There must be something in the water, as rappers have once again taken to baring their teeth on wax. Though Drake vs. Pusha T is primed to go down as the year’s crowning achievement in (arguably one-sided) hip-hop beef, a late-game battle royale between Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly has emerged to satiate the bloodthirsty. Dubbed by some as “white-on-white crime,” this seemingly spontaneous conflict has actually been years in the making, with both parties nursing animosity to varying degrees.

Fans immediately felt the impact of Em’s fury upon receiving “Not Alike,’ a Bad Meets Evil collaboration that found Machine Gun Kelly catching the ire of Evil incarnate:

“Now you wanna come and fuck with me, huh?
This little cock-sucker, he must be feelin' himself
He wants to keep up his tough demeanor
So he does a feature, decides to team up with Nina
But next time you don't gotta use Tech N9ne
If you wanna come at me with a sub, Machine Gun
And I'm talkin' to you, but you already know who the fuck you are, Kelly
I don't use sublims and sure as fuck don't sneak-diss
But keep commenting on my daughter Hailie”

Upon hearing the barrage, many were left wondering why Em was calling out Machine Gun Kelly by name. Though Em does allude to the catalyst of his disdain, the majority of his verse is reserved for pressing foot firmly on jugular; in a move sure to please ardent Eminem die-hards, the menacing presence of Trick Trick is evoked, harkening memories of “Welcome To Detroit City.” Though the mere notion of Eminem once again gunning for established artists was enough to cause ripples of glee throughout the community, much of the backstory was indeed lost in translation.

When Em alluded to a Hailie name-drop, he was in fact referring to an MGK tweet from 2012, in which Kelly thirsted after the young lady. “Ok so I just saw a picture of Eminem’s daughter...and i have to say, she’s hot as fuck, in the most respectful way possible cause Em is king.” The tweet, as preserved here on Vibe, was originally sent out on May 7th, 2012.  Whether or not he was shooting his shot or merely speaking his mind is up for debate. Regardless, his words have come to haunt him to this day.

In 2015, MGK spoke with Peter Rosenberg, Laura Stylez, and Ebro about his comments, alluding to some severe, lasting consequences. In short, MGK felt blackballed over a simply lapse in judgement, explaining himself as follows. “Pictures of [Hailie] had come out and I’m like, what, 20 years old, 21 at the time? I said ‘She’s beautiful, but all respect due. Eminem is king.’ What’s wrong with that?” Upon watching the clip, Kelly’s demeanor changes, as the visibly agitated rapper explains his ensuing strife to the sympathetic ears of the Hot 97 crew.

He reveals that his comments ultimately led to a blackballing of sorts, in which certain radio stations and publications proceeded to avoid Kelly’s music like the plague. In fact, Em once threatened the same fate onto anyone confusing him with Canibus, way back on 2002’s “Say What You Say.” Perhaps Marshall is indeed a man of his word, with a powerful enough brand to pull strings behind the scenes. Unfortunately for MGK, Eminem happens to be the man behind Shade 45, a popular hip-hop satellite radio station home to Sway In The Morning, Rude Jude, and more; worse, in the same interview, Laura Stylez alludes to Kelly’s ban extending to the entirety of Sirius XM. Before he can truly sound off, bottle in hand, Ebro and Rosenberg wisely cut the conversation short.

For some context, Kelly seemed to address the rumor during a 2017 LA Leakers freestyle, in which he rapped “I’m my favourite rapper alive since my favourite rapper banned me from Shade 45.” In 2018, Kelly would continue to press the issue, sending a few subs on Tech N9ne’s “No Reason,” and ultimately solidifying his place on Eminem’s “renewed shit-list.”

KELLY STRIKES BACK

When Kamikaze dropped, few detractors were spared Marshall Mathers’ wrath. Yet Kelly was among the most prominent recipients, and decided to take a break from trading shots with the beloved “Bay Area Greaser” G-Eazy to put his pen game to work. Setting his sights on the man he once dubbed “king,” Kelly dropped “Rap Devil,” setting a dichotomy seeped in Catholic iconography; recall, Em has continuously deemed himself the “Rap God,” and in his mind, there is no pantheon to be found. Yet Kelly has come forward with the most overt Eminem diss since Ja Rule’s “Loose Change,” and many have found themselves receiving the track with respectful head-nods. Even Eminem fans can’t help but respect MGK’s gumption in targeting such a formidable target. 

Rest assured, MGK has tossed aside the etiquette, pulling Eminem into the muck without hesitation. Taking to an instrumental from recent Eminem collaborator Ronny J, MGK unloads on everything. Not even Em’s beard is safe. “His fucking beard is weird,” raps Kelly. Tough talk from a rapper paying millions for security a year.” He proceeds to paint Eminem as an “old-man-yelling-at-cloud” trope embodiment, while harping on Em’s gradual ascent into his upper forties. 

In the second verse, he directly addresses his Blackballing, rapping “Let's talk about the fact you actually blacked-balled a rapper that's twice as young as you, Let's call Sway, ask why I can't go on Shade 45 because of you, let's ask Interscope how you had Paul Rosenberg trying to shelf me.” He sheds some light on his side of the story, whereupon he actually received a conference call from Diddy and Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope; together, the pair prompted MGK to issue an apology for his comments on Hailie. “The big bad bully of the rap game can't take a fucking joke,” raps MGK, leading us to wonder whether Eminem’s behavior goes against his established principles. Was this not the same manner of backdoor industry politics Em lambasted during his beef with Benzino? Perhaps the rulebook flies out the window when children are dragged into it.

In any case, Kelly moves forward undeterred, poking fun at Eminem’s vocal cadence, calling him “Oscar The Grouch” for his troubles. “Don't be a sucker and take my verse off of Yelawolf's album,” he raps, playfully alluding to his own prior industry woes. Taking a page out of the aforementioned Ja Rule’s playbook, Kelly ends the diss by name-dropping a staple in Eminem’s romantic life. “Dropped an album called Kamikaze, so that means it killed him, already fucked one rapper's girl this week, don't make me call Kim.”

Machine Gun is of course referring to a reported tryst with G-Eazy’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Halsey, and while the shot may be more immediately scathing for Young Gerald, Em has never taken kindly to having his personal life dragged into his conflicts. Given how Kamikaze seemingly found Eminem reinvigorated, regaining his lust for blood and no-fucks-given demeanor, one has to expect a response in the near future. It’s like Paul Rosenberg predicted during his moment in the sun. “It’s a slippery slope,” warned Em’s longtime friend and manager, expecting fallout from Kamikaze’s scathing nature. Yet as Em warned on the very same project, he hasn’t quite forgotten how to revert back to some “Ja Rule shit.” Should we be expecting something along the lines of "The Sauce," "Nail In The Coffin," or "The Warning?" At this point, it's anybody's guess.

"KILLSHOT"

We should have known this was coming. Em, never one to take verbal abuse lying down, officially delivered his response to Machine Gun Kelly. "KILLSHOT" dropped Friday, September 14th, and immediately sent the masses into a fervent state. Throughout the four-minute lyrical onslaught (catch some of the hardest bars here), Eminem proceeds to clap back at MGK, targeting everything from his man-bun, to his perceived lack of career or critical acclaim, to his one-sided infatuation with Halsey - he even incriminates Kelly's boss, Diddy, as the man who orchestrated Pac's murder. All in all, Slim Shady delivered yet another diss track for the ages.

For a brief period, a narrative existed in which Eminem was deemed irrelevant, a relic of an ancient time. Recent activity proves that narrative has been all-but-dispelled. "KILLSHOT" already has fans and rappers in shambles, with both Jay Electronica and Iggy Azalea already taking issue with Em's merciless approach. The parents who once feared Eminem's rising influence in the early millennium could never foresee this. One has to wonder whether Machine Gun Kelly has been rationing his pork and beans in the event of a protracted siege.