Black Flag (self-released)
One of this summer's best concerts should have been Summer Jam, a concert featuring Kid Cudi, Machine Gun Kelly and King Chip at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. But all three of them dropped the show, and the coinciding concert at House of Blues where the untalented, over-hyped, one-hit wonder Ace Hood headlined. But then MGK showed up at Summer Jam anyway. The guy practically owns the music scene in Cleveland, but by canceling his headlining slot, he essentially gave a big middle finger to all the people who wanted to see him actually perform a solid-hour set. He's always bragging about how good his live show is and yet all he's done live this summer is get super high and walk on stage at other Cleveland rap concerts.
It's not as if he doesn't have some new material to test out. The rapper just released the new mixtape Black Flag, a release he's been hyping all year since he announced it in January. Even with all the hype, Black Flag might be some of Machine Gun Kelly's best work to date. But it's not without flaws, and it's a damn shame that with all his love for Cleveland this EST Fest in Garrettsville is the first show he could stand to book here all summer.
Black Flag shows so much potential and suggests MGK could be a socially conscious artist who supports the community and can mix one hell of a hook. The last song off Black Flag, "Dark Side Of The Moon," is an intensely lyrical song that follows the life of Tommy, who has an abusive father; Tommy eventually takes that hate in his life to his high school with a gun in his hand. Likewise, "Swing Life Away," which samples a Rise Against song, has a solid message about how MGK has matured over the years. Even "Mind of a Stoner" isn't completely without substance as Wiz Khalifa joins the track's catchy chorus.
Many of the songs here suggest MGK wants to be seen as a serious artist and take a step above the contrived garbage that others crank out today. But it's about time he stopped acting like the cocky teenager he once was. "50 Interlude" is just shallow crap with a chorus that simply repeats "50 hoes on my dick" over and over again. And that's not to mention the countless references to weed, sexual favors and general dickery that contradict his overall message. All of that wouldn't be a problem if the message were about trying to be a role model for others. His music is deep, which is why it's so disappointing that he continues to contradict himself.
But, when it comes down to it, the majority of the songs on Black Flag brag about his success while simultaneously staying humble to his beginnings. "Breaking News" sports an impressive line of lyrics spit out faster than anyone out there could spit them out. The song is laced with commentary from critics who state that he's better than most of the rappers out there. MGK boasts that people put his songs "right next to Jay-Z" on their playlists.
The single "Pe$o" is certainly catchy with a slick piano line. That high-toned, "I need dolla dolla dolla that's what I need," is a perfect addition to the song and gets stuck in your head fast. Too bad the song is weak lyrically. It would be unfair to treat this mixtape as a full-length album although it feels like it could be. We'd love to see MGK leave the childish rap behind and really delve into deep lyrical material. Nonetheless, if this is what Machine Gun Kelly can produce as a mixtape, then we should all be ready for a platinum album release from this Cleveland artist.