Machine Gun Kelly: Don’t Let Me Go

Just yesterday, the internet went wild when Machine Gun Kelly revealed a mostly blacked out upper body, covering up many of his tattoos to create a window of skin shaped like a cross. He did this, while simultaneously emptying his entire Instagram feed, leaving only this photo along with the caption, “For spiritual purposes only.” One can’t help but  immediately think of Kat Von D, whose shocking and inspiring spiritual journey I recently covered in another Tuned Up piece. By the time I wrote that article, there were no questions as to the reason behind her tattoo black out. She had already appeared on a lengthy episode of a Christian podcast to transparently share her riveting testimony of leaving the New Age to follow Jesus Christ. She explains that  she found freedom in blotting out her upper body with black ink. She is only one of many public personas that have been affected by what seems to be The Great Celebrity Awakening, alongside Daddy Yankee, Eminem, and M.I.A.  And  while Kelly didn’t leave much explanation outside of his Instagram post, it wouldn’t be too unbelievable to conclude that he too is discovering his need for a savior.  The other tip he left fans was in his Instagram story inviting us all to tune in to the YouTube debut of his new single, Don’t let me go. And so of course, I waited on the edge of my seat along with curious others to see if it would answer the question that we’re all thinking. Is Kelly jumping on the Jesus train? 

His real name is Richard Colson Baker. Born to missionary parents, Kelly, also known as MGK, has many “hometowns,” including Cleveland, Ohio. Throughout his rise to fame, his relationship with faith has been complex. Although raised in a Christian household, he drifted away from his religious roots as he delved deeper into the music industry. He has carved a unique path in the world of music, and has somewhat of a mixed reputation. He is known to many as an inspiration and a symbol of resilience, yet there are literally videos on YouTube titled, “10 Things People Hate About Machine Gun Kelly.” The bad boy rapper turned pop punk singer is no stranger to controversy. His childhood was marked by challenges and instability. His father left when he was young, leaving him to be raised by his mother, who struggled with addiction. Despite these hardships, he found solace in music, particularly in rap and rock. He began to hone his craft, drawing inspiration from artists like Eminem and Blink-182. As his career took off, he adopted his stage name as a nod to an infamous gangster from the Prohibition era. He gained recognition for his energetic performances and raw lyricism, but his personal life remained tumultuous. Substance abuse and run-ins with the law threatened to derail his career at times, but he persevered, using music as an outlet for his pain and frustration. 

After watching his new music video, it’s clear that he is having a moment of reckoning. From the very first lines, the song plunges into the depths of his mental and spiritual struggles, navigating suicidal ideation and the desire to escape the hate he harbors inside himself. He philosophizes about the point of fame, the meaning of life, and fear of death, singing, “Tell me after all this ends, will I be mentioned again? Why do I care–  if in the end it’s just me and God, like I’m Christian again?” But that mere reference to his Christian upbringing is not where he stops. He opens up about the wound of his mother’s absence, his own shortcomings, and the strict way his dad raised him, with many gut-wrenching lines like, “My heart was broken like my ribs as a kid when me and my father fought.” And finally, each vulnerable verse leads into a chorus that begins, “I’m coming back, just let me go,” yet ends, “I’m coming back, don’t let me go.” It sounds like the man is seriously at war within himself, although the last line in each chorus does seem to say that he is giving in to his need to be held on to. And while he doesn’t clarify that he’s talking to God, he is wearing a hoodie for much of the video that says LORD. 

Music Video for “Don’t Let Me Go”

We posted a poll on Instagram in the comments of our last post to gauge people’s reactions to his tattoos. Some of you guys believe he is finding Jesus. Others believe it’s a publicity stunt or some extreme tattoo trend. Some even believe that Christian revival happening in Hollywood is simply another strange phenomenon much like when handfuls of celebrities started practicing Kabbalah or Scientology. While I do see that many entertainers are likely to jump on the bandwagon after things that are trending, even religions, it doesn’t mean that one is just like the other. It makes sense that people in the same industry would be influenced by one another, but the lasting personal transformation and positive world impact of celebrities that become genuine Jesus followers seems to stand out significantly in comparison to any outcomes we’ve witnessed with other trends that come and go. And that, to me, is so exciting. Regardless of where MGK is at this point of his spiritual journey, what an incredible song!  I’ve never really followed his music, except for when he teamed up with Avril Lavigne, who now that I think of it also began following Jesus before returning to the music scene with her Christian Rock ballad, Head Above Water.  I’ll definitely be following and praying for his journey.

Author: Gabrielle Solange

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