Machine Gun Kelly and Mod Sun talk happiness and independence in hip hop at the Michigan Union

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 4:29pm

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On Thursday, Nov. 17, The Maize Collective sponsored an event at the Michigan Union with touring rappers Machine Gun Kelly and Mod Sun, who spoke to students and guests alike about the ins and outs of the production and performance of hip hop. MGK covered topics from growing up poor, getting picked on as a kid and his supposedly grand contributions to hip-hop performance, while Mod Sun brought his signature positivity along with the occasional witty comment.

Maize Collective is a new student-run record label on campus that is designed to foster a community among students interested in music production, mixing, publicity and everything in between. Along with extracurricular involvement, they also offer a for-credit course through the University. The group’s goal is to create resources for students with multiple interests within the music industry. 

At the panel, MGK embodied stardom, donning hot pink corduroy pants and a white overcoat — nearly a complete opposite to Mod Sun’s relaxed vibes. With the dominant personality, he barely paused between sentences for a breath, making it clear from the start that music isn’t just a hobby, it’s his entire life, and saying “Music is God to me,” at one point.

He described how, through being bullied in a tough neighborhood, he found his roots in music.

“How I got in the game was me being picked on and lashing out,” he said.

His creative outlet has been anger — an anger which has skyrocketed him to fame. On the other hand, his tourmate Mod Sun is known for his positivity.

To Mod Sun, MGK said, “Tell them how you became happy all the time.”

“Just smile for five seconds, and you’ll feel better,” Mod Sun replied.

This marked Mod Sun’s unfortunately limited time on the mic, giving the audience short quips on happiness and his view of making music.

“You can create your own reality, your own world,” Mod Sun said on his creative process. As similar as the artists’ musical styles are, their views on music creation are starkly different.

MGK’s next topic — performance — was particularly heated. Likening himself to Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, he claimed his own contributions to live performance were vital to the state of modern hip hop, and that he is vastly underappreciated, but also acknowledged that his live performances aren’t always perfect.

“I’m on top of you, put your phones away,” MGK said, voicing his frustrations with today’s concert-goers. Like many musicians in today’s world, he’s more interested in connecting with fans eye-to-eye than through a screen.

“Stop letting everyone into our culture. It’s not for everyone,” MGK added on today’s hip-hop scene. Hip hop is clearly more than a genre to him; it’s become a lifestyle of which he’s very protective. This exclusivity he associates with hip hop highlights another belief of his — protectiveness over his musical voice.

“You don’t sign up as an artist, a true artist, for the liquidity of what your art is,” he said.

MGK also revealed his disdain for his single “Invincible,” written for a Beats commercial — a capitalistic venture he was far from happy about. He explained that it was a song he had little involvement in making, ultimately leading him to hate the end result.

“I walked into every radio station and said ‘this shit sucks,’ ” he said.

As far as production goes, MGK said his highest priority is full musical involvement from the artist, regardless of the money involved.

“Let a guitar chord hit that perfect spot,” MGK said, which turned out to perfectly summarize the event. In all aspects of the music industry, it’s important for the music to feel right not only to the audience, but to the artist as well. MGK loves what he does, and he isn’t afraid to voice his strong opinions on the matter.

“It sucks I have to be angry to write a great record,” he added, a powerful reflection on the individuality of someone’s driving force for creativity. Above all else, Thursday’s panel showed MGK is going to continue to emphasize the importance of remaining true to himself as a musician while staying connected with the fans through his passionate performances.