From Motor-Mouthed Rapper To Pop-Punk Paladin: Machine Gun Kelly’s ‘Tickets To My Downfall’

Gemma Cockrell

As rapper-turned-rocker Machine Gun Kelly’s fourth LP, Tickets to My Downfall, tops the Billboard charts, Gemma Cockrell reflects on his plucky evolution from rowdy hiphop terror to reviver of the dated pop-punk canon. 

Cleveland rapper and self-proclaimed ‘rap devil’, Machine Gun Kelly made a name for himself in a hotly saturated hip-hop scene through his high-adrenaline rhyming style and occasional beef with Eminem. On Tickets to My Downfall, however, he mixes things up; taking his music in a direction that nobody, not even his fans, could have expected.

After four successful hip-hop records, critics and fans alike were left in disbelief at the enigmatic pop-punk of new album Tickets to My Downfall. Though at first the transition sounds ludicrous, MGK’s hip-hop was always very emotionally-charged, and so lends itself rather well to the grit and grind of pop-punk. Regardless, all were left intrigued as to how the record would turn out.

Tickets to My Downfall was not MGK’s bid for mainstream success or money, but instead an ode to his childhood love for the pop-punk genre

It isn’t although Machine Gun Kelly has made this transition to pop-punk because of its popularity in the mainstream right now. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The genre’s hayday was the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and in the current musical era, hip-hop outsells rock by some distance. Tickets to My Downfall was therefore clearly not MGK’s bid for mainstream success or money, but instead an ode to his childhood love for the pop-punk genre.

Though the authenticity of the album has gained him widespread respect in the music community, the transition into pop-punk was one he wanted to make solely for himself. Generating conversation internet-wide, there have been endless discussions about the album on Twitter, and mixed reviews flooding YouTube. However, MGK was obviously very aware that the album would be divisive, and may impact his career negatively; hence the title – Tickets to My Downfall.

The album was released on September 25th, and soared to the top of the Billboard charts.


The record isn’t actually Machine Gun Kelly’s first taste of pop-punk success, however, as he has previously collaborated with Blink 182’s Travis Barker, as well as Yungblud on the chart-topping Hotel Diablo in 2019. It is therefore no surprise that he invited Barker back to executively produce Tickets to My Downfall, as well as play drums on the record.

Despite its collaboration with a pop-punk legend, the greatest thing about the record is it’s modern take on the genre. If it had simply reused the stereotypes from the early 2000’s, the album would have felt stale and outdated, but MGK manages to bring his own contemporary twist whilst capturing everything that was loved about the pop-punk genre – teenage angst included. 

Machine Gun Kelly couldn’t have been more wrong in saying that a pop-punk album would be his ‘downfall’

Features from modern artists such as Halsey, Trippie Redd, Blackbear and Iann Dior also help to keep Tickets to My Downfall fresh. Topics previously covered in his music, such as drugs and heartbreak, also find a new lease of life within a new genre. It therefore doesn’t feel like MGK loses any sense of identity in his shift to pop-punk – he is not putting on a persona, but simply expressing his feelings through a new art form.

Some of the tracks even feature trap beats, reminiscent of the rap genre he previously belonged too, as well as nods to the ‘emo-rap’ genre, including artists like Lil Peep. These all make his take on the out-dated genre even more enigmatic and intoxicating. 

Machine Gun Kelly therefore couldn’t have been more wrong in saying that writing a pop-punk album would be his ‘downfall’. The record has earned positive reviews from almost all the major publications, and even scored MGK his first Billboard #1 album. If anything, switching genres has been the biggest move of his career – stoking widespread conversations around his name, and earning him new fans in the meantime. His transition from rap to pop-punk was certainly a hit rather than a miss, and fans are now left waiting with intrigue as to what he could possibly do next. 

Gemma Cockrell



Featured image courtesy of jimmybooey via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

Article image courtesy of Machine Gun Kelly via Facebook. No changes made to this image.

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