This Friday, Colson ‘MGK‘ Baker will make his big-screen debut, starring as Kid Culprit in the romantic drama, Beyond The Lights. The Cleveland rapper was introduced to the masses in 2011 with the success of his breakout single “Wild Boy,” but has since remained relatively quiet on a mainstream level since his 2012 Bad Boy/Interscope debut, Lace Up, as he toured the world and shot not only Beyond The Lights, but two more as-of-yet unreleased films as well. He’s also been preparing his sophomore effort, which he says may have its first single out within weeks.
Suffice to say, MGK has been a busy guy, but unless you’re a fan or follow his social media, one likely wouldn’t know that he’s been up to much of anything. To many, this film will be his re-introduction of sorts, and what better way to do so than with a role that showcases not only his acting chops, but his rapping as well.
“When it came time to cast the role of Kid Culprit, I knew I wanted a real hip-hop artist,” the film’s writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood said about choosing MGK for the role. “I saw the video for ‘Wild Boy,’ and he just seemed to exemplify who the character was. So we had that first audition, and I was intrigued by him a lot. Then I had him come back and read with Gugu, and their chemistry was so good! We want an artist who wants it badly because they’ll give you everything, and he really did.”
I got the opportunity to watch the movie before I spoke with MGK last week, and I truly enjoyed it. As a woman working in music, the pressures Noni faced were all too familiar, and the roles of her mother and Kid Culprit are common figures we meet often. I was really impressed with Kells‘ acting too, as I wasn’t sure what to expect from him, but I automatically connected with his character, rather than getting the vibe that he was out of his element.
Below, check out what MGK had to say about his debut role, why he wouldn’t change a thing about it, why his five-year-old daughter is a little jealous about it…and get an itty-bitty clue about his forthcoming single from his sophomore album!
So it’s finally here! You shot this about a year ago now, right? Does it feel like you’ve been waiting forever?
I’m really excited, I’m really nervous. When I went and watched the screening of it, I watched it with my hands over my face. It was my first time seeing myself on film.
With this being your first film and having done two more since then, was there anything you would have gone back and changed in how you prepared for the role or during filming?
No I think everything that happened was meant to happen so that it played it the way that it was, because the one thing that Gina said to me that made me so comfortable was, “I wouldn’t have said ‘cut’ if I didn’t like what I got.”
What was challenging the first time you went at it?
I thought it was actually harder because it was close to who I am as a person. I found that it was actually harder, especially versus acting in the other 2 movies. It was a lot harder to play a complete character, and not play someone who was loosely based off who you are as a person and the attitude that you have. It was kind of awkward to channel that into a movie role, but I liked the way it turned out a lot. I could see me in a more serious side and I like that.
“Masterpiece” is a pretty cool song honestly, and I love how you were able to use real parts of you, like your XXX tattoo, to incorporate into your character’s songs. Other than that, though, Kid Culprit’s lyrics aren’t typically what you’d ever hear Machine Gun Kelly rapping about. Was that actually easier because it was more surface-level, or was it harder to step out of your element and write like that?
Like the sexual songs, it was actually really easy. There’s another song called “Private Property” that I did with Noni, well Gugu, and that one is just really slow and a total R&B song. I would never, ever do that as Machine Gun Kelly, and I actually love that song. It’s slow and sexy, and I’ve always had that sexual side to myself, it’s just that I’ve never found a way or a place for it in my music. So I don’t know, it came pretty easy because I think I’ve always been wanting to express that side. It came pretty easy.
You only wrote your verses, or did you write Noni’s parts as well?
I only wrote mine. I think The Dream wrote and produced all of the records except for my parts.
It’s also dope that my favorite song of all time made it into the movie, “Ratchet.” Will be that be on the soundtrack?
I don’t think it’s on the soundtrack, but it’s definitely in the movie. That’s the coolest thing ever. But there’s like 3 Kid Culprit and Noni collaborations on the soundtrack.
I don’t know how much you particularly related to your character considering you’re not much of a douchebag, but I feel like there would be a connection with Noni with your past having battled some demons yourself, and being vocal about your disdain for industry politics.
That’s a really cool question actually. I definitely relate to the way she perceived fame and the way she received success, because I think the dream is to be able to achieve all that you wanted and be heard by millions of people, but still be treated normal, and that’s just not realistic. When I saw her going through that, I thought it was really cool, but I also was really happy with how the script and the movie was written and shot, because I think that’s going to bring a lot of attention to the fact that celebrities are really just normal people, and that the way that they’re treated really fucks people up. It really can ruin somebody, you know what I mean? I think that people need to be cognizant of that. I hope that it kind of strikes a social issue, which is like putting a celebrity on a pedestal.
I think it was so cool you were able to bring your friends in the movie, and I think it’s almost symbolic too that your first major role still shows MGK and his team like it’s always been. What did it mean to you?
That’s what I’m excited about is them seeing my friends. That’s like, forever going to be documented, because that movie will be played years from now and will be on DVD years from now. That’s something that’s never going away. I’m really grateful for Gina for letting me be able to bring my friends in, and I know the fans are definitely going to spazz when they even hear little gems like “Ratchet” playing. That’s a song with all Cleveland artists in a major motion picture. People would never imagine that happening. I just can’t wait to sit in that theater back home in Cleveland at the screening and hear peoples’ reactions when they see that movie and see all of our faces.
What’s the plan for Cleveland? Will your daughter see the movie?
Casey’s going to see it! My daughter, she’s just really jealous of the girl in the film. When she sees the previews on TV, she gets jealous or like, mad when she sees daddy with a girl. But yeah, I’m going to definitely bring her to the screening.
UPDATE: I got the opportunity to attend the screening in Cleveland with the guys, and Kells gave such a cute speech before premiering the film. Also – his daughter is the cutest little girl ever!
Was acting always a part of the plan? I know how much DMX and Pac meant to you, so it’s kind of awesome to see you following in their footsteps as far as rapping and acting go.
I’ve always wanted to act, and I auditioned for years and years on end trying to get a role. I’m glad this is my first one. I auditioned 5 times during our tour for this role, flying to L.A. after a show, and flying back just before the next show would start. I did that 5 times. I definitely was always planning on attempting to act, but I think now that I’ve done 3 films, I just want to see how the films turn out and see if I’m really happy with what I’m bringing to the screen before I continue to do it.
You dyed your hair black for SLC Punk, and chopped the beloved mohawk off for Beyond The Lights. What’s the furthest you’d go for a role?
Yeah, I’ll change whatever for a role. That’s what it’s about. I really fell in love with being an entertainer, and I think some of that is dying off, so I want to bring that theatrical sense back to our generation, specifically. You know, back in the day, people would do whatever – not in a corny “I’ll do whatever to get a role” way, but they’d really be passionate and put themselves all the way into the role and really get into. I think that’s why so many great films happened back in the day, and that’s why we just need to bring that back. So yes, I would participate in whatever. It’s for the art.
Do you have any more roles coming up?
I got an exciting call-back, but I can’t say just yet.
In a previous interview about the movie, you mentioned that your character’s fame and status was on Drake’s level. Where do you feel your level is comparable to right now? Do you feel like you’ve “made it” yet? What will it take to feel that way?
I definitely don’t feel like I’ve made it. I’m just going to feel a lot more comfortable with where I’m at and how I’m viewed after the second album is out, because the second album is really everything that I wanted to say on the first album.
And when is that coming?
You know what? That date is as mysterious as the tooth fairy. It’s as mysterious as Santa Claus.
Okay, well will we get a mysterious single soon?
[laughs] Nah, yeah. I would say a single is coming within the next month. It’s all for my city. It’s a Cleveland street anthem.
Dope! So what’s the game plan then? Canada next month for the ‘No Class Tour,’ then what?
That album! It’s done, the tracklist is there, but I’m sure doing my couple weeks home, I’ll get some more inspiration and want to go back in on it. But I’m not at all worried as far as deadlines or any of that goes. If I had to turn in my album right now, I’d be totally happy with it.