The general public first became familiar with Machine Gun Kelly when the Cleveland rapper appeared in Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's colorful entourage during the nationally televised 2013 NBA draft lottery, prompting Grantland scribe Zach Lowe to write, "I had never heard of Machine Gun Kelly, which is not surprising. I am 35 and unhip. He is 23 and something like hip."

The general public first became familiar with Machine Gun Kelly when the Cleveland rapper appeared in Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s colorful entourage during the nationally televised 2013 NBA draft lottery, prompting Grantland scribe Zach Lowe to write, “I had never heard of Machine Gun Kelly, which is not surprising. I am 35 and unhip. He is 23 and something like hip.”

It’s unlikely Kelly, now 24, would ever term himself “hip”; on his most recent mixtape, Black Flag, the rapper casts himself as the perennial underdog and the consummate outsider, adopting a similar role to the local sports teams he’s taken to stumping for on the national stage. “I miss going to rock at open mikes/ Hoping that I got noticed by the labels and blow up overnight,” he spits on the dreamy “D&G.” “Never happened, but passion led me like Holy Christ.”

More tortoise than hare, he’s built his reputation slowly and steadily, exhibiting a blue-collar work ethic and a dedication to craft Browns fans hope to see from Johnny Manziel. It’s paying dividends, too. Compare Kelly’s earliest bars to the stanzas he drops on Black Flag and there’s no doubting he’s logged the needed practice hours. If things break right over the next year, perhaps the rising MC will perform his yet-to-be-recorded radio anthem at a rally commemorating the Cavs’ 2015 NBA title.

Dubo, Ray Jr., Tezo and DJ Fate also perform.

Photo courtesy of the artist