Will Half Naked And Almost Famous Turn Machine Gun Kelly Into Bad Boy's New Biggie?

Diddy's new Bad Boy movement is beginning to resemble a hall of mirrors. The label's rejuvenation has been spear-headed by fresh faces—Cleveland's Machine Gun Kelly, Bronx-based French Montana, and Baltimore's Los—but there are striking parallels and warped similarities with Bad Boy's glory years. French Montana has coined an early anthem with his Lords Of The Underground-sampling "Shot Caller"—and just like its '90s equivalent, Craig Mack's off-kilter "Flava In Ya Ear," it's been upgraded into an all-star remix, this time with Rick Ross and Diddy rapping instead of Biggie and Busta. "Shot Caller" is Bad Boy's calling card right now, but it's unlikely Montana has the chops to sustain interest for an entire album. Which leaves Machine Gun Kelly as Diddy's hope for a new Biggie.

White, gangly, and tatted with the insignia of a midwestern upbringing, Kelly is Biggie's image opposite—but for Bad Boy to carve out a second spell of rap dominance, Diddy is counting on the XXL Freshman to follow in Big's hallowed footsteps. Kelly's Half Naked and Almost Famous EP, out today, is the first marker on his Bad Boy journey—and it underscores the potential the rapper possesses without signaling his arrival as the label's next figurehead.

As his name suggests, Machine Gun Kelly's gimmick (or "unique selling point for Bad Boy") is his ability to rap fast. His words spew out quickly and with a rigid intensity—he raps like he wants to bombard the listener with syllables. The five songs on Half Naked and Almost Famous seem produced with this in mind. Split between hit-makers the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League ("See My Tears") and JR Rotem ("Warning Shot") and Kelly's own in-house producers GB Hitz and Slim Gudz ("Wild Boy," "E.S.T. 4 Life" and the title track), they regularly overdose on clattering hi-hats and sinister synth lines. The combination musters up a dramatic and forceful listening experience, but often the relentlessness ends up only subduing Kelly's words. He delights most when he's paired with something—a rapper, a beat—to temper his style: on "Wild Boy" his swift style is complimented by Waka Flocka Flame's non-rapping yelling to forceful effect, while "See My Tears" has him getting introspective over production that strips things down and gives his words the room to breathe. It's a blend the EP should have embraced more often.

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