Machine Gun Kelly, AKA Colson Baker is the most relevant punk rock musician since Green Day. An established rapper from the Midwest who swung firmly into the mainstream following his dis track exchange with Eminem, Machine Gun Kelly has pivoted to the rock and punk rock scene, following in the footsteps of such top tier acts as Paramore, Green Day and Blink 182. Last year, out of the blue, he released a hit punk rock song, “I Think I’m Okay” featuring Travis Barker and Yungblud.
Since then he’s not only kept up his rap career and continually proven his chops with tracks such as Smoke and Drive and What’s Poppin, but also continued his collaboration with Travis Barker and Yungblud by covering iconic rock songs like Paramore’s Misery Business and Oasis’s Champagne Supernova. Let’s not forget how good MGK’s older stuff is, such as Alpha Omega, which was competing solidly with other Enimem-influenced contemporaries like Yelawolf.
But being good, or even great, is not enough to achieve the relevance that Colson is quickly cultivating. One of the things that makes him so important is the way he seems to be bridging the worlds of rock and rap by, whether he intends to or not, combining his fanbases. Rock may be my hometown, but I’ve been a big rap fan for years (I also grew up with Eminem, MGK), and have spent hours and hours jamming out to Yelawolf, Tech N9ne, Rittz, Eyedea, Atmosphere, J. Cole, B.o.B. and tons more. And what I’m seeing a lot now is reaction videos on YouTube that used to focus exclusively on rap and hip-hop starting to check out the rock scene with MGK as their entry point. Facilitating that kind of bridge-building goes a long way with me.
Let’s not paper over what a ridiculous dream team the lineup of MGK, Yungblud and Travis Barker is. That’s perhaps the best lineup for a rock trio in decades. Absolutely decades. The team dynamic works, and if the music they’ve put out so far is any indication it’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as the amazing things they’re going to produce.
Colson is not another highly produced pop singer. He’s a grassroots rapper who plays his instruments and sings without needing production tricks and meddling. Real guitars. Real drums. Real vocals. As it was meant to be. Unlike many of the current pop punk rising stars, MGK can actually sing and rap, and it sounds good. Not just using the legacy of Sid Vicious as an excuse to be a bad musician, like many punk frontmen. You can picture him performing just as well in a backyard at a house party as you can on stage in front of a crowd of thousands at festivals. MGK is doing a lot of work to bring rock back into the mainstream by bringing the rap crowd on board.
I have to mention as well, apart from the music, Colson just seems like a really nice guy. He’s friends with Pete Davidson, who I like a lot, and in all the interviews I’ve seen (Hot Ones, etc), he’s always come across very well. Tough guy act aside (I’m sure he’s tough enough or whatever). It’s also cool to see someone repping the Midwest; all the attention to American art in the last two decades has been focused on LA, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. Very cool to see something great bubble up from the middle of the country.
There hasn’t been a pop punk act with the potential of Green Day since, well, Green Day. And as good as Green Day is, they’re an aging commodity. It’s hard to connect with the teens when you’re a millionaire pushing 50 who plays mostly corporate parties. I suspect Machine Gun Kelly has more potential than Green Day as well due to his sheer range. Not just his ability to jump between genres, but the way he can play the tough guy rapper act just as well as the fun misunderstood pop punk act.
MGK joins Bring Me the Horizon, Grimes, Twenty-One Pilots and Bad Omens as one of my top tier favorite acts in 2020. I can’t wait to hear more and see his popularity jump even higher.
Anyway, that about does it for my review of Machine Gun Kelly’s new music. Be sure to check out the Music Section for more content like this.