Everything Kanye West does is epic, creative, and tragically melodramatic. His latest collaborative album with his G.O.O.D. Music cronies – Cruel Summer – has all the qualities we’ve come to expect from Kanye-driven projects: a mixture of emotional subject matter and shameless ego-stroking, incredibly fresh beats, and positively middling raps by Kanye. Fortunately for Yeezy, he’s backed up by some of the most talented rappers alive; in addition to G.O.O.D. Music players Pusha T, Kid Cudi, 2 Chainz, and Big Sean, he employs the talents of superstars like Jay-Z, The-Dream, Rick Ross, and Drake, as well as up-and-comers Cyhi The Prince, Cocaine 80s, and Chief Keef. The result is a posse album worth its weight in stars that pays tribute to industry royalty while offering a promising glimpse of the future.
The track list has something for everyone: Straight-up hits such as “Clique” and “Mercy” that just stink of Kanye’s God-given production skills and taste, ‘serious’ tracks like “To The World” and “New God Flow” to remind you of what a profound musician West fancies himself, and R&B-ish filler tracks that give the G.O.O.D. neophytes some time to flex their skills. Slower jams like "The One" land surprisingly well and add to the dynamism of the mix. And the cherry on top: A pure gangster track with "I Don’t Like" that’s tailor-made for bumping full blast on the highway doing 70.
The real stars of this album are the G.O.O.D. young bloods: 2 Chainz, D’Banj, and Teyena Taylor. Taylor shows off her stellar pipes in “Sin City,” as does D’Banj in “The Morning.” While 2 Chainz shows he has the chops to roll with the big dogs in “The One” and “Mercy,” in terms of rapping skills, it’s Big Sean who comes out on top. Big Sean is quickly becoming one of G.O.O.D.’s most talented assets, and he continues to impress by dropping easily the best verses on "Mercy," "The One," and "Clique" (yes, over Jay-Z). His flow is dynamic, his lyrics fresh, and his attitude immature but terribly endearing.
Alas, Kanye’s rapping continues to disappoint with repetitive flow and empty, overblown, and just confounding lyrics. Take this gem from “Don’t Like”: “Girls kissing girls, cause it’s hot, right? / But unless they use a strap-on then they not dykes.” Kanye, THAT’S the shit I don’t like. Despite his mediocre verses, Kanye’s artistic vision remains the most engaging and creative in the business, and his genius beats will forever be his saving grace. If his vision doesn’t sell (it will), all he needs is one “Niggas in Paris” level banger and all will be forgiven (expect one from Watch The Throne 2).
Cruel Summer is now available for purchase.