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Machine Gun Kelly, Lace Up

Machine Gun Kelly feels like an underdog. It doesn’t matter that he’s signed to Bad Boy/Interscope, has had a Gold single, sells out shows, or sees money from each of these accomplishments. He’s continued to channel the mindset he had as an unknown teenager handing out CDs on the street up to this point, and that doesn’t waver on his debut, Lace Up.

Kells’ rock aesthetic has been ushered to the forefront of late, and the album’s first section creates such a musical mood. The opener, “Save Me,” featuring M. Shadows and Synyster Gates of the metal band Avenged Sevenfold, embodies teenage angst, with a screeching chorus that pleads, “Can’t you save me?!” The Cleveland native’s one extended verse on the track is indicative of his take on the album on the whole: there’s a heavy focus placed on his come up, his past and continued grind, and his retention of the claims of that underdog status.

The production is often fittingly dark, bouncing off of MGK’s solemn tales well. The second half of the album, with cuts like “All We Have,” “See My Tears,” and “On My Way,” further attempts to sew this image of struggle listener’s mind. The sentiment relayed on “Runnin’,” with bars like, “I’m still runnin’, runnin’, and I don’t know where/All I got to my name is one pair/Of laced up Chucks, five bucks/And a chip on my shoulder that’s so big that I cannot bear,” becomes the norm.

Even with the success of “Wild Boy,” similar aggressive content, like with Lil Jon on “Lace Up,” doesn’t come together quite as well. Other joints with veteran features include the haunting “D3mons” with DMX and “Edge of Destruction,” where fellow Midwesterners Tech N9ne and Twista dazzle.

Longtime MGK fans may be disappointed that five of the 13 cuts were previously released, including “End of the Road” and “Stereo,” from the Lace Up mixtape nearly two years ago. Alternatively, those that know the tattooed rapper primarily from his “Wild Boy” single and image will feel that he and the pavement to pavilion-stage rise he pushes come off a bit cliché. But it’s with precisely that approach and his emotional verbal rounds that he’s been able to build the foundation of his older fanbase, and though he may no longer be quite the underdog he once was, rapping like it—at least for now—still works. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)

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  • Kangaroo4Dinner

    The first Album i am going to buy becuase i feel you music and your a fighter Demons, holy shit, songz fukin Insane, and so is the rest of your ALBUM 13 songz in the album and 5 already realeased? what can you do? that demons song is crazyyyyyyyyyy, luve from Australia, laceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee upppppppp

    • Leto El

      Buying Macklemore’s album would be a much better investment

    • Amario

      you fuckin weird bro

  • Nielsen700

    2 L + 1 XL = XL. WTF? This should be an L.

  • Donizz

    The beats and lyrics should switch

  • EST4LIFEnigga

    at least dude raps about real shit. all you asshole critics probably didnt like it but in my opinion it was better than i thought it was gonna be, one of the best rappers out right now. LTFU dipshits

  • G….like the real G

    Can sombedoy please explain to me how 2L and 1XL=XL? Also XL for lyrics?? For real? I know that XXL mag is about mainstream hip-hop but come the F on, the lyrics are pretty bad even by mainstream standards.

  • Baddy

    i think its fair to give it an xl, as a massive mgk fan i was impressed with what he brought tot he table. you cant drny the kids talent and that he spits real!! insperation for alot of people out there. he doesnt try and be anyone else but himself!! thats real hip hop!!

  • Leto El

    If this is XL, then Macklemore should have gotten an XXXL!

  • YUY

    L + L = XL, XL + XL = L

  • gangstergrillzubasterd

    this guys a joke.

  • Amon raa

    I haven`t heard such a good production in a decade fo real! XXL to me!

  • 2012Industry1

    OK, i’m going to be the one to speak on the Elephant in the room….Macklemore and MGK is getting a lot of hype and acclaim because they’re White! There I said it. Backing it up: The beats on the Macklemore project is mediocre at best, they’re both not doing or saying nothing new under the sun, when compared to Eminem (which honestly you have to) they PALE MAJORLY! They are both set to have Top 5 albums this week in the Billboard 200 with Macklemore at #2! Same thing with Mac Miller last year, there is nothing special or new about these cats other than a fan base that can relate to that skin tone. NO, I am not racist, just being honest. Example: Eminem, El-P, Evidence, Bubba Sparxx, and Yelawolf are dope spitters and will murder you lyrically and spit original competitive rhymes. MGK is not bad, I liked the mixtape better…but Macklemore is OK.

    • KingChandler

      Your whole comment makes you sound uneducated, that’s like saying you have to compare every new black spitter to Hov. The fact that you compared Macklemore and MGK to Em just clarifies my statement even more, their concepts are nothing alike and the production they choose are nothing alike. lol, you sound like a bitter new artist trying to get on. By the way, Bubba Sparxx isn’t murdering anybody lyrically, granted he’s no the wackest ever but including him in a sentence with Em and Evidence isn’t even cool. And last but not least, who do you think buys the majority of the albums that make your favorite black artists go gold and platinum…suburban white teenagers that can’t relate at all to the skin tone of the artist they are supporting. As usual, everytime some fool includes “I am not racist” in their post, it’s usually preceded by or followed by a racist comment. Take this reply and learn from it so next time you don’t post some outlandish shit, don’t reply back with some slick talk trying to defend your original post. I’m not with the back and forth super blogging, you just were in desperate need of some enlightenment. Out

      • 2012Industry1

        You have no idea who I am, what i’ve done, what race I am, and how educated not only in education but this game I am. I also said something that Eminem himself has said. And you damn right I compare them to Eminem, like everyone else does any white rapper that comes out from now til the end of damn time. Every MC, Singer, Fighter, Ball Player and Actor of their craft gets compared to the great ones before them as a measurement only. I know who buys majority albums and shows from these artist. I also know the digital percentages and online sales account for a certain demographic of buyers and that’s where my opinion came from. I’m not denying what I said and protecting what I said. I stand by it with facts, numbers and examples if you need be. DOn’t attack anyone with out reading what they said and seeing if there’s truth to it.

        • Amario

          dawg, just quite. em is 40. he done. the only other “caucasian” rapper that people fuck wit is drake. simple.

          • Genny B

            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH XD you wrong for that!!!!

      • Genny B

        hov is a terrible artist like are you serious listen closer or something that nigga never had a real flow his presence undeniable but id say compare everyone to NAS not hov dude dayum that boy is weak. JS

  • Shawty J

    XXL needs to revamp it’s rating system. These ratings don’t add up.

  • Dope Shxt

    Wait, wait, wait, wait, WAIT!!!!
    So, according to this rating, MGK gets an L for beats, XL for lyrics and L for originality. And gets a grand total of XL. Okay quick question then, how the fuck does Xzibit get an L for Napalm when he practically got the same score? WTF XXL?!!! Also, if that’s the case, then how come Macklemore drops WAAAAAY better album and gets the same rating?

  • Lebron


    Stop giving everyone and their mother XL’s. You seldom give out M’s or XXL’s and give XL’s to albums/mixtapes that REALLY don’t deserve them. Get a new rating system. When you give Slaughterhouse four bars for lyrics and MGK too, there’s a problem.


  • matty

    I really enjoyed the album, really dont even know how you could rate music tbh

  • Salvador Alcala

    MGK Doesn’t Deserves This…..
    X Does…. X IZ A Legend……..

  • Real Talk


  • C.J.

    Why don’t you guys stop comparing Macklemore and stuff like that to MGK? MGK is so much different than Macklemore, MGK RAPS ABOUT REAL STUFF! Thrift Shop is the most annoying and overplayed song ever. But I still give him credits, Wingz is a really good song. But for MGK listen to song’s like “All We Have”, “Runnin” and “See My Tears”. Don’t even listen to them, look up lyric videos and just read them. Try to understand the lyrics. His lyrics are some of the most inspirational lyrics ever, yes he still has his Wild Boy side where he loves to cuss and talk about bitches and drugs, but does he ever talk about money? No, because he’s still a kid with a dream and money doesn’t matter to him. Just EST. Lace the fuck up.

  • Anirudh Anination