Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Machine Gun Kelly – Rap Devil

Catching up with the most searing rap beef of our time…


Nortey Dowuona: Machine Gun Kelly, a rapper I stopped caring about in 2013 when I was even more of a sophomoric rockist than I am now, has released a rockist rap song for the ages. It was good enough to make me laugh and check out his decent-to-mediocre album that reminded me why I stopped caring.

Will Rivitz: “Rap Devil” is a pathetic diss track in both senses of the word, in that it both is a sorry excuse for a collection of insults and inspires the most condescending sympathy a listener could bestow upon a track. The former first, because it’s easier: calling Eminem “ugly” — no creative language or anything, just “[MGK] dresses better and [Eminem is] ugly” — and pointing out that he is “named after a candy” is juvenile, boring, and perfectly consistent with MGK’s lyricism across his whole career. The latter: Kelly bases multiple verses around Eminem (understandably) taking issue with MGK’s declaration that his daughter was “hot as fuck,” penning what is essentially the equivalent of a “u mad?!? le XD” rage comic in response; Kelly repeatedly mentions he thinks Em’s one of the greatest in the game, but that he’s old now and therefore not as good as MGK; Kelly calls Em “corny” a couple of times. It’s less a genuine diss track and more a pathetic whine to a parent who’s put the kid in time-out, a track that spends more time acknowledging Eminem’s power than asserting why Kelly is his worthy successor. MGK exists exclusively as a failed successor to Eminem, and nowhere is this more painfully obvious than his attempt at the throne.

Tim de Reuse: The last few years have given us unprecedented insight into the egos of famous white dudes when threatened: colossal, insufferable, impenetrable, but above all just plain tedious. So, here’s some more of that, I guess.

Micha Cavaseno: Prior to “Rap Devil” the greatest Eminem diss was probably Cage’s “Illest 4 Letter Word“: a burst of rabid dismissal from the author of “Agent Orange“, the Un Chien Andalou of shock rap and a record that many (including Cage, obviously) think is the record that taught Eminem how to use appalling content to replace his void of compelling personality. During the peak era of Eminem disses, Marshall didn’t find it necessary to respond to the likes of (repeatedly) Cage, Necro (producer of “Agent Orange”), Everlast, a Christina Aguilera impersonator (sadly not on YouTube), and many others. So what makes “Rap Devil” the newly crowned king of Eminem disses is the fact that Eminem’s inane (and well-received by people who should know better) response validates the feeling of being threatened. MGK assailing every single characteristic of Eminem is peak quality. “HIS FUCKING BEARD IS WEIRD” is delivered with the EXACT amount of disdain and revulsion you have while looking at Eminem in 2018, and delivered by someone who clearly has modeled himself after Eminem to degrees. Ronny J’s bluesy guitar lick sample warped into dissonance feels like hypnotic pummeling, while Kelly reduces and ridicules Eminem into what more rappers need to admit he’s become: a greedy, insecure narcissist who, for all his heights, is long overdue to get cut down to size. And Kelly’s delivery transcends his stiff professionalism because the kid sounds not angry but gleeful to know he can (and does) blow through Eminem like a machete through 2-ply.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Machine Gun Kelly becomes one of the rare rappers to land a successful diss on Eminem by treating him as an elder statesman, emphasis on the elder. Despite all of its jabs, “Rap Devil” has a respect for its subject that is weirdly sincere, which makes MGK’s points of critique feel even harsher. It’s not perfect– MGK isn’t a pleasant rapper to listen to regardless of who he’s fighting– but the combination of the straightforward “Eminem Retire Bitch” message and Ronny J’s tuneful production is winning.

Katie Gill: Man, I don’t even like recent Eminem, but all this ageism and classism in Machine Gun Kelly’s rap is just boring. He’s a better rapper than Eminem because, shock and horror, Eminem is old and rich. There’s some good burns in here but they’re sandwiched in between “I’m better because you’re fifty” and “I’m better because you won an Oscar.” We’ve got a long history of Eminem doing and saying stupid shit, right up to a few days ago. Pick on that if you’re going to do a diss track.

Alfred Soto: He disses Eminem for his age and dictionaries yet Machine sounds like Moby doing “Forget About Dre” at karaoke? 

Julian Axelrod: The fact that MGK bothered to include a hook, a bridge and Ronny J’s sinister Old West standoff beat elevates this above most B-list diss tracks. But kowtowing to Eminem rarely makes for good music, especially if he’s the object of your aggression.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Legitimately the cutest diss track in rap history, “Rap Devil” finds MGK praising his clear forebear and attempting to invalidate him in the same breath. The pettiest shots are the most exciting: “His fucking beard is weird,” “Your last four albums is as bad as your selfie,” “You were named after a candy.” That these lines are delivered in a deathly serious manner is wonderful, the rare instance in which MGK’s corniness can be appreciated for its purity. In many ways, “Rap Devil” is like hearing a child incessantly complain because they didn’t get their way. And as Eminem’s (neglected) son, MGK is subconsciously aware that he has no actual chance in this beef, but in his commitment to this tantrum, he’s able to momentarily come out on top. That MGK spent time taking down old tweets praising him is the “I HATE YOU DAD” cherry on top. It’s just very cute all around. Or at least it is until you remember that this whole thing started because MGK called a 16-year-old Hailie Mathers “hot as fuck.”

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10 Responses to “Machine Gun Kelly – Rap Devil”

  1. From my basic understanding, both these dudes are white blue-collar types and I don’t think jabbing at Eminem for consistently being performatively angry and becoming a millionaire off his angst could ever be considered ‘classist’.

    Also I’m confused at the idea that the best way to win in a battle against Eminem is for MGK to paint himself as a moral superior (or even to imply Eminem as a moral inferior)? I recognize that the popular Critical stance is that Eminem’s become garishly non-PC with passing time (a stance he hasn’t exactly relished in nor backed away from) but that isn’t the Popular Audience Stance as proven by the fact that a majority of people celebrated Eminem’s response which basically had Eminem coding MGK as ‘soft and effete’. The idea that a majority of fans of either of these men would latch onto “You’re a homophobe” as an impactful remark is wildly naive.

  2. Another salient question: what’s the audience for an Eminem dis track in 2018? He’s got his audience — it’s adamantine for the moment.

  3. They’re both rappers, it’s a talking point even for people who aren’t fans of either rapper but fans of the genre. I’ve definitely seen a lot of people who weren’t ever going to acknowledge either of these two without the disses pay attention to the diss record.

    I mean hell, “Rap Devil” is uploaded to Worldstar and they deal with an audience much broader than either man’s specific fanbase.

  4. “searing rap beef” got me, love it
    tbh i feel revulsion trying to say anything nice about eminem but his voice at least is more interesting than mgk, mgk could be a garageband “white rap dude” sample

  5. COUNTERPOINT: The greatest Eminem diss is really Mariah’s “Obsessed.”

    I was surprised by how much “Rap Devil”… didn’t suck? It’s twice as long as is bearable, but “Dad’s always mad, cooped up in the studio yelling at the mic” and “all you do is read the dictionary and stay inside” are on point, and the below-the-belt shots at his sobriety are insistently petty. The Auto-Tune on the hook is a nice touch.

  6. if the Christina Aguilera impersonator is the one I’m thinking about/downloaded off napster back in the day, it is STUNNING that it’s not on youtube

  7. @Katherine; For some reason people keep crediting “Will The Real Slim Shady Please Shut Up” to her instead! It’s driving me nuts!

    @Johnathan; honestly I don’t count that one because the song on its own is all vague disses unless paired w/ the video. That said the Video is A-1 obviously.

  8. wait, “her” = Christina, or are there TWO impersonators

  9. To Christina, though technically since the myth that both are her have been disseminated so eagerly, it may as well be two impersonators.

  10. Are you kidding me? You people do “Rap Devil”, but don’t do the infinitely better “Killshot”? What’s wrong with you!?