In His Best Tough Guy Voice, Machine Gun Kelly Fires Back at Eminem on ‘Binge’

Cleveland rapper Machine Gun Kelly has quite a name to live up to, and seems to expend a lot of energy doing just that. He recently became embroiled in a heated feud with none other than the real Slim Shady, and he’s devoted much of his new EP “Binge” to the rivalry. There’s a lot of verve on this record, and some impressive rapping, but also a very try-hard posturing that gets downright hilarious.

“Long Time Coming” starts off a bit ravy, with the synths sounding like some Ultra Music Festival fare. Then there’s a sudden jarring shift, and you can tell that Kelly means business, just from the absurdity of it. He goes on to rap about “LSD and Coke” on “Loco,” which might as well stand for the album, as Kelly seems equal parts trippy and speedy. Just on this track, he demonstrates some real rapping skill, with a certain fluidity that most rappers don’t have. He seems a bit removed from the hood, which is surprising considering his very gangster moniker. It all sounds a bit bro-ish. “GTS” has him repeating “I’ve been going through shit,” with the type of ridiculous emphasis that, combined with the simplicity of sentiment, sounds downright foolish. Jay-Z does it all the time, so apparently it passes in the hip-hop world, but it really sounds a bit silly. He sounds like a little kid who has stubbed his toe and is throwing a little temper tantrum. He makes up for this in a midsection bit, with some high-speed half-sung vocals that recall the likes of Twista.

“Rap Devil” is the talk of the town, Kelly’s diss track in response to Eminem. Em took it out on the whole world on his recent album, Kamikaze, and his diss at Kelly was one of the less warranted, as all Kelly did was call Eminem’s daughter hot. Sure, she was underage, but it’s not as if something magical happens at the age of 18, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. In spite of how badass he is, Eminem seems to be a little defensive. He could have just taken this rather harmless comment as a compliment that he has a pretty daughter. Instead he unleashed on Kelly, and Kelly has responded with quite a lot of venom. The funny thing about this diss track is that it’s a bit of a backhanded compliment. One of Kelly’s lines is “Yeah I’ll acknowledge you’re the GOAT.” The song is the sound of someone keeping up defenses, but betraying a real admiration for his supposed opponent. That said, Kelly does have some great lines, like “Last time you saw 8 Mile was at home on a treadmill.” Just imagine — Eminem in some suburban home, doing his jog on the treadmill, watching his own film. Pretty great.

“Nylon” seems like an extension of the former diss track. It isn’t clear that it’s directed specifically to Eminem, but it certainly sounds very angry. There are some seriously badass lines here, like, “Two nines in the waist / My gun and my dick,” as well as some rather funny ones like, “I’m from Cleveland, we the coldest.” Right. “Lately” has Kelly doing the Auto-Tune thing, and unbelievably making it sound right, as he keeps it subtle, instead of going full Future. “Signs” gets pretty gangster, adding some grit to the presentation. This time, it’s full Auto-Tune, in the voice of featured artist 24 hrs. On this track, Kelly sounds like he’s trying to sound really hard, puffing up his chest, screaming “Gang signs!” Isn’t hip-hop great?

“Get the Broom” is a highlight, a song with some real swag, showing Kelly alternating between a laid-back smoothness, and a scream. It’s in the vein of certain Three Six Mafia or Project Pat tracks, with that edge that only Southern rap usually manages. “LiveFastDieYoung” brings the album to a close, and finally someone said it. You’ve got to give props to Kelly for picking an age-old aphorism that’s absolutely descriptive of this lifestyle. This song, however, finds Kelly back in the mode where he’s stubbed his toe, and screaming. There’s a plodding bassline that gives it a certain industrial edge. It’s a hard, gritty track that seems a little unrealized, but is still a fun listen.

One palpable thing about this EP is how energetic and full of ideas Kelly is. You can just sense the inspiration, and it’s very different from, say, Kanye West, who, in spite of all his bipolar fervor, can seem lethargic when he raps. This record also stands out in that it captures a rather distinctive voice in hip-hop, someone who puts on a gangster posture, and comes across rather hilarious in the process. All in all, though, he’s a skilled rapper, and it’s a solid set of tunes.

Binge” is available Sept. 21 on Apple Music.