A common refrain among the non-white, non-male among us is the desire for the unwarranted gall of a mediocre white man in any industry, much less the realm of entertainment. For a while, that kind of unrepentant audacity was pretty much the only thing keeping Machine Gun Kelly employed. But now he’s met his match in the form of Slipknot front man Corey Taylor, who shaded the hell out of the 31-year-old on the Cutter’s Rockcast podcast in February. While turning up his nose at the state of rock music in 2021, Taylor quipped, “I hate all new rock for the most part. Well, the ‘artists’ who failed in one genre and decided to go rock—I think he knows who he is. But that’s another story.”
Apparently, MGK tapped the rock icon to appear on a track for his popcorn-rock album Tickets to My Downfall but it, for whatever reason, didn’t end up happening. On Sept. 19, during a set at Riot Fest in Chicago, a video appeared online of MGK saying, between records, “Hey, you wanna know what I’m really happy that I’m not doing? Being 50 years old wearing a fucking weird mask on a fucking stage, talking shit.” The Chicago Sun-Times also reported that the black-tongued pop punk threw another jab at Slipknot (who was performing on another stage at the same festival) later in the set, demanding the production crew “turn the lights up… let me see who chose to be here instead of with all the old weird dudes with masks.” Now mind you, these are all pretty weak attacks. Kinda hard not being old and also pretty OK to be wearing masks during a global pandemic but, ya know, whatever. The meatless insults are a reminder of why the good ol’ boy couldn’t crack it in rap circles.
The very next day, MGK explained, via Twitter, that the verse Corey did for the album “was fucking terrible” which was why it didn’t make the cut. “He got mad about it, and talked shit to a magazine about the album he was almost on.” Despite their age difference, it seems as if MGK may have forgotten a modern invention called “receipts,” of which Taylor had plenty. An hour after the tweet, Taylor posted text messages from Travis Barker—the superstar drummer who co-produced MGK’s album—with notes from Kelly himself saying that he was “stoked and HONORED” Taylor was on it at all. Taylor, in his reply, said of the song: “I listened to the ideas, and to be honest, I don’t think I’m the right guy for the track. Nothing personal, I just think if this is what MGK is looking for, someone else is the guy to do it. It’s ALL good, and I’m stoked for him.”
For what it’s worth, Taylor didn’t necessarily have to shit talk about MGK on the Rockcast, but hey, the white male id knows no bounds, right? Well, the war of words has now bled into reality and from what we know about metalheads, you kinda don’t wanna mess with their icons.
During his performance at the Louder Than Life festival last weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, fans mercilessly booed and flipped the bird at Megan Fox’s beau while, on Twitter, Trivium front man Matt Heafy “formally diss[ed] Machine Gun Kelly for ‘being 31 years old wearing a fucking 16 year old pop punk cosplay identity on a fucking stage.’” Yet another sad-ass attempt at a gotcha.
MGK’s trail of headline-seeking stunts is quite long. This latest beef comes just a few weeks after he and Conor McGregor did the whitest rendition of “hold me back”-shoving at the VMAs for reasons unknown. Before that, in 2018, he and West Coast rapper G-Eazy traded barbs over the romantic interests of Halsey—another famous woman MGK latched onto for love and relevance—with MGK freestyling over Drake’s “Nonstop” on Hot 97, rapping, “Only Eazy I fuck with is E / I seen he dyed his hair and got a hanging earring / I fucked his girl now he look like this shit is overbearing / How dare him / I dare him / Don’t think about comparing / Now turn that frat rap off, I get sick of hearing.”
The public spats resembling the Spider-Man-to-Spider-Man meme are a pattern that stretch back to his first moments in the rap scene. In 2012, MGK tweeted that Eminem’s daughter, Hailie, was “hot as f**k.” At the time, Hailie was only 16 years old, though MGK thought it’d be fine because he said it “in the most respectful way.” Em responded, subtly, by banning MGK from appearing on his Shade 45 satellite radio station and overtly by rapping on the 2015 diss record, “Not Alike”: “I’m talkin’ to you, but you already know who the f**k you are, Kelly / I don’t use sublims and sure as f**k don’t sneak-diss / But keep commenting on my daughter Hailie.” MGK’s response, “RAP DEVIL,” remains his most popular song.
MGK’s celebrity is steeped in subpar music and creepy behavior. During a 2012 show in Fort Lauderdale, the artist sat half-naked on stage and refused to play another record until a girl who really loves him stripped on stage. That same Florida weekend, the artist spat vodka in a fan’s mouth, tossed a little person during a show, and members of his posse broke a bottle over a man’s head. Later, he was arrested and released on bail for disorderly conduct in St. Petersburg. His unearned stardom is an unsavory marriage of shock-and-awe foolishness, mediocre artmaking, and prominent friendships with the likes of Pete Davidson while posing at events with Halsey and, now, Megan Fox. There are fewer more embarrassing examples of the dreadful state of the influencer economy than the fact that MGK has risen to stardom. He offers precious little in the way of actual art and so much more in nauseating histrionics.
Obviously, the gatekeepers of rock are none too pleased that this manchild is stepping into the game and immediately pissing off the genre’s icons, but lame provocation is par for the course when it comes to MGK. He’s always been an antic artist, but these days, with Fox and friends—including Barker and his superstar girlfriend Kourtney Kardashian completing their powder-pegged quadrant—it seems that Kelly has finally landed on the A-list. Even if it’s wholly based on aesthetics.