Thursday, November 29, 2012

MGK Shoots and Scores!

Machine Gun Kelly. Lace Up!
Bad Boy and Interscope Records, 2012.
MGK:  or

Machine Gun Kelly was born Richard Colson Baker in Houston, Texas. MGK traveled with his missionary parents until he landed in the Shaker Heights High School.  His stage name comes from his rapid-fire lyrical presence, and was inspired by the criminal George “Machine Gun” Kelly of the early 20th century. Lace Up is MGK’s first studio album, but he has put out four mixtapes since 2006, and appeared in numerous recordings as a feature.  In 2009, MGK became the first Caucasian rapper to win amateur night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Most of MGK’s work has been recorded in his home studio named The Rage Cage, and he tends to be known for his manic production style, recording Lace Up--the 2010 mixtape by the same title--in just three months. One thing to be aware of with MGK’s discography is the potential for confusion between his identically named mixtape and record album; it is the 2010 mixtape that includes hometown anthem “Cleveland” that is played at home Cavalier’s games. MGK very much works in the rap/hip-hop style of forming artistic works with extensive collaborative networks. This album, while limited in instrumental musicians, is filled with creative talent from the executive producer Sean “Diddy” Combs to relative newcomer Southside.

Lace Up! surely benefited from both the experience of the other parties involved in MGK’s first album, and the mixtapes put out previously by MGK, and because of these factors, the album is a far more polished album than most first attempts, and considerably more publicized album, as well. Lace Up! is a high-energy, endlessly danceable album with good sampling in many of the tracks, although sampling on the album verges on being an overused trick in this case. While the mix tape version was solid, I would have loved to see the song “Cleveland” polished and put onto MGK’s first album, but I am will not hold that against Lace Up! and instead just hope that it makes its way onto a later album.

While not an album with seamless transitions between songs, there is a distinct cohesion in Lace Up! Unlike albums where one song flows without a pause into the next one, MGK does have a slight breath after each song, not unlike breaks between movements of a symphony. Within the songs, the flavor changes slightly to reflect the songs before and after it, while still maintaining the individual flavor of each track; that is a level of skill not seen in many initial albums, and definitely a tribute to the production team as a whole. The album also heavily utilizes old school scratching as a musical technique, and has authentic feeling thanks in part to such attention to detail. It also reminds one of some of the hip-hop and rap artists who have managed to make national popular spotlights shine on them, like the Beastie Boys, Kid Rock, and Run DMC. If Lace Up! is any indication, it is not at all unimaginable that MGK may be bound for similar fame.

Across the album, the themes cover those familiar to the genre, but running on the mild side of the gamut--fame, drugs, shootings, reputation, love of music, and flight--but the album thankfully never really crosses the line into cop-killer styles. There’s also a reasonable amount of reflection and introspection on this album, which, in my opinion, is what really makes an album like this stand out as a positive experience and not just enjoyable.  “All We Have,” especially, is both moving and beautiful, although it is not a typical rap or hip-hop song by any means. Overall, Lace Up! is not only a good example of this genre of music for those who already enjoy it, but also serves as a great introduction to the genre for those that aren’t fans, or have bought into the negative media image of rap.  I heartily recommend this album as a great place to start a serious discussion on music, media, and social problems of the inner city and poverty or just as good background music to get through a sluggish day.

Personnel: Bass- J Brownz; Composer- Klaus Badlet, Kenneth Bartolomei, Adrian Broekhuyse, M. De Geoij, Brian "DJ Frequency" Fryzel, L. Gerrard, Juaquin Malphurs, A. Masone, Raz Nitzan, Armin van Buuren, Ester Dean, Michael "Silent Mike" Brascom, Rami Eadeh, Briton "Woodro Skillson" Ewart, Irvin Whitlow; Engineer- Justin Sampson, Aubry "Big Juice" Delaine, Phil Schlemmer, Machine Gun Kelly, Frequency, Slim Gudz; Executive Producer- Machine Gun Kelly, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Harve Pierre, James McMillan; Guitar- J Brownz, Synyster Gates; Mixing- Leslie Brathwaite, Kevin "KD" Davis, Steve "Rock Star" Dickey, Fabian Marasciullo, Manny Marroquin, Ben Schigel; Piano- Mat Musto; Producer- Machine Gun Kelly, Anna Yvette, Michael "Silent Mike" Brascom, Rami Eadeh, Briton "Woodro Skillson" Ewart, Irvin Whitlow, Frequency, Slim Gudz, Jon "JRB" Bishop, Boi-1DA, Drumma Boy, GB Hitz, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Alex Kickdrum, Alex Da Kid, Southside, SykSense; Vocals- Machine Gun Kelly, Anna Yvette, M. Shadows

Tracks: Save Me (featuring M. Shadows, Synyster Gates), What I Do (featuring Bun B, Dub-O), Wild Boy (featuring Wacka Flocka Flame), Lace Up (featuring Lil Jon), Stereo (featuring Fitts of the Kickdrums), All We Have (featuring Anna Yvette), See My Tears, D3mons (featuring DMX), Edge of Destruction (featuring Tech N9ne, Twista), Runnin’ (featuring Planet VI), Invincible (featuring Ester Dean), On My Way, End of the Road (featuring blackbear), Half Naked & Almost Famous, Hold On (Shut Up) (featuring Young Jeezy), Warning Shot (featuring Cassie)

Lisa Regula Meyer

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