Machine Gun Kelly has carved out a name for himself with rapid-fire verses and an incredible live show, building a full-blown movement much bigger than his music. Backed by a family of loyal fans and a full band, the actor/musician has poured his all into four full-lengths and multiple mixtapes over the past decade. Having shown off the different sides of what he can do as a rapper, MGK set his eyes on what’s next with Tickets To My Downfall, a complete pop-punk album produced by Travis Barker.
He geared up for its release over the past few months with tracks such as the VMA–winning “bloody valentine” and “concert for aliens.” While each release was lauded by his fanbase and won over some pop-punk purists, it also yielded shit-stirrers hiding in comment threads to question why he “switched genres.” But EST knows that MGK has never been confined within the invisible boundaries of one genre, and Tickets To My Downfall is far from the first time he’s leaned into his rock influences.
If you’re still not convinced or are just in search of even more rock songs after bopping through today’s Tickets To My Downfall release, we’ve got you covered. From alternative samples, guitar-driven anthems and collabing with more than a few artists we know are already on your playlist, here are some of the other times MGK embraced rock.
“OHMYGOD (OMGMGK)” with the Madden brothers
All the way back in 2011 before even releasing a full-length, MGK joined Benji and Joel Madden for a track on their brand-new side project, the Madden Brothers. Appearing alongside Wiz Khalifa and Kreayshawn for the duo’s Before – Volume One mixtape, Kells backed the Maddens on “OHMYGOD (OMGMGK).” As if throwing down with the Good Charlotte icons wasn‘t cool enough, the track also mixes in From First To Last’s Sonny Moore through a sample of his Skrillex cut “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites.”
“Save Me” featuring M. Shadows and Synyster Gates
Citing Waking The Fallen as one of his favorite albums ever with a particular appreciation for the “Unholy Confessions” riff, MGK got to make a little of his own magic with Avenged Sevenfold in 2012. Calling them “one of the greatest metal groups to ever do it,” Kells recruited M. Shadows and Synyster Gates on Lace Up’s opening track “Save Me” to add a melodic edge to his flow.
“End Of The Road” featuring blackbear
Before blackbear was penning hits of his own, the singer got his start in a pop-punk band called Polaroid followed by an acoustic pop solo project releasing music as Mat Musto. During this time, bear joined MGK for their first of many collabs on Lace Up track “End Of The Road.” With a long history of crossovers and both artists’ roots planted in a love of alternative, their reunion on the chart-topping “my ex’s best friend” is definitely a full-circle moment.
“Alone” with Sleeping With Sirens
No stranger to collaborations, Sleeping With Sirens recruited MGK for “Alone” off their third full-length, Feel. Marked by Kellin Quinn’s trademark pitch blending with the rapper’s thoughtfully paced lyricism, the track is a standout in both artists’ discography. Kells returned to Warped Tour after appearing on the full run in 2012 to join SWS at a handful of dates to perform the song in 2013 before doing it all again at the 2014 APMAs.
“Swing Life Away” featuring Kellin Quinn
Machine Gun Kelly returned the favor shortly after the release of Feel by bringing Quinn on for a Rise Against rework for his 2013 Black Flag mixtape. Quinn maintains the skeleton of the original, harmonizing on the chorus while MGK gives the verses a twist and even nods to blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” (“Singing ‘I don’t want to grow up/Don’t nobody like you when you’re 23’”).
Released a few months prior to his sophomore album, General Admission, the Fuck It mixtape boasts some of MGK’s rawest material. Teaming up with fellow Clevelander Earl St. Clair, “Rolling Stone” is highlighted by an electric beat that kicks off from the first note. Written as an ode to his upbringing where he’d rather be playing guitar, the track aptly incorporates plenty of riffs.
“Spotlight” with Lzzy Hale
Similar to his approach on Lace Up, Kells utilized the opening track of follow-up General Admission to welcome fans into the album with an incredibly emotional collab. Recruiting Lzzy Hale after meeting at an awards show, the grit of MGK’s honest lyrics meshes seamlessly with the Halestorm frontwoman’s powerhouse vocals.
“Bad Mother F*cker” with Kid Rock
Back in 2018, Machine Gun Kelly joined Fall Out Boy for their MANIA tour alongside acts such as Against The Current, Rise Against, State Champs and Every Time I Die (who accidentally made a cameo in the “RAP DEVIL” video). As the direct support among a stacked lineup, MGK certainly didn’t hold back, kicking off his set each night with his electric 2015 Kid Rock collab “Bad Mother F*cker.”
While Machine Gun Kelly has since established himself as an actor with a plethora of roles, he made his TV debut with Cameron Crowe’s series about the fictional the Staton-House Band, Roadies, in 2016. Joining the cast as Wes, the Pearl Jam roadie turned nanny, the musician got to show off a few of his performance skills alongside Halsey and his fellow castmates in various scenes. In each episode, the crew goes through daily setup with the “song of the day,” a moment so crucial that it’s actually penciled into their call sheet. Episode eight mostly takes place on the bus as Phil (Ron White) recalls his time with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Capping off the episode with the song of the day, MGK strums an acoustic guitar while singing “Simple Man,” a cover that was later released in full.
“Let You Go”
While “Rehab” and “27” show off the softer side to MGK with acoustic undertones, fellow Bloom track “Let You Go” brings his band front and center. Sticking with the more pop-infused melodies of his 2017 full-length, the rapper steps up his singing and strumming for a heartbreak anthem that could rival your favorite emo breakup song.
“Sunrise Trailer Park” with Papa Roach
Papa Roach hit the APMAs for a guest-filled set in 2016, bringing out Memphis May Fire’s Matty Mullins, Tonight Alive’s Jenna McDougall and Machine Gun Kelly. The rapper stormed the stage for his own “Till I Die” before jumping in on “Last Resort” with the band. Little did fans know that this wouldn’t be their last epic matchup, with Papa Roach recruiting MGK on “Sunrise Trailer Park” the following year.
“Lift Off” with Mike Shinoda and Chino Moreno
MGK’s history with Linkin Park stretches back several years. A fan of the band himself, the musician joined LP for their surprise Warped Tour set in 2014 to perform “Bleed It Out.” The two acts later announced a summer tour in May 2017 followed by MGK joining them once again for the same track at Poland’s Impact Festival in June. Chester Bennington passed away a few weeks later, just ahead of the North American run’s kickoff. Despite a full tour not coming to fruition, the rapper’s relationship with the band didn’t stop there. In 2018, MGK hopped on a track for Mike Shinoda’s debut solo album, Post Traumatic. Appearing alongside Deftones’ Chino Moreno, the trio’s vocals blend seamlessly for one of the album’s standout tracks.
“The Dirt (Est. 1981)” with Mötley Crüe
Machine Gun Kelly landed his first starring role in 2019 as Tommy Lee for Netflix’s Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt. Outside of helping bring the iconic hair-metal act’s antics to life on screen, MGK also got to hit the studio with the band for an equally debaucherous collab, “The Dirt (Est. 1981).” While Lee had been trying to get the rapper on one of his solo tracks for a while, the Crüe collab came together naturally for the film’s soundtrack.
In 2017, Machine Gun Kelly teamed up with X Ambassadors and pop songstress and fellow Warped Tour alum Bebe Rexha on “Home” for Netflix’s Bright. Reflecting on the importance of having somewhere to rest your head, MGK revealed he wrote his verse the night Chester Bennington passed away. The late Linkin Park frontman’s influence didn’t stop there, as Kells pulled inspiration from “Numb” (which he also covered) in “Hollywood Whore.” The Hotel Diablo track’s video makes the tribute loud and clear as “R.I.P. Chester Bennington” flashes across the screen.
“I Think I’m OKAY” with YUNGBLUD and Travis Barker
“I Think I’m OKAY” is one of the first tracks to start MGK on the path to his full-blown pop-punk album. Teaming up with Travis Barker and YUNGBLUD, the trio pumped out one of the most infectious tracks of the year, quickly racking up 1 million views in less than 24 hours and breaking MGK’s own personal rock chart record. Kells even joined YUNGBLUD at the final date of the last-ever Warped Tour to perform the collab.
“why are you here”
Machine Gun Kelly closed out 2019 with the release of his rock-drenched single “why are you here.” Speaking to Zane Lowe about the track, Kells reveals it’s what inspired him to finally go for a pop-punk album with “all singing [and] live instruments.” Recording it with his own band, the musician started working with Barker on what would become Tickets To My Downfall soon after.
Hours after hitting the stage with YUNGBLUD at his first livestream event amid the coronavirus pandemic, MGK kept the jamming going at home with a cover of “Misery Business.” Teasing fans with just seconds of the Paramore rework alongside frequent collaborator Omer Fedi, the clip marked the first of MGK’s Lockdown Sessions. Soon after, he recruited Fedi, Barker and his bassist Steve “Baze” Basil for a full cover. For several weeks, Kells continued sharing covers and freestyles over famous samples, including Nirvana, Oasis, Juice WRLD and PVRIS (“In These Walls”). Taking one last request from Marilyn Manson, he rounded out the covers just ahead of the release of “bloody valentine” and the start of the Tickets To My Downfall era.