Oh boy, where do we even start with Kanye West? The man is a walking phenomenon, leaving in his wake controversy, Grammys, and millions of dollars he probably uses to wipe himself with. It doesn’t matter if he interrupts Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech or pisses of PETA with a line in one of his raps, because no matter what the man does, his music speaks for itself. Whether he’s working the boards or the mic, ‘Ye knows how to make music, plain and simple.
Then he introduced the world to G.O.O.D. Music, his rap label that signed both established and rising stars, as diverse as John Legend and Kid Cudi. Each individual artist is more than talented in their own way, and the label speaks of only the best quality. So when it was announced last summer that a label-wide collaboration album was in the works, everybody who enjoys rap even a little got excited. But now that Cruel Summer is officially here, does it represent more than the sum of its parts, or come off as an unfocused mess?
The answer lies in a murky medium, where fantastic tracks are surrounded by disposable raps that hardly seem worth Yeezy’s time. Despite the amount of talent featured on the album, only a handful of songs stand as triumphant, while more than a few fall to the wayside as G.O.O.D. Music draws from its packed roster to mixed effect. Too many voices are at work here, and not enough of them are talented enough to carry the album.
Opening with one of the best tracks on the record, To The World showcases what makes a track work on such a diverse album. With only R. Kelly and ‘Ye bouncing off of one another, the pounding beat and clever lyrics showcase both artists doing what they do best. Kelly’s line referencing Chappelle’s Show is one of the funniest here: “The whole world is a couch/B***h, I’m Rick James tonight.” Despite the laundry list of producers doing work here, the beautiful beat and simple roster provide a focus that is lacking in following tracks.
Clique continues to tread the waters of simplicity, with only Jay-Z and Big Sean joining ‘Ye on the track. Each verse stands on its own, and the percussive beats form a strong backbone. That being said, the repetitious chorus is frustratingly annoying, feeling out of place in an otherwise fantastic track. The booth gets a bit more crowded on Mercy, with four voices fighting for attention over one of the most painful samples to be found on the album. Despite his impressive work on his mixtapes from only a few years ago, 2 Chainz just doesn’t seem to find his own place on Cruel Summer, as his verses always stick out like a sore thumb.
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