comment about Hailie. But many hip-hop blogs and music reviewers claim that around that time, nobody seemed to care. To them, there was no feud. To MGK, Eminem was cooking up something; we just hadn’t realized it yet.
In 2017, Eminem claimed that he did not know, let alone care about Machine Gun Kelly. In a 2018 interview with Sway Colloway, Eminem states, “Just for the record, the thing that was going on, that he said about my daughter, I didn’t even know about that until a year-and-a-half later.” Eminem claims there was no problem until Machine Gun Kelly began repeatedly mentioning Hailie and Eminem in interviews and promos. After Machine Gun Kelly got banned from Shade45 from the press runs, the beef between Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly had begun to settle in.
Indeed, it was Machine Gun Kelly who made the first move. In 2017, Machine Gun Kelly had gone on DX’s “Put It On Wax”, subtly dissing Eminem throughout the interview. Shortly after, he went on Power 106 for a freestyle, where he drops this line: “I’m my favorite rapper alive, since my favorite rapper banned me from Shade45.” In frustration, Machine Gun Kelly released on Tech N9NE’s “No Reason” in 2018, where he disses “Rap God,” in the second verse with “To remind y’all you just rap, you’re not gods, and I don’t care who got bars.” This was the straw that broke Eminem’s back. In 2018, Eminem dropped his tenth album Kamikaze, repeatedly firing back at people who dissed him over the years. On the song “Not Alike,” Eminem dishes out several lines against Machine Gun Kelly:
“Oh, so you run the streets, huh, now you wanna come and [expletive] with me, huh, this little [expletive]-sucker, he must be feelin’ himself, he wants to keep up his tough demeanor.
So, he does a feature, decided to team up with N9na, but next time you don’t gotta use Tech N9ne if you wanna come at me with a sub, Machine Gun
And I’m talking to you, but you already know who you are, Kelly. I don’t use sublims and sure as [expletive] don’t sneak diss.
But keep commenting on my daughter Hailie, I keep telling you [expletive] but just in case you forgot really and need Ja memories jarred like strawberry or pineapple, apricot jelly.
I respond rarely, but this time Shady ‘bout to sound off”
Shortly after, Machine Gun Kelly posted a song called “Rap Devil,” where he writes,
“Ayyy, somebody grab him some clippers. His [expletive] beard is weird. Tough talk from a rapper payin’ millions for security a year.
‘I think my dad’s gone crazy’, yeah Hailie, you right. Dad’s always mad cooped up in the studio, yellin’ at the mic.
You sober and bored, huh? About to be forty-six years old, dog. Talkin’ bout you ‘bout to call up Trick Trick’. Man, you sound like a [expletive, expletive]. Man up and handle your [expletive] (ugh.) Mad about somethin’ I said in 2012. Took you six years and a surprise album just to come with a diss.”
MGK tweeted after the song was released “I’m standing up for not just myself, but my generation.” He continues with, “I’m doing the same [expletive] you did back in your day. Life is still real on my side, and I had to take time from the grind to defend myself from someone I called an idol. Love, Rap Devil.” Though the response for “Rap Devil” appears different depending on who you ask, some people had begun to question Eminem’s character.
In the same interview with Sway Colloway, Eminem follows up with the reason why he responded, “The reason that I dissed him is because he got on—first he said, ‘I’m the greatest rapper alive since my favorite rapper banned me from Shade 45’ or whatever he said, right? Like I’m trying to hinder his career, I don’t give a [expletive] about your career. You think I actually [expletive] think about you? You know how many rappers are [expletive] better than you? You not [sic] even in the [expletive] situation.” A few months after, Eminem releases another diss track “Killshot”, with these lyrics:
“Here’s that autograph I wrote for your daughter, I wrote it on a Starter cap.
Stan, Stan, son, listen, man, dad isn’t mad. But how you name yourself after a damn gun and have a man bun?
The giant’s woke, eyes open, undeniable. Supplyin’ smoke, got the finest dope.
Say you got me in a scope, but you grazed me. I say one call to Interscope and you’re Swayze. Your reply got the crowd yelling, “Woo” So before you die, let’s see, who can out-petty who, with your corny lines (Slim you’re old.)
Ow, Kelly, ooh, but I’m 45 and I’m still outselling you. By 29, I had three albums that blew
‘Til I’m getting old-aged still can fill a whole page with a ten-year-old’s rage. Got more fans than you in your own city, lil’ kiddy. Go play, feel like I’m babysitting Lil Tay.
It’s your moment, this is it. As big as you’re gonna get, so enjoy it. Had to give you a career to destroy it”
By “Killshot”, the court of opinion had shifted towards Eminem, although many MGK fans claimed he won the battle. These fans cite their reasons for being the sound of the work, with Eminem fans firing back that the lyrical quality is more important. Apart from that, many people believe that Machine Gun Kelly’s pettiness is what led him to start and lose this fight, as touched on in “Killshot.” Those who sided with MGK were repeatedly ridiculed, and many regard this as the loss that caused Machine Gun Kelly to switch genres. Though, to be fair, MGK had always had at least a few rock elements in nearly all of his previous projects. Although his fan base, rooted primarily in hip-hop, did not exactly like his rock music, it would be unfair to say it came out of nowhere.
Eminem vs. Corey Taylor
With the Eminem beef growing cold, another pack was opened. Corey Taylor, founding member of Stone Sour, and frontman of Slipknot, has been in rock since 1993. With a hard rock and a heavy metal band respectively, the two bands are known for their contrasting moods, with both having a decent amount of fans. However, out of the two, Slipknot has the stronger audience, being largely acclaimed as one of the best metal bands out there.
In an interview on Rock This with Allison Hagendorf, Kelly criticizes the state of modern rock. From this, Kelly’s criticisms go from their general motifs to their footwear:
“I want some attitude, dude.” He says in the Spotify podcast. “Like this is what [expletive] hate, this is what I will tell you. I did Warped Tour and these [expletives] would wear comfortable shoes onstage every day. [Expletive] your [expletive] Nike, New Balance comfy shoes because it makes you feel comfortable. Put on some Doc Martens, you [expletive, expletive]! Put on some [expletive] Chucks; put on some Vans. Like, it’s not about you! It’s about the show. You don’t look cool, man! I [expletive] hate your feet, I hate your shoes [expletive] You’re comfortable. Rock and roll’s not comfortable — it’s uncomfortable. It’s a metaphor. Your shoes are a metaphor. [Expletive] you.”
These comments caused enough of an uproar online that Kelly felt the need to snarkily reply: “To the bands mad I said they wear ‘comfy shoes’ – I’m very sorry that I can get you this upset just by talking about your little pointy new balances. I wear pink so like…what do I know anyway?”
This is where Corey Taylor comes into play. About three months later, Taylor subtly disses Machine Gun Kelly in a response to the Rock This interview on Cutter’s Rockcast: “I hate all new rock for the most part. I [hate] the artists who failed in one genre and decided to go rock and I think he knows who he is.” In response, in September 2021, while the two were performing at the same time at Riot Fest, Machine Gun Kelly made this line in between performances: “Hey, you wanna know what I’m really happy that I’m not doing? Being 50 years old wearing an [expletive] weird mask on a [expletive] stage, talking [expletive].”
This is the moment that rap and rock coalesced on a common enemy. The blowback from this diss became quickly apparent at the Louder Than Life festival, where he was booed immensely. Despite many siding against Machine Gun Kelly, he continues by moving the drama to Twitter, arguing that his beef is over more than some petty talk show comments:
“Corey did a verse for a song on Tickets to My Downfall album,” he writes. “It was [expletive] terrible so I didn’t use it. he got mad about it, and talked [expletive] to a magazine about the same album he was almost on…just admit he’s bitter.”
That same day, Taylor responded with receipts, captioning with, “I don’t like people airing private [expletive] like a child. So this is all I’ll say: I didn’t do the track because I don’t like when people try to ‘write’ for me. I said NO to THEM.”
The drama continued from there, but at this point, rock fans had long accepted that Machine Gun Kelly had lost. By disrespecting such an influential band in the nu metal genre, Kelly opened himself up to a wave of hatred. Finn Mckenty explains in THIS IS WHY EVERYONE HATES MGK that rock and rap fandoms are two different entities. Whereas in rap, it is common for artists to have beef with one another, rock simply does not have this, making rock fans a lot more aggressive towards Machine Gun Kelly.
Don’t Disrespect Your Elders
One of the biggest problems with Machine Gun Kelly is his lack of respect for influential artists of the past. As we have seen with Eminem and Corey Taylor, there appears to be a pattern in the people he has beef with–their acclaim and knowledge of their genres. When a new artist comes onto the scene, they should not act like they own the place; they should respect and learn from the artists who have earned the prestige of their colleagues. Typically, these new artists then draw from the trailblazer’s works, and implement them — creatively or tackily — in their work. One of the most famous examples is MF DOOM, with Q-Tip calling him “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.” Artists like Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, Joey Bada$$ and Tyler, The Creator all claim, or have been proclaimed by critics, to have drawn some influence from DOOM.
Earl Sweatshirt’s work, for example, has been described as “poetry,” with his lyrical prowess making many consider him the best member from Odd Future. With songs like “Solace” and “Chum” resonating with fans both personally and lyrically. Lines in “Chum” such as “Through the city with criminal stealth, welcome to enemy turf/ Harder than immigrants work, golf is stitched into my shirt” and “Too black for the white kids, too white for the blacks” provide vivid imagery, and show clear emotion and skill from Earl. Another former member of Odd Future, Tyler, The Creator, has been compared to DOOM for his composition, and his ability to combine the instrumentals and music into an almost cinematic piece. Some claim Tyler is the best from Odd Future for his composition and improvement over the years. Earl had credited DOOM in a 2014 interview with Nardwuar, saying “I based a lot of the ways I was trying to rap off his [expletive] when I was learning how to do it.” Tyler paid tribute to DOOM in a performance following his passing in 2020. After his passing, an uncountable number of artists paid their respects to DOOM, for his part in paving the way for so many artists.
When coming into any creative field, be it visual arts or performative arts, one is typically influenced by a person or persons. It is to be expected that the artist is at least respectful of the art created by their influences, let alone the ones that came before them. Though Machine Gun Kelly appears to try incredibly hard to grab people’s time and attention, he does not respect the people who have already earned it. In pop-punk, many criticize Kelly for his work sounding hollow and manufactured, when many pop-punk artists who have contributed so much to the genre are genuine and humble in their work. Kelly’s supposed egocentrism and false identity is what pushes so many people away from his music. Kelly’s work does not sound free or representative of the ideas that pop-punk, and punk in general, stand for. Kelly’s work sounds safe and kiddy-like, when he wants to appear cool and edgy. In short, he is a poser.
This, among other reasons, is why so many people hate Machine Gun Kelly: his disrespect for his elders, resulting in fights with artists who are superior to him.