YOLO of the Week: Revisiting the MGK Flash Mob

May 2010: My first period Algebra II class is abuzz over some rapper named Machine Gun Kelly who’ll be freestyling in the parking lot after school.  The situation becomes considerably fuzzier when I call upon the services of Wikipedia, only to see this: “George Celino Barnes, better known as ‘Machine Gun Kelly’, was an American gangster during the Prohibition era.  His nickname came from his favorite weapon, a Thompson submachine gun.”  Okay?  The Lake Catholic parking lot didn’t typically double as a concert venue, and I was dubious about the event’s likelihood to be approved by administration.  Also, Wikipedia said Machine Gun Kelly died in 1954, which seemed to be problematic.  But if this guy’s ghost was gonna put on a show for us, I was all for it.

April 20, 2012: A New York Times article detailing Hip Hop Squares—MTV’s forthcoming reincarnation of Hollywood Squares—features Machine Gun Kelly, now shortened to MGK, prominently, to the point that it includes the following picture/caption combo:

MGK’s meteoric rise has been well-documented (read his rags-to-riches tale here), and is epitomized in the anecdotes above where, in the span of two years, I went from thinking he was a firearm-loving thug to reading about his status as a celebrity game show contestant—albeit as a thuggish one—in the nation’s most prestigious daily.

When, precisely, did MGK crossover from misidentified murderer to Cleveland head-receiving rap luminary?  Some say August 3, 2011, when he signed a two-album deal with Bad Boy Records.  Others point to last year’s BET Hip Hop Awards, where he performed in a cypher alongside Diddy.  However, neither is correct.  The answer, August 20, 2011, is the day the Shaker Heights grad organized a flash mob (this was very in vogue at the time) on Twitter.

Now, MGK’s avant-garde use of social media is probably the overarching reason for his remarkably passionate fan base.  Though he’s achieved a significant level of fame, Facebook posts like “Just played a kid in rock, paper, scissors outside Smoothie King for what songs I perform tonight” allow him to maintain the salt-of-the-earth vibe that initially endeared him to so many people.  MGK goes to Smoothie King!  MGK takes the time to play rock, paper, scissors with fans!  Is there a decent chance this never happened?  Yes.  Does that matter?  No.  His disciples—the ones with “Lace Up” and “EST” tattoos—won’t entertain this possibility because MGK is one of us.  So the flash mob craze was right up his alley.

The Mona Lisa of Lace Up tattoos.

(Social media side note: It should be mentioned that in his Twitter bio, MGK says, “I like threesomes, chocolate milk, and social studies,” but then again, who doesn’t?)

MGK narrowed down the site of his flash mob to three strong candidates: Strongsville’s SouthPark Mall, Beachwood Place, and Mentor’s Great Lakes Mall.  I was pulling for Mentor, obviously, hoping to bear witness to the looming spectacle, so my emotions got the better of me when MGK announced that SouthPark had won.  Unable to go, I took solace knowing that several videos of the event would emerge on YouTube, permitting retroactive flash-mobbery in the comfort of my own home.  This arrangement was satisfying enough until I caught wind of what happened, which really got my YOLO juices flowing!  As we mark the flash mob’s eight month anniversary, I felt obliged to revisit that fateful August day.

0:02: I can’t decide if the chauffeur is in on the joke or if he’s cursing the life decisions that led him to this moment.

0:18: Man, this crew is so Cleveland it’s a goddamn shame!

0:38: Pause the screen and reflect on the man in the white polo who takes it upon himself to catch a flailing MGK.  Not many people would have done this.

0:50: I love how one of MGK’s minions brazenly adds to the chaos by brandishing a boombox.  Looks fun!

1:10: The kid standing up in the yellow shirt is either on drugs, drunk, or a combination of the two.  Vote here:

1:26: This is MGK’s best bit of acting.  Content with the pandemonium level he’s caused, he throws up one final L and plays the part of the complying, unjustifiably handcuffed citizen, as if he had nothing to do with what just happened.

1:42: This guy in the red shirt can’t be a cop, right?  Maybe he just wants to show this video to his grandkids one day and brag about how he had a hand in MGK’s arrest.

2:32: This chick equates bailing MGK out of jail to doing God’s work.

2:50: Is it bad that I was kinda rooting for the blue-shirted girl to trip on the back of the car?  Not like I wanted her to sustain life altering injuries or anything.

3:00: Free at last!

3:10: Father-son bonding if I’ve ever seen it.

3:25: MGK “gives a f*** about these kids,” but why won’t he acknowledge the adults that showed out for him?  Seems like a double standard.

4:10: MGK, struck by the audacity of his detractors: “And they say EST wasn’t a cult!”  Really?  I’ve never heard anyone say that, but I’ll take your word for it.

4:16: The video concludes with a five second sample of “Wild Boy”, which raises a pertinent question: Does anyone actually like MGK’s music?  I mean, I’m sure some people do, but that many?  Occasionally, I’m asked this at Ohio State and feel obligated to answer yes out of civic pride.  Oftentimes I’ll praise him at the expense of, say, Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa the same way I perennially declare that the Browns will beat the Steelers even though I know otherwise.  It’s the classic heart versus head conundrum, and I’ll go with my heart every time.  MGK puts on for the city – that’s good enough for me.


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