As a writer, we’re told that the word “good” is bad. It’s one of the most generic adjectives that can be found in the dictionary. “Good” has numerous definitions. Meriam-Webster defines it as “of a favorable character”. Dictionary.com defines it as “of high quality; excellent”. It seems Kanye West chose an appropriate title for his supergroup/record label. Their debut LP is all of those things.
“Cruel Summer” opens up as strong as I’ve heard any album open before. R. Kelly delivers powerhouse vocals on the ballad, “To the World”. This is a great lead track. The emotion captured in the song’s chorus laced with Kanye’s verses makes for an exciting introduction to the album.
From here we move on to the next three tracks “Clique”, “Mercy”, and “New God Flow”. This is where the project’s first flaw comes into play. We’ve heard all three of these tracks before. These were all released previously as “singles”. While this wouldn’t normally be the end of the world, the complete track-list of “Cruel Summer” only contains 12 tracks in total. Only seven of these tracks are completely new, unreleased material.
Even so, these tracks have all been revisited before their album premieres. There are slight changes in the album versions of the four singles making them at least somewhat of a surprise. Whether it be a new bass-line, ad-lib or other sound, the remastered versions are a nice variation and improvement.
Next, our ears are presented with “The Morning”. The Twittersphere was buzzing when they heard this reggae-infused Hip-Hop track. Kanye brings along Raekwon, Pusha T, Common, 2 Chainz, CyHi Da Prynce, Kid Cudi & D’Banj for the ride. The dirty synth melody mixed with solid bars from all the contributors and an ethnic chorus courtesy of D’Banj makes for a catchy track, even for hardcore Hip-Hop fans.
Next, it’s back to familiar sounds. Track #6 is the DJ Khaled-hosted single, “Cold”. The track that set the social media networks on fire is back for the album with some new sounds. The track still bangs, even more in its new form.
Back to the new music, “Higher” is track #7. The-Dream, Pusha-T, and Ma$e all make contributions. The track opens with an auto-tune heavy The-Dream. The singer-songwriter sings in a faux, somewhat Arabic accent. It didn’t sit well with me. The-Dream’s always-an-octave-higher-than-necessary vocals just don’t provide a pleasurable listening experience. Pusha-T and Ma$e’s verses aren’t anything to celebrate over.
Track #8 is “Sin City”, opening with a dirty bassline. The change-ups in the beat on this one keep it interesting. Teyana Taylor’s vocals were a bit subpar; I don’t believe they did this track justice. But, this track is definitely a step up from the previous.
“The One” is where the album really kicks back into high-gear. James Fauntleroy’s opening vocals over the beautiful piano intro are a perfect addition. The chorus that follows is delivered by Marsha Ambrosius and her strong delivery and explicit lyrics make for another type of ballad. The verses from all three emcees (Kanye West, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz) are commendable. It’s nice to see 2 Chainz hold his own on a slower track like this. This is one of the standout tracks from the LP.
Everyone’s favorite lonely stoner makes his triumphant return to Hip-Hop with “Creepers”. Cudder’s lazy vocals work tremendously over the wonderfully produced (Dan Black) beat. I think a lot of CuDi fans will be extremely happy to hear this kind of song from the 28 year-old.
Interestingly, “Bliss” is the only track in which Kanye West does not make an appearance. In fact, there are no rappers on this song whatsoever. Teyana Taylor and John Legend tackle the track on their own. I think the album could’ve done without this duet. It does not really fit with the mood nor theme of the project.
The “I Don’t Like” remix is the fifth familiar track. It is also the album’s closing track. This is one of the things that I don’t like about “Cruel Summer”. Sure the world ate it up when it was released earlier this summer, but does it belong on an album? I mean, it’s a remix. It’s a pretty generic trap song. It’s cool and all that Yeezy hopped on the Chi-town hit, but let’s leave that on the Internet.
Bottom line: it definitely was a “cruel summer”. G.O.O.D. Music solidified their position as the current leaders in Hip-Hop. The supergroup/record label teamed up and put on a show and it just works. The variation of the types of songs and guest appearances make for an album that is more than just good. Kanye West has done it again.