Kanye West Presents: G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
The hype surrounding any Kanye West project brings an almost stifling amount of pre-release praise and prognostication that rivals the launch of say…a new iPhone. The reason for this, like Apple’s culturally transcendent gadget – is the painstaking attention to detail and quality that goes into everything. Kanye doesn’t just record at some hole in the wall studio, he rents out lavish Victorian hotels. He flies his guests primarily in Hawaii and Paris, juxtaposing the idea of relaxation and vacation with work and dedication. Simply put, to work with Kanye you have to be chosen.
West has finally done just that, and after years of shifting players (Goodbye GLC, hello Big Sean) he has solidified his G.O.O.D. Music army. Their first compilation; Cruel Summer, hopes to prove that the level of quality isn’t limited to the Chicagoan spitter. Summer, which is releasing a few days before the actual Fall season in ironic Kanye West fashion, is ultimately a mix of good ideas but very few great moments.
Cruel Summer is an album that will go a long way to strengthen the already legendary MC career of Pusha T, and the quickly rising stock of Big Sean. Both of them are the clear gems on this album, Pusha T providing his own special brand of razor sharp lyricism on “The Morning,” a tongue in cheek Illuminati baiting song (“Some claim god body/blame Illuminati”). Pusha also holds his own and doesn’t completely get drowned out on the completely redone “New God Flow” which features a song stealing verse from Ghostface Killah, from whom the song carries its chorus from. Big Sean is stellar on his verses on “Clique” and “The One,” showing his growth from the mid-card to superstardom.
The other members of G.O.O.D. don’t fare as well unfortunately. Teyana Taylor is given a chance to croon next to R.Kelly (doing his best Kanye West impression) on “To the World,” and “Sin City,” yet when paired up against John Legend it becomes clear that she isn’t quite up to par. 2 Chainz shines on the hit single “Mercy,” but is lost in the production when it comes to other verses, barely resembling his own witty self. Kid Cudi is a ghost on Cruel Summer, adding life to the compilation with his own solo track (“Creepers”), but only providing his services to the background of one other song. Speaking of solo songs Cyhi The Prynce is the one member of the camp who has the most to prove yet he wasn’t given his own song to prove himself. The absence of Q-Tip and Mos Def is also glaring, instead replaced by Ma$e, a guest spot that is seemingly only there on name value alone.
Kanye’s two solos and his smattering of verses on Cruel Summer range from merely good to okay, far below the quality we are used to. “Cold” is his rebellion song, as he talks of dinner with Anna Wintour and professing his love for new beau Kim Kardashian (a relationship he mentions a few times on the album) but ultimately falls limp because it doesn’t seem to have the same fire behind it. Kanye almost seems content just running off clothing lines at this point in some type of weird pricey lifestyle rap style. Kanye is also outdone on the remix of undoubtedly the biggest street song of the year – Chicago youth MC Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like,” instead letting Pusha T and Big Sean get the shine.
The biggest strike against Cruel Summer isn’t the production – though it’s as bombastic and overproduced as any Kanye West project post “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” or the effort. There’s isn’t a feeling of all around cohesiveness within the group. The songs sound great and are technically above any group album as of late in terms of cohesion, but there is a distinct lack of personality. No one will walk out of this knowing the roles of Cyhi or 2 Chainz, other than a few bookended eight bar verses. The members seemingly play their roles – to stand beside Kanye West as he places them in their parts. Cruel Summer could have been the breakout album for the group, but instead it stays safely locked in its expensive casing and the almost certain promise of quality. Maybe it isn’t so different from Apple after all.