From Cleveland to Los Angeles: The Untold Truth About Machine Gun Kelly


| LAST UPDATE 10/20/2021

By Ray Zhang

Machine Gun Kelly went from a being struggling kid in Cleveland, Ohio, to a millionaire musician. From his wild partying to public feuds with legendary rappers, this artist's journey to fame has been a wild one.

A "Dangerous Birth"

As the artist himself expressed, Machine Gun Kelly's path to stardom has been far from smooth. "Even before I came out of the womb, I was already... feeling like I shouldn't be here or something," Kelly said.

Machine Gun Kelly BeforeMachine Gun Kelly Before
Instagram via @machinegunkelly

Richard Colson Baker, better known as Machine Gun Kelly, had a "dangerous birth" on April 22, 1990. Baker had his umbilical cord stuck around his neck as well as a heart problem. "They didn't think he would live," Kelly's dad shared. The worrisome delivery was the start of a tumultuous childhood.

An International Childhood

Kelly was born in Houston, Texas but his family moved shortly after the difficult birth. "I was there for like two weeks," MGK said. "I actually moved to Egypt after I was in Houston. I lived in Africa for four years." The future rapper had a nomadic childhood filled with constant change.

Machine Gun Kelly childhoodMachine Gun Kelly childhood
Instagram via @machinegunkelly

The only child of missionary parents, Kelly lived in Egypt, Kenya, and Germany. In the U.S., he also jumped around, eventually residing in Chicago and Denver before settling in Cleveland. But the instability in MGK's childhood went beyond simply changing homes every few years.

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Not a Fairytale Upbringing

When MGK was around nine or ten years old, his mother left. Kelly moved in with his aunt, as his dad struggled with mental health and unemployment after the untimely split. MGK described this time as, "Waking up and my dad's still asleep in bed, and the kids that I went to school with... hated me."

Colson Baker childhoodColson Baker childhood
Instagram via @machinegunkelly

"I'd worn the same clothes for five days, and I was tall, skinny, and didn't fit in," he continued. Kelly's father eventually left him alone with his Aunt in Denver, Colorado, for some time and returned in 2005. The pair then moved to Kuwait for a job opportunity before settling in Cleveland, Ohio.

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He Was Bullied

Kelly had failed his freshman year of high school in Colorado, so the teenager spent his sophomore year in Cleveland surrounded by classmates a year younger than him. But being the oldest guy in the class didn't stop MGK from once again being the victim of bullying.

The Rise of Machine Gun Kelly The Rise of Machine Gun Kelly
Instagram via @machinegunkelly

Kelly's peers made fun of him for being awkward and trying to rap, and one time another student crumbled up his lyric notes and threw them on the floor during class. "That was a huge memory for me when this kid threw all my raps on the floor," MGK recalled.

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Music Was His Way Out

But while Kelly's musical aspirations made him the target of fights and bullies, it was also how he coped with his darkest times. When MGK felt that no one cared about him, he turned to the world of music. By the age of eleven, a young Kelly was roaming the halls, "rapping for everybody."

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Daniel Boczarski / Stringer via Getty Images

In Cleveland, MGK worked harder on his music than on his homework. The teen played small shows at local venues and rapped for pretty much anyone willing to listen. When Kelly began working at an airbrush shop at Tower City, he shared his music with customers.

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He Became a Young Dad

MGK's self-promotion was successful, and others began recognizing him as a legitimate rapper. This is where the famous artist's name, Machine Gun Kelly, comes from, as he became known for his "rapid-fire delivery," as MGK described. While the musician hustled in the rap scene, a high school romance unexpectedly changed his life.

Machine Gun Kelly DaughterMachine Gun Kelly Daughter
VALERIE MACON / Staff via Getty Images

Kelly and his ex-girlfriend, Emma Cannon, welcomed a baby girl named Casie. At 18 years old, MGK was a young father. Not one to repeat his parents' actions, Kelly worked hard to have a good relationship with Casei and amicably co-parent with her mother.

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P. Diddy Signed Him

A few years after Casie's birth, Kelly had his big break. Sean Combs, AKA P. Diddy, saw the rapper performing at the SXSW festival and was immediately impressed. Not long after, the legendary artist and producer signed MGK to his record label, Bad Boy Records.

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Shareif Ziyadat / Contributor via Getty Images

"When I first signed [Machine Gun Kelly] I knew he was going to be a star," Diddy said years later in an Instagram post. "I didn't know how exactly we'd get there but I knew it would happen." Kelly's rise to fame accelerated with the release of his first album.

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A 2012 Rap Debut

In 2012, Kelly released his first studio album, Lace Up. Diddy served as the executive producer and used his connections to enlist Waka Flocka Flame, Cassie, DMX, Planet VI, Lil John, and Jeezy as featured guests on the record. Lace Up debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and sold 57,000 copies in the first week.

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Tim Mosenfelder / Contributor via Getty Images

"I think God had a plan for Lace Up," Kelly said. "I was making music to save myself, and it ended up saving everybody else." MGK already had a strong fan base before he was signed, and his followers quickly grew. "There's hundreds and hundreds of kids out there with 'laced' tatted on them," the rapper said.

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MGK's Acting Debut

But it turned out Kelly had more tricks up his sleeve aside from rapid-fire rapping. Before releasing a second album, General Admission, in 2015, the artist made his acting debut in Beyond the Lights. "I was always the one who had a camera wherever I went," he said. "So I guess I always wanted something to do with film."

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Jerritt Clark / Contributor via Getty Images

The film was a romantic drama, and MGK played rapper Kid Culprit, who is dating the protagonist pop star, Noni Jean. The musician turned actor starred alongside Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver, Nate Parker, and Danny Glover. It was acting that ultimately saved the musician from financial ruin.

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He Went Broke

After a bouncer sued Kelly for allegedly striking him during a fight in a Florida club, the artist spent all of his money, and then some, to pay the settlement. "I put my hands on a 400-pound bouncer... and he sued me for 2 million dollars," MGK said.

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Instagram via @machinegunkelly

After that, the artist had an "empty Christmas tree" until he convinced his personal idol, Cameron Crowe, to cast him in Showtime's Roadies. "He was just so passionate, like a big Labrador-retriever puppy banging into the furniture, knocking stuff over, and still hugged by everybody," Crowe later said of Kelly's audition.

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He Dated Amber Rose

In 2013, Kelly collaborated on a track with the iconic Wiz Khalifa. MGK never predicted that two years later, he'd be dating Khalifa's ex-wife and baby mama, model Amber Rose. "Everything was completely natural," Kelly told Hot 97 of the relationship.

Colson Baker Amber RoseColson Baker Amber Rose
Sam Wasson / Contributor via Getty Images

"It wasn't anything I had expected or had planned or anything like that," he added. "You know when the universe throws something your way or things happen, I'm one of those people that goes with it, and I don't fight it." But destiny had different plans, and the couple broke up after four months.

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Camila Saved His Career

Following the success of his first studio album and a public breakup, Kelly faced a downfall in his career. "I was going into venues that we had just sold out the year before," Kelly told Rolling Stone magazine. "And there was, like, 100... people. I thought it was over."

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Jeff Kravitz / Contributor via Getty Images

But a collaboration with Camila Cabello was the career-saving move the musician needed. Kelly made it big when his and Cabello's 2016's hit song, Bad Things, cracked the Top Five on the Billboard Hot 100s. But MGK later made headlines for entirely different reasons.

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A Feud With Slim Shady

A 2012 tweet by the rising star led to a years-long feud with Eminem that resurfaced once Kelly's career took off. A 22-year-old MGK took to social media to say Slim Shady's 16-year-old daughter, Hailie, was "hot as [expletive]." According to MGK, Eminem then banned him from a radio station he owned.

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Johnny Nunez / Contributor via Getty Images

MGK got his payback for the alleged ban when he dissed Eminem on Tech N9ne's No Reason. "Remind ya'll you just rap, you're not God/And I don't care who got bars," Kelly rapped, referencing Marshall's song, Rap God. It wasn't long before Slim Shady hit back hard.

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Two More Diss Tracks

In response to Kelly's subtle attack, Eminem responded in a very direct way. The famous rapper released Not Alike and repeatedly dissed MGK throughout the track. "But next time you don't gotta use Tech N9ne/If you wanna come at me," Marshall said in the song.

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Frederick M. Brown / Stringer via Getty Images

And so Kelly did just that, and, instead of coming for Eminem through someone else's song, he wrote a proper diss track. Just a few days after Not Alike went public, MGK released Rap Devil, a play on Marshall's Rap God. The song reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

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Third Time's the Charm

After rap fans everywhere were blessed with two diss tracks, Eminem dropped one more for good luck. In the beef-filled saga's final stage, Slim Shady released Killshot, despite previously saying he didn't want to respond because it would just make MGK more famous.

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John Sciulli / Stringer via Getty Images

"Killshot was a leg shot," Kelly joked about the song. "In Rap Devil, we're talking about facts - you want to talk about man buns? Answer the facts. You want to talk about a hairstyle I wore for a movie? I'm an actor, homie; how disconnected are you? You call me a mumble rapper? Oh my god."

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He Took His Shot with Nicki Minaj

By 2018, Kelly had become friends with some Hollywood big names like Pete Davidson. So when Davidson and Ariana Grande got engaged, MGK found an opportunity to shoot his shot with Nicki Minaj. The flirty encounter happened on a since-deleted Instagram post.

Colson Baker Nicki MinajColson Baker Nicki Minaj
Sean Zanni / Contributor via Getty Images

When Ariana posted a photo of Pete, a swooning Minaj called the Saturday Night Live star "the most perfect man" and asked if he had a brother. Unfortunately for Nicki, Davidson only has a sister. But his best pal MGK apparently considers himself family, and wrote back to Nicki, "Yeah. me."

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A Big Partier

With more fame came celebrity friendships and lots of parties. After the Florida scandal and a series of other brawls, MGK quickly became known for his wild nights out and ragers. "I think we all worry," said Roadies creator and friend Cameron Crowe.

Machine Gun Kelly PartyingMachine Gun Kelly Partying
Jerritt Clark / Contributor via Getty Images

"That he's going to break his neck before he achieves all his dreams," he continued. "But that's part of the ride you take as an MGK fan." Despite what some people considered reckless partying, Kelly still managed to juggle an increasingly successful career on stage and the small screen.

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From Studios To Movie Sets

By 2019, MGK released three more albums and collaborated with the likes of Quavo, Ty Dolla $ign, Travis Barker, and Trippie Redd. His acting gigs weren't slowing down, either. After Roadies, MGK appeared in the Netflix hit Birdbox and starred alongside Pete Davidson in The King of Staten Island and Big Time Adolescence.

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Dia Dipasupil / Staff via Getty Images

Kelly's biggest role was as Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee in The Dirt, which was credited for getting the heavy metal band back together. "I never thought I would see the day when this would become a reality," the actor said of the legendary group's reunion.

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A Relationship With Fitness Model Sommer Ray

Fans were soon paying attention to more than his discography and acting gigs when Machine Gun Kelly made his relationship with model Sommer Ray social media official. Following tabloid reports that the two were dating, Kelly retweeted two photos of the couple together.

Colson Baker Sommer RayColson Baker Sommer Ray
Instagram via @sommerray

One of the shots was a 2017 picture of Kelly and Ray appearing on Wild N' Out. The other was a paparazzi photo of the two love birds sharing an intimate moment. After the sweet post, fans were surprised when, not more than a month later, the couple had quite the public breakup.

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His Quarantine Birthday Party

Shortly after the March 2020 tweet, MGK took to social media once more to share how the relationship had taken a tragic turn. "She came and picked all her stuff up on my birthday. nice," Kelly wrote on Twitter. Luckily for the heartbroken musician, he wasn't alone on the special day.

Machine Gun Kelly RelationshipsMachine Gun Kelly Relationships
Instagram via @machinegunkelly

Due to the pandemic, MGK couldn't throw his usual birthday rager and feared feeling "empty" without the celebrations. Kelly said he was "chilling" with just his "close friends" this year. But the artist's neighbor, Jeff Lewis, later said that the reunion was a rowdy one and implied MGK's party habits were going strong.

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The lockdown might not have affected Kelly's wild side (at least not initially), but it did influence his music. The rapper did a series of "#LockdownSessions," with impromptu covers of Oasis, Rihanna, John Mayer, and other genres far from his usual work. It was a new sound, but fans loved it and the videos got millions of views.

Machine Gun Kelly #LockdownSessionsMachine Gun Kelly #LockdownSessions
YouTube- Machine Gun Kelly

"I'm the one who's been driven by a hunger for respect forever since I was the only white boy in a rap cipher battling to make a name for myself," MGK said. "If that doesn't tell that super-insecure person inside of me that like, 'Yo, just being yourself is good enough,' I don't know what else could."

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Net Worth

With his latest musical and acting endeavors, it looks like MGK more than recovered from his previous financial losses from the Florida lawsuit. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the musician sits on a whopping net worth of $10 million. So how does Kelly spend his checks?

Machine Gun Kelly NetworthMachine Gun Kelly Networth
Instagram via @machinegunkelly

The musician lives very differently from the working-class Ohio lifestyle he was accustomed to growing up. Kelly enjoys international vacations, has a sprawling property in Los Angeles, and a car collection that includes an Aston Martin and a Harley Davidson. And, of course, MGK invests plenty in his famous tattoos.

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"He's So Stoked That I'm Playing Guitar."

Kelly's transition from being mainly a rap artist to covering a range of styles and genres meant more monetary success. It also helped him reconcile with his father, a relationship that was on the rocks since childhood. MGK shared how his #LockdownSessions brought the two closer together.

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Kevin Mazur/AMA2020 / Contributor via Getty Images

"He's so stoked that I'm playing guitar now. He called me the other day and told me that he's really starting to enjoy my music," Kelly happily said. "And he's super proud of me." Sadly, his dad passed away not long after in July 2020, causing the artist great pain.

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A Love Affair With Megan Fox

Around the time of his father's untimely death, Kelly's face appeared on the tabloids for his rumored relationship with one of Hollywood's steamiest icons: Megan Fox. The power couple met while filming Midnight in the Switchgrass, and Fox later starred in MGK's Bloody Valentine music video.

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Emma McIntyre /AMA2020 / Contributor via Getty Images

In June 2020, the Daily Mail released photographs of the duo holding hands and kissing during a night out in California. "I knew right away that he was what I call a twin flame," Megan later said. "We're actually two halves of the same soul, I think. And I said that to him almost immediately because I felt it right away."

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A Bloody Necklace

In February 2021, MGK revealed that he has a pendant with Megan Fox's blood trapped inside. The love-struck musician shared the surprising news on Valentine's Day, posting a shot of the jewelry and writing, "I wear your blood around my neck." That takes commitment to the next level!

Megan Fox Blood NecklaceMegan Fox Blood Necklace
Instagram via @machinegunkelly

MGK also referenced the 2020 song that featured his famous girlfriend in the music video. Perhaps the Bloody Valentine collaboration inspired the jewelry in the first place. If he hadn't already made it clear just how much he loved and appreciated Fox, Kelly later shared more touching details about their relationship.

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Megan Helped Kelly Through Dark Times

In a tell-all interview, MGK opened up about his substance use and how Megan helped him through some difficult moments. "When you have a partner... sitting there with you on those [dark] nights when you're sweating and not being able to figure out why you're so in your head," Kelly said.

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Gotham / Contributor via Getty Images

He continued, "To help you get out of your head and put it in perspective, that really, really helps." Kelly also shared how his girlfriend and going to therapy helped him find happiness in sobriety. "Currently, my drug of choice is happiness and commitment to the art," MGK explained.

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He Doesn't Want To Be Machine Gun Kelly Anymore

Therapy changed Kelly's lifestyle and values in more ways than one. Working on himself made him realize he doesn't want to be Machine Gun Kelly anymore - at least not all of the time. "[Therapy's]the first time I ever went, 'Hey, I need to separate these two people,' which is Machine Gun Kelly and Colson Baker," he explained.

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Joseph Okpako / Contributor via Getty Images

The musician called the dichotomy between the two personas "too intense." The former party animal started asking friends to call him by his birth name, Colson, rather than his stage name. "People were like, 'You have a name?' And even I was like, 'Yeah, weird, huh?'" Kelly shared.

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From Rapper to Rock Star

MGK's personal and musical transformation greatly influenced his latest album, Tickets to My Downfall. The record was a huge change from his usual rap sound and boasted a more pop-punk style. Kelly explained why this work, which focuses on his "downfall," couldn't have been his debut album.

Tickets to My DownfallTickets to My Downfall
Steven Ferdman / Contributor via Getty Images

"I had to get to a certain height to then decline and crash," MGK said. "And people are aware of this height that I'm at, and they don't want to see it rise anymore; they want to see it crash. There had to have been a journey for people to care about to still be tuned into, to then see destroyed."

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A Directorial Debut

MGK showed he can work with a multitude of genres and artists when he released his directorial debut, a 49-minute musical drama titled Downfalls High. The film featured TikTok star Chase Hudson, also known as Lil Huddy, and Euphoria actress Sydney Sweeney.

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YouTube- Machine Gun Kelly

The drama followed Lil Huddy and Sweeney in a modern punk love story with similarities to the 1970s classic Grease. Machine Gun Kelly performed songs from Tickets to My Downfall in between scenes, carrying on the plot. The latest career move showed how the talented musician is not limiting his artistic aspirations.

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MGK Doesn't Care That People "Hate" Him

Hardly anyone's path to fame is free of scrutiny and scandal. From brawls with club bouncers to public feuds with one of rap's biggest names, Machine Gun Kelly's journey is no exception. But the artist said there's a kind of liberation in knowing not everybody likes him.

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Joseph Okpako / Contributor via Getty Images

"My face alone pisses people off, so I really don't have any nerves about how my music is gonna be received," Kelly said. "People are already angry that I was a street kid with blonde hair and blue eyes." One thing's for sure: whether it's for his music or shocking jewelry choices, Machine Gun Kelly has our attention.

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