Cruel Summer is a collaborative album from the G.O.O.D. Music Label, which is owned by Kanye West and includes big name rappers including Kid Cudi, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Pusha T, Mos Def, CyHi the Prince, John Legend and Common.
Even though it claims to be a G.O.O.D. Music Label release, this is entirely Kanye West’s album. He throws down on 7 of 12 tracks, and wrote or produced most of the ones he didn’t rap on. Even G.O.O.D. Music, which stands for “Getting Out Our Dreams” has a roster built after his own styles; heavy RnB elements, smooth vocals, and samples on samples on samples.
Right out the gate, Kanye vehemently addresses the public in “To The World” which jabs at Rick Ross’s album (released only 12 days prior) and Mitt Romney. It shows that Kanye is determined to be current; which is a double edged sword. Speaking on what’s happening today is interesting now, but won’t produce any classic songs. If Mitt Romney loses, no one will care if he did or did not pay taxes after the election. It’s an uncommon move for albums.
From song to song it listens more like a mixtape; the sounds are repetitive and almost half the songs were released for free already, most notably “Mercy”, which as a free release, peaked over summer at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The high-tier production masks this, but some songs have the same drum kit and structure. You can only do “new and fresh” so many times while retaining that title.
An important notion is that Kid Cudi is back; his foray into rock was just as much of a flop as Lil Wayne’s attempt, except Cudi’s career could have been over from it. He had the potential to triumphantly return, but instead falls short on his exclusive track “Creepers”. He’s slotted to release his next rap album, “Indicud” in 2012. It has been two years since his last successful release, and his name had began to disappear.
Cudi could have been utilized more. Him paired with Common, as well as a Big Sean and CyHi effort were both missed opportunities. Both artists have similar flows and attitudes, and would have blended incredibly well, something Kanye should have recognized, but his ego needs to get out of the way and let his label shine.
He could have produced better too. Some songs just don’t deliver the power that they could. “Clique”, builds you up, but doesn’t tear you down. Sudden surges of energy come in choruses, but then reverts to low octane passes filled in with verses. This isn’t just restricted to a couple songs; overall the pacing changes frequently, sometimes mid-song, which is carried over from “Watch The Throne”; West’s self-titled duo album with Jay-Z. Kanye West’s obvious fascination with completely changing the beat doesn’t happen as dramatically as it has, but tracks can switch from bass-oriented hard hitters to heavy synth RnB choruses instantly. All things considered, this isn’t bad. It definitely wouldn’t have worked as well with any other label, and West has worked hard to develop this style. It’s unique, which is uncommon for rap these days.
Cruel Summer is worth a listen. It delivers on a few songs, but is certainly not Kanye’s best work . The lack of depth isn’t surprising as he is reserving his best work for “Watch The Throne 2”. It’s an interesting project, but suffers overall from its lack of experience with a larger group of artists.
3 out of 5 stars.