When Machine Gun Kelly announced that his latest mixtape, Black Flag, would be released as a free album, anticipations were high. It takes balls to pronounce a mixtape to be on the same level as an album, and fans were eager to see where his insanities would lead them next. Surprisingly enough, Black Flag is MGK’s most introspective work yet, his songs telling stories about his journey from the bottom to the top in a unique way that only he could accomplish. Helping him chatter his tales are big names like Meek Mill, Pusha-T, Wiz Khalifa, and even Diddy has a brief voiceover. The ingredients are all set for this “album” to succeed, and succeed it does.
Even though MGK announced Black Flag was just a free album, it’s obvious from the first song that this is a mixtape. Fortunately, this doesn’t hinder the work in any way, with the first song, “Raise the Flag,” using a sample of Florence and the Machine’s “Shake it Out” to perfection as MGK drops in and sets the tone for the entire album like an atom bomb. From the get-go, you can tell that his use of beats is a lot more accessible than in recent efforts. “Breaking News” is a prime example of this, with a sick beat and MGK spitting fire like you’ve never heard him before. If you had any previous doubts of his rap skills, listen to “Breaking News” and realize that you were wrong to ever doubt this young rapper.
While some of the tracks are what have become the usual MGK fare, like “Street Dreams’” rowdy chorus of “What I need a shirt for?” that ends each time with a grunt that can only be described as it sounds: “HUUUUUUUH,” not all the songs are like this. There are some real gems on Black Flag that show his progression as a writer and rapper like nothing else on the album. The most obvious of these is the closer “Dark Side of the Moon.” On this unforgettable track, MGK channels his inner Eminem as he solemnly utters heart-wrenching tales of death and agony. If “Breaking News” leaves your jaw on the ground, then “Dark Side of the Moon” will leave your eyes filled with tears.
After listening to Black Flag, it’s easy to see why MGK decided to announce it as a free album in place of a mixtape. It is clearly his best work yet, showcasing lyrics deeper than ever before and a new sense of beats that were lacking in previous efforts. While some songs can veer into cheesiness (I’m looking at you, “Baddest”), Machine Gun Kelly pulls it off in every other way. His music may not be for everyone, but his talent is undeniable. Everyone should keep an eye out for this young artist, because as far as I can tell, he’s only getting better.