Thursday, September 20, 2012

G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer (2012) – Review

 Review: Kanye West is one of the best know hip hop/pop stars right now – we all know that. He is also one of the great auteurs of modern music, setting the standard for hip hop and determining the next direction the genre will take. Thus, anything he puts out has high expectations (only to be even more hyper-inflated with the brilliance of his recent releases My Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne – or, really his whole discography). Posse albums are never that great. Recently, we have been treated to a forgettable YMCMB album and two decent MMG albums. Even so, we all expected that Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music posse album would be different and incredible. Sadly, it is not incredible, but it is still really good and miles ahead of any other posse album.

So what works? Cruel Summer is for the most part musically excellent. Kanye West’s production team: Hit-Boy, Mike Dean, Jeff Bhasker, Hudson Mohawke, Travi$ Scott, Anthony Kilhoffer, Pop Wansel, and others deliver lush and beautifully produced music, that like much of West’s work has a unique and ambitious sound. It is the best part of the album (and Hit-Boy is probably the real breakout star of the album with great beats on the tracks Clique, Cold and Higher). West himself also has a hand in the production of almost every track (and re-remastered the iTunes release again delaying its arrival). Creatively, the album showcases West’s musical talent. The G.O.O.D. Music crew (Pusha T, Big Sean, Cyhi The Prynce, KiD CuDi, Common, D’banj, John Legend, Malik Yusef, and Teyana Taylor) all have their moments to shine and all provide good work. I would have liked to have seen Q-Tip and Yasiin Bey on there too though (and Mr. Hudson). Maybe they will show up on the next one. The guests are good too (highlighted by Jay-Z, The-Dream, Ghostface Killah, R. Kelly, Raekwon, and Ma$e – 2 Chainz is also on three songs, but I do not get the hype behind him).

So what does not work as well? Lyrically, the album is good but not great, and not on par with the fantastic music. Most of it is just sort of generic pop/hip hop language (money, cars, fashion, women, and opulence). Most of the best verses come from the guests (Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah and Ma$e – though West, Pusha T and Cyhi The Prynce drop some good stuff as well). This is really more of a minor complaint though. The two biggest issues are that the album has a lame ending (with its worst song closing the album) when it should have been something grander and (like with all posse albums) the album does not have a clear voice throughout. The first issue could have been fixed. Even if you just consider Don’t Like a bonus track, Bliss is not a great ending track either (though I do like it). Creepers and Bliss are both good middle of the album type tracks, but with them at the end, it gives the album sort of an underwhelming feeling as it closes (especially with Don’t Like which probably was better left off as just a G.O.O.D. Fridays release). The second is a lot harder to address, as the point of this album is for West to showcase the artists under his label, and thus it is going to have a lot of different competing voices.

Overall, I really like the album. Musically, it is just magnificent and wins me over with each listen. In addition to my ‘Essential Tracks’ I also highly regard To the World, Clique, The Morning, Sin City, and The One. Fans of My Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne are going to like this album. 4/5

Essential Tracks:
1)      New God Glow – Kanye West & Pusha T, featuring Ghostface Killah, produced by Kanye West, Boogz & Tapez and Anthony Kilhoffer
2)      Cold – Kanye West, produced by Hit-Boy
3)      Higher – Pusha T, featuring The-Dream, Ma$e and Cocaine 80s, produced by Hit-Boy, Kanye West and Mike Dean

Available on iTunes (best version), CD and Amazon MP3

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