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Machine Gun Kelly: Get To Know Billboard’s New “Pop-Punk’s Crown Prince”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Machine Gun Kelly, one of the favorite personalities in pop culture at the moment, debuted back in 2012 with the album “Lace Up”, which peaked at number four on the US Billboard 200. Since then, a lot has changed in his music style and video aesthetics, as well as in his career in general. These changes influenced a lot in his newest album and success — and here’s why.

Lace Up and rap music

Machine Gun Kelly first started his career as a rapper and made history in this field. In 2009, he had back-to-back rapping victories at Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night and because of that, he started gaining notoriety in the rap scene. In 2011, the rapper Sean Combs, known as Diddy, approached the singer and signed him with his own company, Bad Boy Records. Later in 2012, he had his album debut with “Lace Up”, his first studio album.

Machine Gun Kelly’s “Rap Devil” music video

In 2018, a beef with Eminem was about to change the course of his music. One of the biggest names on the rap scene alongside MGK, Eminem released a diss track — a song whose main purpose is to detract someone — called “Not Alike”. In response, Machine Gun Kelly releases “Rap Devil” (parodying the name of Eminem’s track “Rap God”), and Eminem writes back “Killshot”, firming the rivalry between them. The rap scene was all about that beef, and Kelly’s career was really affected by the bad press.

Hotel Diablo

After three albums in which the main style was rap with some hints of pop, MGK released his fourth studio album and decided to experiment a little in other areas. The pop-punk atmosphere started being slowly set in his music, as well as a new kind of aesthetic to his work. 

Collaborations in the music industry can be really powerful and also an open door to a certain change in the path of a singer. Machine Gun Kelly made total use of it by releasing the single “I Think I’m OKAY” featuring Yungblud, one of the biggest names in the pop-punk scenario, and Blink-182’s Travis Barker. The song is a rock-rap hybrid with hints of pop and hip-hop. With brutally honest verses, the song lyrics fall on the more personal side, detailing their biggest hopes, fears, and failures.

Tickets to My Downfall

After flirting with a more pop-driven sound in the previous album, Kelly finally threw himself entirely into the pop-punk side of music. Travis Barker and the singer worked alongside in the production of the album, creating a sound that has everything but subtlety, with an early-00’s pop-punk beat to it.

Machine Gun Kelly’s “Bloody Valentine” music video

His new era is highlighted with a new kind of aesthetic and a renovated preoccupation to the music video concepts and the pink guitar as a symbol. The album was released in 2020 and debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s 200 music charts, being the first rock album to do so in quite some time. Due to his successful debut with the album, he was considered by the magazine the “new prince of pop-punk”.

Mainstream Sellout

Machine Gun Kelly’s latest release follows the same path as the previous, with remarkable songs and collaborations as “emo girl” featuring WILLOW and “maybe”, with Bring Me The Horizon. The lyrics are clearly more raw and personal than the other ones, talking about his deepest issues. In the track “mainstream sellout”, Kelly also plays with the fact that some people may see him as a poser in the rock field, singing in the chorus “You’re no icon, you’re just a parody” and stating a clear message: he’s always renovating his style and being trapped in only one music genre is not for him.


The article above was edited by Julia Bonin.
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Beatriz Oliveira

Casper Libero '25

Journalism student at Cásper Líbero, who's also a very passionate reader and writer. I tend to spend most of my days fangirling over Taylor Swift, reading romcoms and talking about politics!