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Machine Gun Kelly – ‘Hotel Diablo’ review

Even an allusion to the rapper's highly publicised beef with Emimen can't lift this lumpen retread of weary, tried-and-tested rap-rock tropes

‘Hotel Diablo’ is a personally revealing project for Cleveland rapper Colson Baker. On Burning Memories, he raps, “How’d you leave your only child at nine for another, dude? / Took that pain and punched my father in the stomach ’til he bled”, revealing emotions he’s still dealing with today. Machine Gun Kelly continues to spit, “Hit the store and stole a .40 and took that shit to the head / All the years that you ignore me left me sleepless in the bed / I hope daddy got some kids because your only son is dead”. Despite the potency of its material, the project’s lyricism feels apathetic.

While his contemporaries, from Juice WLRD to Post Malone, are pushing the envelope, crafting new sounds and forging new paths, MGK sticks to a tried-and-tested formula which, ultimately, feels bland. At times, the album feels stagnated, as if it’s stuck in a 2012 timewarp. Tellingly, this was year of MGK’s first release, ‘Lace Up’.

By the end of its 14 tracks, ‘Hotel Diablo’ is a passable listen. There seems to be no depth to either the lyricism or the content. MGK doesn’t even find a new way to mix rock and rap: he just uses what he and other predecessors have done before. The sound of the two genres working so well in 2019 is outweighed by the lazy writing. Opening the album with the bars, “Tell all my competition that I love ‘em / But I brought ‘em back just to kill ‘em again” is an allusion to his highly publicised beef with Eminem, but comes across as a school ground battle-shot. There’s no venom in it.

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Though the features from Trippie Redd, Travis Barker and YUNGBLUD might have elevated the project, they further show that they’re square pegs in round holes. Despite revealing new personal depths, the album feels tepid. It’s sure to be a hit amongst his loyal fans, a formulaic album that’s been re-worked with the same puzzle pieces: clever wordplay, catchy beats and enough meat within on its body to keep it alive. But it doesn’t have enough of those facets to be in any way distinguished.

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