Luckily, New God Flow and The Morning benefit from veterans of the genre jumping in to help out. Ghostface Killah helps Papa Yeezy elevate the former to one of the better tracks on the album, all the way through to his marching anthem towards the end. The Morning boasts a “featuring” list that runs seven strong, and it’s one of the few packed tracks that works well. The beat floats smoothly under each rapper, and each of their unique voices work together to craft an impressive performance.
Even though it’s been renamed Cold due to a lawsuit or two, ‘Ye’s Theraflu is still a stunning showcase of his abilities. His kinetic flow makes the first three minutes pure bliss, but DJ Khaled’s minute long shout-outs at the end ruin the feel of the song. Higher takes an interesting position as the “slower” song of the record, with a smoky atmosphere and trippy high-pitched vocals, but the promise it starts off with is quickly stifled by generic verses that don’t do the idea justice.
Tracks like Sin City should work in concept, but there’s just no cohesion from verse to verse, giving it the fragmented feeling that permeates most of the album. The choruses hint at a better track, but it’s never made good on. The same problem plagues The One, where the grandiose idea is marred by the ho-hum delivery. Too many voices are trying to speak, and this just shouldn’t be their outlets.
Creepers was a track that held promise, because a solo Cudi knows how to handle a track. The influence of his pipe-dream solo project hovers over the song, but there’s still an undeniably refreshing feeling from hearing just one voice carry a track instead of seven crammed into the same amount of space. His talent for ably switching from rapping to singing anchors Creepers and makes it one of the better tracks on the album.
But perhaps the best is the penultimate cut, Bliss, unleashing Teyana Taylor and John Legend on each other over another percussion heavy beat featuring bits of blippy guitar riffs cutting through the air. These two sound amazing together, and hopefully it’s a collaboration that will continue to croon together in the future.
Bringing up the rear is a remix of Chief Keef’s I Don’t Like, a decent attempt that’s marred by just plain bad source material. ‘Ye’s powerful verse can’t salvage the track, ending the album on a dull note that makes it hard to hit the replay button.
Despite the roster of talented artists featured on Cruel Summer, the album just can’t live up to its potential. There are too many personalities that don’t mesh holding back those that do, and the songs that are easily skippable outweigh the genuinely good cuts. G.O.O.D. Music has a fantastic lineup, and individually, their works have done great things that can’t be replicated on a collaboration like this.
By this time, chances are most people have heard at least four or five of the tracks that were already released or leaked, and minds are pretty much made up. If you take the time to pick and choose which tracks are better than others, then there are a few songs here that are infinitely replayable.
Ultimately, the lack of focus kills whatever energy G.O.O.D. Music could muster, smothering quality tracks under the overbearing mediocrity of the rest of the album.