It’s not that Kanye West ever stops working, because he doesn’t; it’s that when he’s released new music it’s as if he’s been gone for a minute. Each release is an event. Even ‘Ye’s G.O.O.D. Friday songs — which were released by ‘Ye himself as appetizers for “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” — not only kept fans within the confinement of their bedroom walls, ready to press “Download” on Friday nights, but satisfied the hunger of fans that other artists’ singles could not.
One of Kanye West’s best albums, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” was released three months after he and Jay-Z were three songs deep into their collaborative album, “Watch the Throne.” Meanwhile, ‘Ye has apparently been calling artists to Hawaii to work on joints for his sixth studio album.
It’s as if he has something to prove with each project, to himself.
Kanye West has excelled and unraveled, simultaneously, with each project. We have high expectations because of the indisputable evolution in his discography. He tops himself each time because he has to.
So in comes “Cruel Summer,” one of the summer’s most anticipated albums (apparently it’s summer until ‘Ye says it isn’t). The G.O.O.D. Music posse album is a mixed bag full of vigorous singles and minute made, mailed-in verses, tied with a red ribbon by Kanye.
You would think nowadays, where popular music has two separate lanes — one for singles artists and one for album artists — “Cruel Summer” would appease the masses. Unfortunately for Kanye, we uphold his work to different standards that he himself exceeds. And although we don’t want to admit that “Cruel Summer” is a Kanye album, it most certainly is.
Kanye chronicles his day-to-day without a feasible amount of confessionals; lyrical depth and ambitious, born-again soundscapes are lacking. It’s rare to hear Kanye be the Kanye we’ve long expected to come forth: impassioned, shameless and vulnerable. Instead of floundering to place the pieces of a puzzle together in a new form, like a mad scientist, he lets them lie without hysteria and fury.
Excluding the legendary Ghostface Killah, who rejuvenates “New God Flow,” and Pusha T‘s wrath, the G.O.O.D. Music artists don’t shine bright enough. The lack of cleverness, including Ye’s , could be forgiven if rattles of enthusiasm and joy resonated through out the album, but they don’t. There’s more people in the playpen, yet we’d rather reminisce on the intimate bromance that sweeps through “Watch the Throne.”
Although it doesn’t exist within the top 5 bracket of ‘Ye’s projects, “Cruel Summer” holds heavier weight than recently released posse albums including Maybach Music Group’s ‘Self Made’ albums — and let’s not even mention YMCMB.
Check out a track-by-track breakdown of G.O.O.D. Music’s ‘Cruel Summer’ album.
1. “To The World” (feat. Kanye West and R. Kelly): The presence of R.Kelly on a rap song, let alone opening a rap album, is viciously beautiful — beautiful enough to smooth the wrongs caused by Kellz and Kanye’s trite rhymes. “R. Kelly and the God of rap shittin’ on ya/ Holy crap,” ‘Ye ends his rhyme. Teyana Taylor misses the opportunity to close the song with any vocal prowess.
2. “Clique” (feat. Jay-Z, Big Sean, Jay-Z & Kanye West): The set’s latest single opens with the smooth vocals of singer/songwriter James Fauntleroy, from Cocaine 80s before Hit-Boy’s signature bass-heavy soundscapes arrive. As the beat builds then quickly stays still until the addictive hook, Big Sean and Jay-Z focus on the obvious while ‘Ye gives us a sneak peak into his life: white people and the ladies he holds closest.
4. “New God Flow” (Pusha T, Kanye West & Ghostface Killah): Pusha T opens the boastful second single with brash vengeance. ‘Ye comes in on the sample heavy-track (“Synthetic Substitution,” “Mighty Healthy,” “Sermon Fragment,” “Bodas de Sangue”), giving us a handful of quoteable gems. But “New God Flow” belongs to Ghostface, who enters close to the end of the song to refuel the magic of his own legacy.
5. “The Morning” (D’Banj, Raekwon, Common, CyHi the Prynce, Kid Cudi, Pusha T): D’Banj’s yelps of threats surprisingly give hope to “The Morning.” It isn’t until after Raekwon spits his rhyme that G.O.O.D. Music plays friendly with the monotonous Kanye West/Jeff Bhasker/Travi$ Scott co-produced beat.
6. “Cold” (feat. Kanye West & DJ Khaled): The “Cruel Summer” street single teases us with obnoxious, honest rhymes from ‘Ye, and allows us to wrongfully believe it’d be in abundance. DJ Khaled’s presence is a mystery, as he doesn’t rhyme (of course) or have his hands in production.
7. “Higher” (feat. The-Dream, Pusha-T, Ma$e & Cocaine 80s): Aside from the singles, Hit-Boy’s seductive “Higher” is one of the strongest cuts. The-Dream sets the mood with his Auto-Tuned, breathy crooning on a topic he knows well: dinero and dimes. Ma$e comes back to impress.
8. “Sin City” (feat. Travi$ Scott, Teyana Taylor, CyHi the Prynce, Malik Yusef, John Legend): “Higher” seamlessly transitions to the Tommy Brown and Travi$ Scott-produced “Sin City.” The dark, eerie synthesized soundscapes are the highlight of the song, as the vocal insertions fail at breaking the monotony.
9. “The One” (Kanye West, Big Sean, 2 Chainz & Marsha Ambrosius): Although the rapper brings in his signature snare drums and 808s for one of the few songs he, himself, produced, “The One” is good but not great. Marsha Ambrosius’ vocals, sweeter at any other time, are unrecognizable. Big Sean and 2 Chainz spit mediocre rhymes, while ‘Ye teases with an inch of lyrical depth, ironically rapping, “cause everything around me got me underwhelmed.”
10. “Creepers” (feat. Kid Cudi): Kid Cudi rides the Dan Black-produced “Creepers” as if it was made for him; shifting into pitches and words of arrogance to showcase a complimentary relationship, sonically and lyrically.
11. “Bliss” (feat. John Legend & Teyana Taylor): Teyana Taylor’s beautifully brash voice finally illuminates in the electric-guitar heavy, Hudson Mohawke-produced “Bliss.” John Legend’s smooth crooning, on the other hand, doesn’t go hand in hand with the blending, zippy soundscapes.
12. “I Don’t Like” (feat. Pusha T, Kanye West, Big Sean, Chief Keef, Jadakiss): “Cruel Summer” closes on an audacious note, both with punch lines and hard-hitting bass courtesy of Young Chop but refined by Kanye. The remix to Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” assisted the original to peak at No. 20 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.