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Unpacking The Entire MGK - Eminem Battle

Ive had a few days to finally listen to both Machine Gun Kelly and Eminem’s disses. What was originally a battle that I viewed as a Nobody vs a Has Been, I’ve taken much more interest in both songs after listening to them on repeat. Its actually a pretty interesting battle between a Titan of the rap game and a new age rapper who openly worshipped the very person he now attempts to bury. That alone is a pretty interesting dynamic which, alone, makes it worth examining. I mean one guy has no business even being in the same sentence as the other, let alone in the rap ring. But Eminem out of his prime and several albums ranging from “mehhhh” to flat out trash has a chink in the armor. Add all that up, along with MGK actually coming kinda nasty on Rap Devil and we got ourselves a fight.

The first part of this battle thats complicated is the fact that I can’t name you a single fucking MGK song. Matter of fact, I feel awkward calling him MGK because it reminds me of UGK and I feel like UGK is way cooler than MGK. For the sake of brevity, I will continue to call him MGK, but I’m not happy about it. Which leads me to my first point – I do not want to admit AT ALL that theres even a chance MGK has won this battle. In my mind Eminem is the greatest rapper of all time. Literal rapper. The best at putting words, punchlines, word play and melody all together. I have ears and so I have to admit he has fallen off. But his prime is untouchable and for that reason I dont even want to admit that this should even be a discussion. But, I suppose it is. Facts are facts and Rap Devil goes kinda hard.

But that dynamic presents an interesting question. Who does Eminem’s success, and relative lack of MGK’s, help, and hurt? On the one hand, like I just said, people are probably inclined to just give the W to Eminem and tack MGK onto the laundry list of rappers and figures that Eminem ended. On the other hand, I think Eminem’s song gets held to a higher standard. Its like Lebron in the Finals. Dude puts up a Triple Double and people are still like “Yeaaaa but…” because they’ve seen him put out some of the greatest rap ever before. The bar is that much higher. And that cuts both ways – I think MGK is getting points for simply lasting a round with one of the GOATs. Its some Rocky/Apollo shit. He has no business even being in this situation and he objectively held his own. And for that, hes getting points for being the underdog thats putting up a fight. Long story short, I think Eminem being the far more experienced and successful rapper here actually hurts him. I have not one single basis to compare Rap Devil to any other songs, and because of that I gave it a totally fair listen. Killshot I was comparing to 2000-2003 and I dont care what that song sounded like, it aint gonna stack up to that version of Eminem. A line here or there that I thought flopped and I’m thinking “Man, prime Eminem wouldnt have had a single misstep.” Which is unfair and not even true, but its just human nature. Thats the ear with which I listened to Killshot and I dont think I’m alone.

But obviously thats all stuff that falls outside the scope of the actual songs. It needs to be taken into account, but whats said on each song is whats most important. There’s always a balance of which song is better vs which lyrics are better. Initially I found Rap Devil more of the enjoyable song. The beat, the shitty hook, it was like a singalong song. Killshot is not that. I think that matters. Its not even remotely the most important part of a battle, but some of the most revered and remembered battle raps are the better songs. Back to Back from Drake was a goddam radio hit and murdered a career. Ether was I think the more popular pick compared to Takeover, regardless of some of the kill shots Jay spit at Nas. I think that first check mark goes to MGK.

Then you get into the lyrics. And thats where things dont go so great for MGK. It has its moments but its basically just a few verses leaning heavy on Eminem being old and weird. Here are some facts:

1) Eminem’s beard and hats are TERRIBLE. Thats the single most irrefutable part of this battle. No arguing the other side of that. I have no idea why he has that beard, I have no idea why he wears that army hat with the round top that looks like its from MASH. The sweatsuits from The Slim Shady LP days doesnt help either. Its not exactly some deep battle rap shit from MGK, but I’m not gonna penalize him for pointing out what is very very apparent. Eminem left this on a silver platter and MGK is taking it. But harping on it over and over isnt exactly the most cerebral of moves from him either.

2) Eminem has a fuck ton of money. $200 million approximately. And I guess he has security now. I know in the rap world its cool to be poor and tough but I think it is without a doubt THE laziest trope to lean upon in a rap battle. Claiming you’re not from the streets when you came from nothin, succeeded more than you ever have, and no longer live a life of violent poverty. I mean get lost. Nobody in the fucking world continues to live that way after succeeding the way Eminem has. Jay Z doesnt deal drugs anymore, he raps about paintings. Eminem isnt in a trailer park anymore in 8 mile and I’m not going to think any less of him because of that. And expecting Em to be some happy go lucky guy now because hes rich is preposterous from a self proclaimed Eminem Stan. That dude is not about the money at all.

3) Eminem reads the dictionary. He said as much on 60 minutes. And MGK tries to use this against him repeatedly. Any and all variations of you read the dictionary, you stay cooped up in the studio, and you’re angry on the mic. Well, yea, I guess all thats true. But when you’re a dude who’s sold like 100 million albums, its kinda like, “yea no kidding.” I’m the greatest to ever fucking do it, and this is why. If he was a shitty rapper it would almost be funny. When its like “LOL you read the dictionary so you can go in the booth and put words to a song better than any rapper ever” I think you sound like an asshole.

4) Eminem is short as fuck. 5’8. Crazy huh? I always find that fascinating. When mega stars or badass dudes are tiny. Happens often in entertainment. Just weird to me that if Eminem walked in I’d be considerably taller than him. Aint that some shit? Nothing you can do though. Sucks to be in a battle with a dude who’s 6’4. But again, pretty much low hanging fruit. “You’re short.”

So all that shit is pretty lame to me. What I did find interesting though was all the talk about Em being thin skinned about MGK. It all began with a tweet about Hailie:

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 9.16.17 PM

And MGK insinuates Em called Puffy, then called Jimmy Iovine (Shout out The Defiant Ones on HBO. What a fucking unreal documentary that makes you realize Jimmy Iovine is king) and complained about the tweet. Eminem clearly also upset about his line “To remind y’all you just Rap and not God and I don’t care who got bars” on his song with Tech N9ne, as he directly references it on his initial diss on Not Alike off Kamikaze. Its alright to be pissed off about this stuff, but going about it in this manner is a joke if thats what Eminem truly did. I think I’m inclined to believe MGK, and that is most definitely some Charmin soft shit from Marshall.

In fact, Eminem’s entire problem is not knowing how to handle the dynamic of being trolled by a much lesser rapper. In his latest interview with Sway he admits as much, saying it confused him how he felt the need to answer Machine Gun Kelly but knew in the process that would make him bigger and more popular. Uhhh, yea dude. Its called being trolled. Happens to everyone who’s successful. How do you handle rocks being tossed at the throne? The short answer is not being calling record execs to cry about it. Nor is it to be bent out of shape over a tweet. I’ve always been of the school of thought that nobody is too small to get flamed. Anybody can catch it. And if you want to ruin someone who you feel has wronged you, make it swift and decisive and never look back. To say that doesnt appear to be what Eminem did is an understatement. It took an extremely long time to mention it and it appears that all of his tattle tale laundry was aired out.

So, thats Rap Devil to me. You sprinkle in some talk about how he stole all of Em’s fans, how Eminem is his own Stan, how he cant recapture his glory days, the Oscar The Grouch line that had me chuckling, the eye roll tone he took on some of Eminem’s more dramatic bullshit, and to be honest its a nice little diss record.

BONUS POINTS – The Jersey Shore “OH MY GAHHD, RAHNNN” from Sammie Sweetheart is a fantastic drop.

Which brings us to Killshot. You got an angry and revitalized Eminem who gets to go second in a rap battle. Yikes. Reminds me of Max Baer coming out in Round 2 of Cinderella Man when everyone is like “Oh Fuck”

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Eminem going second in a rap battle is patently unfair. Except in this case its absolutely fair, and almost a necessity. I dont think Eminem knows enough about MGK to fill a few minutes on a track, so its only right he gets to use Rap Devil to his advantage. Otherwise, we dont even have a battle. Its Sean Parker in Social Network. “You know how much I’ve read about you? Nothing.” So Eminem takes everything in Rap Devil and spins it around. I mean the entire time. My favorite part being the mocking tone he takes with some of MGK’s weaker lines. “You’re a bitch, bitch!” and “Your beard’s weird.” are both very cringey. Doing the tough guy voice “Yellin at the mic!” Mimicking “Lets talk about it.” Maybe its a reputation thing but that felt like a shark just tossing a seal up in the air. Toying with it before going in for the kill. Basically laughing at this dude.

And the remaining 4 minutes are virtually all poking holes in Rap Devil. Almost to a fault? If you havent actually listened to MGK’s song, you’re not going to get half of Killshot. Fuck, at one point Eminem is referencing the Rap Devil video. Which is getting almost too meta with this shit. He’s almost too good in some ways. Gave MGK too much credit. I had listened to Rap Devil once. Had never even entertained the music video. And because of that, a lot of those early lines fall flat to a first time listener. The Rihanna text/hickey line and the Nordic Track reference jumped out at me. You had to knew MGK’s lines regarding Ri Ri and “8 mile on the treadmill” to make sense of it. At one point Eminem asks whats in the bowl, Wheaties? Cheerios? I had no fucking clue what was going on till I finally watched the Rap Devil video. MGK is inexplicably eating something out of a bowl while he raps. I dunno why. Its fucking weird. And once you see it, its actually very funny when Eminem is like “what the fuck are you eating?” But upon first listen – upon like 10th listen – it still makes no sense. And then I go and listen and watch MGK intently, and while I understood Eminem’s verse better, it also made me kinda get down with Rap Devil. So thats pretty fucking stupid in a battle.

All that stuff was just too intricate for a diss record where I wanted to come out of the gates on fire and I found myself confused. It wasnt bad. Its my fault as a listener. But its almost asking too much given the usual amount of times you’ve listened to a battle track in a week and a half. It wasnt objectively bad, its actually good once you understand. But there were moments that were just bad.Em’s man bun diss?

Not bangarang. And trying to call out MGK for not doing the correct amount of math when counting Eminem’s most recent albums is the equivalent of correcting a grammar mistake on the internet. Just lame.

Upon your first few listens, some of that confusion and that opening flow with the man bun line has you going “Ehhhhh what is this?” but that when shit kicks into high gear. The battle truly begins, the flow picks up, and the Champ starts throwing around his dick. Pointing out how half the record MGK spends complimenting Eminem  sets the tone, and then the avalanche begins. Looking at this list of lines, in my opinion, less Rap Devil references and more “I am the only reason you exist” was the way to go:

“But I’m 45 and I’m still outselling you By 29, I had three albums that had blew”

Luxury, oh, you broke, bitch? Yeah, I had enough money in ’02 To burn it in front of you
Younger me? No, you’re the wack me, it’s funny but so true

I’d rather be 80-year-old me than 20-year-old you

Got more fans than you in your own city, lil’ kiddy, go play

My biggest flops are your greatest hits

Yeah, bitch, pop Champagne to this.
It’s your moment
This is it, as big as you’re gonna get, so enjoy it
Had to give you a career to destroy it

You would suck a dick to fuckin be me for a second

I’m sick of your blonde hair and earrings Just cause you look in the mirror and think That you’re Marshall Mathers 

I mean that is just a relentless assault reiterating over and over and over again that MGK is an admitted Stan who idolized Eminem and will never, ever be on his level. You toss in some responses to his height/age/attitude jabs, some resume flexing, some vintage Eminem flow chrome barrel/bone marrow/bow and arrow, and Killshot starts to sound different than it did on those first few listens. All the sudden you appreciate it for the well rounded, monster track that it is. Its not Back to Back. Its not an immediate banger for the radio. Its a bit of a head scratcher and a thinker. Which is great for me. But I’m also on word 2510 right now for this battle. For the average listener, you get a couple listens on a battle track and then the jury is out.

And even after unlocking all that and appreciating everything that Em said, I was still sitting here debating who I thought won. Then two things happened. First thing – Eminem drops that Diddy/Pac line.

But, Kells, the day you put out a hit’s the day Diddy admits That he put the hit out that got Pac killed

And the whole rap world goes, “wait, hold up, what??” Coming for a fellow rap titan just for even signing MGK to his label. Nobody is above it. Just whipping the whole fucking scene into a frenzy with whats a throwaway “I’m a fucking loose cannon lunatic” line straight out of 2002 when he ran around saying he was gonna murder Tipper Gore. It was (probably?) a nonsense line that even Eminem doesnt believe, but in a weird way it kind of established how fucking enormous Eminem is, still, at his age in rap. He dropped that line and people listened. Only a couple guys who can say that with basically zero repercussions because of his reputation and his resume. Only a couple guys with enough rap clout that you hear that line and you go “Wait a minute is that serious?” He finished off with a nod to Kill Me, telling Puff “just playin Diddy, you know I love you.” It was a reminder of who he is and what hes done and how fucking nasty the dude is.

The second thing and the final clincher was when learned that Killshot is a movie about an veteran assassin who is hunting and killing a character named Colson, MGK’s real name. Then it was over. Vince Carter dot gif. That next level type of X Factor shit that can make all the difference in a battle. Sometimes its album art. Sometimes its an obscure reference on the track. In this case it was the meaning in the title for me.

Final verdict: Eminem in a lyrical bloodbath. I mean it was over before it started. When your adversary is referencing your movie, your Oscar, your success and his fandom, its a wrap. There’s Papa Doc’ing it (ahem, from Eminem’s movie) and then there’s just being too much of a fan to battle. But MGK now on the map more so than ever. Like Eminem said, seize the moment. MGK finished things off jumping on stage wearing a shirt with the Killshot artwork and on the back it said “He missed.”

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I mean, he didnt miss. He hit you between the eyes. But thats a dope picture, and the right move. You’re still touring in front of big crowds (apparently?) UPDATE: I have just been informed that this picture is because he’s OPENING UP FOR FALL OUT BOY. I am EXTREMELY mad I wrote all night when the TL;DR version could have just been “Eminem is battling a dude who is opening for Fall Out Boy. Fin.” so just tell them you didn’t lose this battle and spin zone your way to a new level of popularity. I mean, hey! guys like me know your name now. So you got that going for you.

One last tidbit I missed:

Eminem mentioned how all he had to do was place one call to Interscope and you’re Swayze. Which traditionally means “ghost,” and in this case I still think it does. But an extra added wrinkle is that Swayze died on September 14th, the same day Killshot dropped. Nice little easter egg if youre buying that level of detail.