There’s nothing like someone who’s lived your story and Ohio MC Machine Gun Kelly’s
resilience has become a beacon of hope for thousands of kids across America.
Penning rhymes about everything from addiction to family issues, Kelly has become a
symbol of relentless perseverance for his fans and the MC is about to begin the next
chapter of his already successful career.
Born Colson Baker in Houston, Texas, Machine Gun Kelly lived almost a dozen places,
including Egypt, before moving to Denver, Colorado with his father after his mother
began a new life with a new man.
“I don’t have a relationship with my mom, she left when I was nine years old,” says
Machine Gun Kelly.
In Denver, the Bakers lived with Kelly’s aunt. Though the father and son had each
other, they couldn’t lay claim to much else. As his dad fought depression and
unemployment, the young MC split his time between wearing two school outfits and
being bullied by the neighborhood kids.
“I used to stand out because I was tall and I couldn’t really fight back then,” says Kelly.
“Then I got tired of getting beat up so I started fighting people with my words instead.”
In seventh grade, Kelly found solace in rhyming after watching DMX’s career grow.
“DMX is a huge influence on me because neither of us have a solid family structure,
plus I was an only child so I latched onto his music because both of us had to fight a
lot of dark shit by ourselves,” says Kelly.
And though he “wasn’t popular at all,” the lanky kid was good at battling his middle
school challengers. Later, while attending Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School, his
father moved to Kuwait to work for the army and left Kelly behind to live in a neighbor’s
basement. It was then the teen began experimenting with drugs and recorded his first
“It was terrible, but I thought it was cool,” says Kelly, with a smile.
Without supervision, Kelly stopped attending school and like 50 Cent, the high school
freshmen, made a name for himself by calling out elder classmates. In 2005, his father
moved Kelly to Kuwait, where the teen got into even more trouble. Eventually, the pair
were forced back stateside and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. While attending Shaker
Heights High on the city’s east side, Kelly convinced a local t-shirt shop owner, who
doubled as an MC manager, to take him under his wing.
“I got the name Machine Gun Kelly because of my rapid-fire delivery when I was 15
and started doing shows,” says Kelly.
Nicknamed MGK by his fans, the MC released his first mixtape Stamp of Approval in
2006. Building a local fan base, Kelly performed at Cleveland venues like Hi-Fi,
Peabodies and anywhere else he could spit. But it was a trip to New York’s famed
Apollo Theater in 2009 that really gave him his start.
“We drove straight from Ohio and stood in line for ten hours,” recalls Kelly. “I got boo’d
as soon as I walked on the Apollo stage and then I won … twice.”
The energetic performer became the first rapper in history to win the Apollo’s Amateur
Night competition. Kelly’s mixtape 100 Words And Running came shortly after and he
created a high school promotional tour. The short run was such a success and he
performed to such excited crowds that the school's began to keep the police on call to
turn Kelly and his fans away to maintain order. And as the MC’s catchphrase of “Lace
up,” which began as a mixtape interlude, became a call to arms for fans, their leader
was still flipping burritos at Chipotle to pay the rent.
After graduating high school, Kelly’s father kicked him out of their home and forced the
young MC to fend for himself. Not long after, an 18 year-old MGK welcomed his own
child, a daughter named Casie. The infant gave the rapper new incentive to work even
harder and he soon earned a nod for Best Midwest Artist at the 2010 Underground
Music Awards. Not long after Kelly's “Alice in Wonderland” clip won Best Music Video
at the 2010 Ohio Hip-Hop Awards and the MC also nabbed Best Live Performer two
years in a row.
But just as his star began to rise, Kelly suffered a new setback. A polyp developed on
his vocal chord and kept him offstage and out of the studio for six months. Without
health insurance for surgery, Kelly worked off the polyp by himself with tireless vocals
“Every night I’d wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning wanting to blow my brains out,”
says Kelly. “That was one of the most depressing periods of my life.”
But the sun shone again with the 2010 release of Kelly’s Lace Up mixtape. The project
not only earned the local favorite more fans -- who bare their own “Lace Up” tattoos --
but a national audience. And now, following a trip to SXSW where he performed a bevy
of shows for brands like VIBE, FADER, Nah Right and the Smoking section, MGK is
ready to devour the next phase of his life. In 2012 he was part of the prestigious and
coveted XXL Freshman Class, and has toured opening up for Tech N9ne. He will be
part of the Vans Warped Tour this summer.