Because I’m not done finals yet, but have enough time to dick around and write something, I’m doing it on Cruel Summer. We’ll save Channel Orange, a proper The Smiths article, Good Kid, m.A.A.d. city, the next installment of my dissertation on Kanye West, and Onboard Balloon’s newest release for the future (yeah, I still follow them. What, you think my praise of Mixtape was solely because they asked me to give them a review?)
G.O.O.D. Music is Kanye West’s label (as I briefly talked about here), with some of hip-hop’s hottest names, like Pusha T, Kanye West (of course), Kid Cudi, and Big Sean, along with a few non hip-hop names like John Legend. Plus, he’s got legendary producers, like No I.D., Hit-Boy, The Abstract aka Q-Tip, and Kanye West (of course). They aren’t pop-hop rappers – they’re serious about the art of rap, are able to back up their images, and produce the kind of songs Kanye West likes to make (which I talked about here, here, and all over here).
Highly anticipated is a mere understatement for the buildup preceding this album. With the first single “Mercy”, the internet and hip-hop world blew up like nitro. This track has more fire than a Hooverville trash can. It’s more dope than what's in Jay-Z’s trunk (allegedly). It’s hotter than Hiroshima in 1945. This song has the first Big Sean verse I like, one of Pusha T’s best verses, and a Kanye West braggadocio verse that beats pretty much everything he did on Watch the Throne. Then what happened? “Cold”/”Theraflu”/”Way Too Cold” dropped, with Kanye West killing a mothafuckin’ Hit-Boy beat, asking the important questions – “can’t a young nigga get money anymore?” and “Can I have a bad bitch without no flaws/come to meet me without no drawers?” It was a truly cruel summer after getting those 2 tracks, but no one cared, because they only songs they needed for the next few months.
And then the album dropped.
And then everyone immediately stopped caring about it.
That’s not just because hip-hop is a medium of the immediate (trademark, copyright, registered phrase of mine). The album was… just okay. There’s thousands of people who explained why this album wasn’t good, so let me be another one.
First off, the singles are all fantastic (“Mercy”, “Cold”, “New God Flow”, “Clique”, and technically “I Don’t Like (Remix)”), and a few other tracks like Kid Cudi’s “Creepers” and “To The World” are decent songs that I wouldn’t mind listening to. However, the rest of the album is just horrible. Common and 2 Chainz seem completely outmatched with their lyrics, flow, and delivery on “The Morning”, with Kanye (quite literally) phoning in a verse at the end. The Dream led “Higher” is so bad I treat it like the deformed 4th child middle class families keep in the attic and only bring out when relatives are over. “The One” features a great hook surrounded by horrible verses, like Kanye’s line “Best way to describe my position is at the helm/ Best way to describe my new whip – Yeeeaaaalmmp”. I get that some lyrics are silly taken out of context and read, but trust me, these are easily Kanye’s worst lines. John Legend’s and Teyana Taylor’s “Bliss” is so forgettable elephants have trouble remembering it.
Secondly, after the singles were released it was subconsciously and consciously thought of “the new Kanye album”, which it’s not. It was a G.O.O.D. Music compilation. And because it doesn’t sound like a Kanye album, everyone felt let down. On top of that, there’s no group cohesion. You look at Maybach Music or YMCMB and, regardless of whether you like their music, they all have a similar sound to each other, and Self Made Vol. 2 and We Are Young Money have a consistent sound. It’s clear why all of the artists on those albums are together. Cruel Summer makes me wonder what John Legend and Pusha T are doing under the same banner, something I didn’t do before I heard this album.
Speaking of things that don’t make sense, let’s talk who’s on the album. Rather putting John Legend on “To The World” or “Higher”, he uses R Kelly and The Dream to do the hook and first verse on each song, respectively. Not to say R Kelly did a bad job, but if you have a crooner, use him, and use him in good songs (Legend is technically on “Sin City” and is actually on “Bliss”). Non-label rapper 2 Chainz got 2 features (scrr!), while Q-Tip and Mos Def got none. And it’s not because they’re old and/or irrelevant – Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Common, Mase, and Jadakiss all got features over them. I was wondering when Digable Planets and De La Soul would show up. It seems like Kanye just made this album because he has the money and power to bring all these people together. It’s like that awkward Bing Crosby/David Bowie Christmas song; it’s an interesting concept that only a rich crazy person could pull off.
I’m an album guy, as I think anyone who cares about music as an art is. That said, stick to the singles. There’s nothing hiding on the album that you’re missing out by only grabbing “Mercy” and “New God Flow”. Obviously, check out the rest of the songs to see what you like, but you’d probably agree with me that they’re not worth your time. There’s just nothing worth going back to outside of 5 or 6 songs. Here’s “Clique”, because it hasn’t completely been played out.