5 Things We Learned After Our First Listen to Kanye West & Kid Cudi's 'Kids See Ghosts'

For the third week in a row, Kanye West has managed to deliver on his promise of dropping an album. It may not be the most ideal rollout plan with these projects that feel like they are still being recorded the day of their scheduled release, but perhaps Kanye just can’t operate any other way.

Kids See Ghosts serves as a triumphant return for the tandem of Kanye West and Kid Cudi after the two had their fair share of disagreements over the past few years. The duo gave us Cudi’s Man on the Moon and its sequel, Man on the Moon II, while Cudi was instrumental in crafting the ambiance for Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak. But a public spat that played out on social media saw these two forces drift apart. Cooler heads have prevailed and the duo went back to work. After being greeted to the social media equivalent of a standing ovation when the album was announced, that excitement peaked when they collaborated for last week’s Ye with the stellar “Ghost Town."

Now that it’s here, have the duo been able to capture that magic again? Here are five things that we took notice of on the 23-minute collaborative album.

Kids See Ghosts Feels Complete and Deliberate

Look, it’s become increasingly evident that Kanye West is pretty bad at meeting his own deadlines and planning events. For the second week in a row, a promised album didn’t materialize on streaming services until hours later and the listening party for the event was postponed due to the album allegedly not being finished yet. Even after the listening session for Kids See Ghosts, videos popped up on social media of Mike Dean mixing down the album.

Nevertheless, Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s outing has a far more complete feel than last week’s Ye. Perhaps that is due to the precision of Cudi, Kanye knowing the sound he wanted, or some sort of pre-planning mixture of the two. But the album has a polish that Ye does not. It’s a very deliberate offering that is a far cry from Ye feeling as if it was being cooked to order and ending up served half-baked. Cudi clearly has a lot of things to say and knew what he was aiming to achieve with this outing. Nothing feels reactionary to the recent criticism that Kanye has endured. Instead, this is all about the music and nothing else. That’s really all we wanted.   

Mastering the Art of Mood Music

If there’s one thing that Kid Cudi does exceptionally well, it’s to capture and communicate a mood. Whether that be the stoner anthem “Day N Nite” or assisting Mr. West with “Welcome to Heartbreak,” Cudi’s grumbling vocals and hypnotic humming has more often than not hit all of the right notes. The same can be said on Kids See Ghosts, which feels like it picks up right where “Ghost Town” left off.

Where Ye may have been a meandering mess at times, Cudi reels it all in and allows the G.O.O.D. Music leader to do what he does best behind the boards. The production is sublime, as synths and hollow drums surround Cudi’s vocals. It’s atmospheric and off-kilter -- the yin to the yang of devastating force that was Pusha T’s Daytona. It now feels kind of weird to say that Kanye West has become better at finding the right sound for artists other than himself. But that is what he has proven thus far with these releases.

Kids See Ghosts Might Have Been Better Off as a Solo Cudi Album

That being said, it feels like we don’t get enough of Cudi on this album. Sure, it’s a joint project, but the aesthetic lends itself to Cudi more than Kanye. This isn’t to say that all of Kanye’s verbal offerings are unwelcome, as “Reborn” features arguably the best lyrics from the Chicago artist during this stretch of releases. But they feel wholly unnecessary elsewhere, like on “Kids See Ghosts,” where Mos Def (who we’ll get to in a second) and Cudi blend perfectly, while Kanye is the odd man out.

At this point in his career, it can be argued that Kanye is far more valuable as a producer than as an artist. As for Cudi, if we consider everything that he’s been through the past few years, this moment should belong to him, because Kanye already had the spotlight with Ye. He’s coming out of the other end of the tunnel of inner-turmoil and is making music that his fans will almost certainly liken to his earlier work.

A Mos Def & Kid Cudi Project Sounds Like a Really Good Idea

The fact that nobody has thought of pairing Mos Def with Kid Cudi before now sounds outrageous after what the duo accomplish on the title track. Mos Def appearances are rare these days, with his retirement announcements that are followed by album announcements. We don’t know whether Mos Def is coming or going. But his surprising appearance on Kids See Ghosts is pitch-perfect. Hopefully we’ll hear more from these two in the future.  

“Reborn” Is This Album’s "Pursuit of Happiness"

There’s an optimistic glow that surrounds “Reborn,” which feels like the spiritual successor to “Pursuit of Happiness.” Between the captivating Cudi hook, Kanye’s strong lyrical offering and the magnetic production, this feels like a moment where Cudi found the magic that made “Pursuit of Happiness” such a massive hit. With everything that Cudi’s been through spiritually and with his mental health, “Reborn” will certainly connect with listeners who have followed Cudi’s quest for happiness over the past decade.

The vibe is undeniable and elicits a certain magical force that pulls the listener in. It’s already being praised as the best song on a very strong project and will only grow in stature on repeated listens. It's almost a guarantee that this song will be featured in commercials for products that are meant to uplift us. Book it.