Let’s make one thing clear: this is NOT a Kanye West album, or even a sequel to “Watch the Throne.” With that being said, it’s a little more difficult to know what to expect when listening to “Cruel Summer.” G.O.O.D. (Getting Out Our Dreams) Music is a hip-hop record label founded by Kanye West and features prominent artists like Big Sean, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, John Legend and Common. All of these artists are featured in this album, along with other artists like famed artist R. Kelly, that rapper who seems to be featured in every major hip-hop single released this summer (also known as 2 Chainz) and, of course, hip-hop giant and “Watch the Throne” collaborator Jay-Z.
But in spite of the star-studded nature of this album, it really pains me to say that I’m left disappointed with this release after listening to it, especially given all the hype surrounding the album and the promising singles like “Mercy” (featuring Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz), “Cold” and “Clique” (featuring Yeezy, Jay-Z and Big Sean) that were released over the past few months. Those tracks are still bangers months after their release, but other than those tracks, the album doesn’t really offer much else.
Let’s focus on the good aspects. “Mercy” might be the most iconic hip-hop song of the year, and for good reason: it’s really catchy. It has a nice beat and production quality (even though that’s to be expected from Yeezy — exceptional beats are a lot less common in “Cruel Summer”), the lyrics are of somewhat acceptable quality and it represents the G.O.O.D. Music artists well. The same story goes for “Clique,” where Big Sean actually puts out an acceptable verse while Jay-Z and Kanye continue to tell you why they’re better than you, with an excellent beat thanks to the producer Hit-Boy, known for producing and making the beats for Jay-Z and Kanye’s standout track “N***** in Paris” from “Watch the Throne,” as well as up-and-coming rapper A$AP Rocky’s single “Goldie.” These tracks remind me why artists like Kanye and Jay-Z are still relevant: they can still make great music by focusing on their giant celebrity status without having to focus on lyrics.
But listening to the album also makes me realize that the only tracks that actually stand out are the ones with Kanye West involved in them. Tracks like “Higher,” which features Pusha T, The-Dream and Ma$e, just bore me because on top of the fact that it’s not lyrically compelling or shocking (which is saying something because Pusha T is a pretty accomplished rapper), I don’t feel the energy or intensity from other G.O.O.D. Music label artists as I do from Kanye. Even Kid Cudi manages to disappoint with his track “Creepers”; though it’s produced well and has a nice groove to it, his off-key warble and rather vague and laughable lyrics (“If I had one wish, it’d be to have more wishes / Duh … f*** trying to make it rhyme”) mars it from being anything special.
The bottom line is that we’re left with an inconsistent record that doesn’t add up to the hype that surrounds the album, and the efforts from each of the artists are too varied for it to be another epic record that Kanye West has led. The concept of this album was to let all of Kanye’s label-mates have a chance to shine on one record, but sadly they couldn’t all deliver.
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