MACHINE GUN KELLY
THE GRADE A-
BOTTOM LINE Combining street-wise hip-hop and ’90s alternative rock to deliver a mainstream breakout star turn.
Machine Gun Kelly’s time has come.
The Cleveland rapper, born Colson Baker, has been releasing music for more than a decade, making his major label debut in 2012 with “Lace Up,” slowly but surely building a fanbase with his rapid-fire flow and swaggering rhymes, as well as his acting and modeling roles. The buildup for his third major label album, “Bloom” (Bad Boy/Interscope), though, has been huge, aided mainly by the Top 5 lead single “Bad Things,” with Camila Cabello. And the follow-through is right on point.
“Bloom” has all the hallmarks of a hip-hop superstar. In addition to “Bad Things,” Kelly has another pop smash in the making with “At My Best,” which features Hailee Steinfeld and manages to conjure both drama and inspiration. “I got issues just like you got issues,” Kelly raps in his distinctive flow. “I been hurt. I seen the scar tissue. If I showed you, would you run away?”
And he has other potential pop winners like “Go for Broke,” featuring the powerful vocals of James Arthur and a bluesy groove, and “Trap Paris,” featuring Quavo and Ty Dollar $ign contributing verses over a trap beat with a spacey vibe.
But Kelly truly lives up to his potential on “27,” where he sings and raps over a piano-driven melody that gets increasingly complex as it blossoms into a guitar-fueled alternative rock rant, paying tribute to Kurt Cobain (hence the album title, “Bloom”) and other stars who died at 27, his age now. He frames the tribute in an unusual way, wondering, “Is it my duty to die? No matter how I’m remembered, just let me be remembered.”
“Bloom” ensures that Kelly will be remembered for his ability to focus all his abilities to create a hip-hop sound and image that is all his own.