Rapper Machine Gun Kelly worked with acts including DMX, Avenged Sevenfold, Lil Jon and Young Jeezy on his debut album, Lace Up (due October 9th), he and is signed to Bad Boy/Interscope. Still, he views himself very much as the underdog.
"We never had what Mac Miller, what A$AP Rocky had, what any of these guys had – we never had the hype to where we were getting covers of fucking magazines," MGK tells Rolling Stone. "The 'wow' factor should've been I'm just an average kid who speaks for fucking hundreds of thousands of kids who feel just like me, and [are] all willing to live and die by the lifestyle that I portray and project and live myself."
If it seems like a stark juxtaposition between how MGK sees things and how others might view them – after all, he won mtvU's Breaking Woodie award this year and was named MTV's Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2011 – that is his weird world right now.
"I live in a house in Cleveland, Ohio with all my best friends. Other than that, we're on a tour bus. I have no Internet and no way of really seeing what is going on, as far as hype goes," he says. "I'm not paid at all. I'm not rich, I don't have a car."
Yet the executive producer for his album is P. Diddy. "I've seen Puff do impressions of me – that shit is pretty funny," he says.
He's also struck up a close bond with DMX: "He kind of became like an older brother to me. He'll give me advice, he'll tell me when I'm tripping," Kelly says. That friendship was born out of their memorable first meeting, when the two teamed up to record "Demons."
"He really didn't have any idea what he was getting into, so I was worried about the first impression," Kelly recalls. "But it was the best first impression ever. He came in the studio when I was on top of the table rapping the last song ['Niggaz Done Started Something'] on It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, which a lot of people in the mainstream world would not know. But it's the L.O.X., Mase and him, and I was rapping his verse right when he walked in, so he was like, 'Oh, shit, this energy is crazy right now,' started clapping his hands."
Kelly's pairing with Avenged Sevenfold on the song "Save Me" is the opening track. "In my opinion, they're the best in the metal world of this generation," he says.
The rapper points out proudly that every collaboration on the album was booked before he got the Bad Boy/Interscope name behind him. "A lot of the people did it strictly off the love for what I was doing," he says.
What those artists see in Kelly is what thousands of kids see in him – an artist who is also a diehard music fan.
"When I was running away, I didn't have somebody there to help me run away. All I had was DMX's voice or Eminem's voice or Tupac's voice. It's not like I ran away from home and a motherfucker would just pop up at the train station, 'Hey, everything's gonna be OK, I see you're going through some shit,'" he says. "I didn't have that. All I had was those two headphones and that three minutes of music."