Reviews

Machine Gun Kelly Thrives on ‘Bloom’ Album



XL1

Interscope Records
Interscope Records

Gaining acclaim and being touted as one of rap’s future stars in the making is a position that the majority of aspiring artists would be envious of, but what many of those same artists overlook is the pressure to perform and live up to those expectation that comes as a byproduct of that spotlight, which is a flip-side of a coin that Machine Gun Kelly knows very well. The lanky spitter out of Cleveland would make waves with his 2010 mixtape, Lace Up, which would turn him into one of the more beloved rap prospects, leading to a record deal with Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records. From there, he would release his debut album, also titled Lace Up, which would boast hits like “Wild Boy.” The project helped solidify Machine Gun Kelly as a prized rookie with his best moments ahead of him.

Machine Gun Kelly’s sophomore album, General Admission, would be released in 2015, and would fail to generate another successful single or gain traction in the marketplace, resulting in him nearly fading into obscurity and becoming an afterthought in comparison to the fanfare and buzz his music once commanded. A budding acting career and a litany of personal demons and health issues would also play a part in MGK’s regression, however, the turmoil and uncertainty around his career would be answered in October 2016, when the rapper unveiled “Bad Things,” his collaboration with singer Camila Cabello, which would shoot up the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 4 and becoming the biggest hit of the rapper’s career to date.

With “Bad Things” foreshadowing his return, Machine Gun Kelly has unleashed his third studio album, bloom, which looks to put his name back in the conversation of top rap talent and recapture the magic that once surrounded him and his music during his rise to fame. Knowing the stakes that are riding on this release, Machine Gun Kelly aims for the jugular on “The Gunner.” The Slim Gudz-produced selection is full of cocksure musings, with him barking, “Ay, my walk is so cocky the bouncers don’t even stop me/Ain’t no pat down, no ID/They know me, that shit obvi.” He also alludes to bouts with addiction and alcoholism with the line, “I ain’t spent one night sober since I turned 20 years old.”

Hard narcotics may be out of the mix for Machine Gun Kelly, but according to “Wake + Bake,” his affinity for the sticky is evident, as he waxes poetic of the joys of partaking in a smoke session to get the day started and the blood flowing. Produced By Jim Jonsin, the electric guitar powered soundscape is delightfully grungy and plays to MGK’s rock star sensibilities.

As chock-full of attitude and grit as it is, bloom is balanced out by the occasional change of pace, the first being the James Arthur-assisted number “Go for Broke,” on which Machine Gun Kelly extols the virtue of hard work, dedication and perseverance. “Damn, oh this is what the top feels like?/I still remember Ramen noodle meal nights/I still remember checkin’ my account/And having 26 dollars, when I signed my record deal night,” the EST 19XX leader reminisces, recalling his humble beginnings prior to his big break over production by The Monarch and The Runners.

A similar sentiment is shared on “At My Best,” the second single released from bloom, with Machine Gun Kelly delivering the sobering lyrics, “I wrote this song as a message for help/On behalf of anybody findin’ their-self” as a show of solidarity to anyone struggling to find inner peace and acceptance. Featuring Hailee Steinfeld and produced by Happy Perez, “At My Best” is another inclusion on bloom that has crossover potential and could keep MGK’s voice in rotation on Top 40 radio for some time.

Referring to himself as the “David Bowie of my generation,” Machine Gun Kelly’s swagger reaches a zenith on “Golden God,” another Slim Gudz contribution that finds the Bad Boy signee hitting on all cylinders. “Made man like Joe Pesci, I need Deniro or I’ll Rob her/I had to skate Wayne Gretzky, called an Uber helicopter,” he delivers over an infectious backdrop that ranks as one of the LP’s finer compositions.

Much of the guest spots on bloom are designated for appearances by vocalists, but Machine Gun Kelly calls on a few of his rap brethren to also ride shotgun, as does Quavo on “Trap Paris,” which also includes a hook by Ty Dolla $ign, who helms the production alongside Sonny Digital. “Last night was too turnt/They caught me fucking on camera, I ain’t embarrassed,” MGK admits, before bragging that he “look like Elvis with these sequins” on the DUBXX-assisted “Moonwalkers.”

Party starting anthems and stories of triumph dominate bloom, but the album also serves up moments of matters of the heart and introspect, the former of which being broached on being “Rehab,” produced by EV and Harmony Samuels. The track is powered by acoustic guitars, violins and percussion, making it one of the more musical soundscapes on the album. “Can we please start over, now that we’re both sober?/Even though, that won’t last long/I swear this love is a sad song,” MGK croons, showing off a more tender side to the wild boy he’s presented himself as throughout his career, with favorable results.

The growth within Machine Gun Kelly is further put on display on “Let You Go,” which finds him playing the guitar while splitting time between flexing his vocals and his rapping ability. Closing his third studio outing on a reflective note, Machine Gun Kelly basks in the glory of his growth and goals accomplished on “27,” a twangy contribution to bloom that speaks to the rapper’s evolution. Produced by Baze and Slim Gudz, “27” finds MGK at peace with his journey. “And if I must go and die at 27, then at least I know I died a legend,” he croons. The track is a proclamation that may serve as a cause to pause, but is a testament to the Cleveland native’s newfound spiritual wealth.

After getting lost in the shuffle following the release of his debut, it’s clear Machine Gun Kelly is acclimated to life as a star and handles the temptation and demons that can come along with it. The rapper finds his footing with bloom, an album that showcases his varied skill set and taps into the dimension of the artist he has the tools to become. From a glimpse of his rock star lifestyle to transparent parables of his quest for inner peace, Machine Gun Kelly crafts a well-rounded effort that is likely to raise his stock and push his name back into the conversation of respected rappers. Bloom is an effort that’s just short of a comeback, but is very much a step up for Cleveland’s finest.

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