Cleveland’s Machine Gun Kelly has dropped his ‘EST 4 Life’ mixtape, calling on some heavy-weight support courtesy of DJ Whoo Kid, DJ Xplosive, and DJ Ev. Preparing fans for the release of his upcoming studio album, the gifted rapper hits some fine form across fourteen of the eighteen tracks – the other four being given over to showcase fellow MC, DUB-O. It certainly says something that Kelly is ready to hand over four tracks to someone else, giving this tape the feel of a show complete with interlude. The only other guests are Young Jeezy and Pooh Gutta, leaving plenty of space for Machine Gun Kelly to build his hype for the anticipated studio release.
As is often the case with a mixtape, this collection is an opportunity to bring some hard-edged tracks for the streets, such as the, KRS-One-sampling, ‘Police.’ It is with these street-sweeping efforts that Machine Gun Kelly hits the target, as he rhymes with a genuine swagger and, at points, a real edge of menace. This feel is helped with the bass-heavy production, such as on the pitch-bending, ‘Hold On (Shut Up).’ This approach is offered respite as DUB-O steps up to slow the roll and tip a wink to his work ethic on, ‘Paid.’
Although Machine Gun Kelly is let down slightly by the ‘Rucker Park Freestyle,’ which, while obviously working the crowd, doesn’t translate as well to a mixtape, such moments are few and far between. Indeed, Machine Gun Kelly shows he is no freestyling slouch on the superb, ‘Highline Ballroom Soundcheck (Freestyle).’ Sure, he treads well-worn territory with his weed, women, and street-slang, but it is managed with skill, some wry humor, and an authenticity that is immediately engaging. Meanwhile, DUB-O makes a fine impact with his tracks, at the same time offering listeners a break, before Machine Gun Kelly returns for the home straight.
‘Halo’ sees a cinematic back-drop blessed with a double-time flow that sees Machine Gun Kelly drop lyrics on the other side of his fame. The autobiographical feel is also shown on the chest-thumping, yet laid-back, ‘Now I Know (Interlude).’ Elsewhere, the deceptively breezy, ‘Her Song’ could find its way accidentally falling into radio play-lists despite the lyrical assault. The whole affair is finished with Machine Gun Kelly and DUB-O offering a ‘Letter To My Fans.’
Clocking in at under 50 minutes, this collection is not the sort of bloated mixtape that can feel like a dumping ground for weaker tracks. Instead, it does its job in wetting appetites and introducing Machine Gun Kelly to a new audience ahead of his upcoming album. Either way, it’s a win-win situation for fans; set your browsers to download this strong mixtape.