G.O.O.D. Music - Cruel Summer

Posted September 19, 2012
Tags: G.O.O.D Music,

Kanye West and his G.O.O.D Music squad have released their highly-anticipated label compilation album, Cruel Summer, which includes previously-released singles "Mercy," "Cold," "Don't Like," "New God Flow" and "Clique." The 12-track project also features appearances by 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Common, Cyhi The Prynce, Ghostface Killah, Hit-Boy, Jadakiss, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Mr. Hudson, Pusha T, Q-Tip and Teyana Taylor. Cruel Summer is accompanied by a short film, which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

Cruel Summer Album Review

That Cruel Summer is ultimately disappointing is one of the biggest compliments I could possibly pay Kanye West. For almost a decade now Mr. West has trained us to think of his albums as landmarks, not simply albums, and he’s succeeded. Graduation didn’t just sell well, it changed the course of hip-hop. 808s & Heartbreak wasn’t just an experimental album, it pioneered the merger of hip-hop and pop (hip-pop) that’s now so ubiquitous. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy redefined what was possible for a hip-hop album to sound like, and for all its shortcomings, Watch The Throne didn’t just influence mainstream hip-hop culture, it was mainstream hip-hop culture. Kanye West’s albums don’t just exceed expectations, they give us more than we could even imagine expecting.

So Cruel Summer, the album that was supposed to cement the “best crew in the game” reputation that G.O.O.D. Music had been building, feels remarkably ordinary and pedestrian. Certainly a large part of the Kanye shrug look I’m sure I had on my face for much of Cruel Summer can be attributed to familiarity. Half of the album’s 12 tracks had already seen the light of day, in some cases for months, but the simple truth is that the previously unheard tracks just aren’t exciting enough to erase a lingering feeling of statis. It’s as if your girlfriend text you in the morning promising a special night, you spent the day at work fantasizing about new risqué lingerie, and then you arrived home to find her in the same bustier you’ve seen her in for years. It’s still a good thing, but it’s no fantasy, and you were hoping for a fantasy.

Cruel Summer is at its best when it sticks closest to the keep it simple foundation Yeezy laid down on Watch the Throne. Throw down an addictive beat, grab some dope emcees, and let the boasting begin. While approximately 47 billion listens to Mercy still haven’t made me like the track’s momentum killing, EMD-esque breakdown in the middle, there’s no denying its head nodding-appeal. The same holds true for The Throne (plus Big Sean) reunion Clique, the increasingly controversial I Don’t Like (Remix), Kanye’s solo effort Theraflu Too Damn Cold Cold and New God Flow, which now comes complete with a verse from Ghostface Killah that’s the highlight of the album, at least as far as I’m concerned.

As for everything else, Cruel Summer’s first track, To The World, aims at epic but misses, badly. There might be some people out there who enjoy listening to R. Kelly doing his best imitation of an Auto-Tuned seal while Yeezy recycles the same Beverly Hills Cop/Baby Boy reference Big Sean first dropped on See Me Now, but I’m not one of them. In the Morning is solid, it’s hard to go wrong with back-to-back verses from Raekwon, Common and Pusha T, but the track never really picks up momentum and The Chef’s opening verse feels miles away by the time the track finally ends. Similarly, both Sin City and Higher come across more like attempts to pad the guest feature list and include the entire G.O.O.D. roster then tracks built for maximum impact. Either legendary perfectionist Kanye West just wasn’t feeling particularly perfect when making Cruel Summer, or he had bigger things on his mind. If so, those bigger things were probably attached to Kim Kardashian.

Because we live in a world where grown men screaming at each other about hypothetical spots scenarios passes for entertainment, I’m sure many will read this as some form of G.O.O.D. Music hate. Far from it – there’s no debating that Kanye has assembled a collection of talent that, at the very least, can run with anyone. But only the most stanish of G.O.O.D. fans could feel that this album this was the coronation, the unassailable declaration that G.O.O.D. can’t even be touched, that it was intended to be.

Now that I’ve suckered you into reading almost 700 words, let’s close thing off with the abridged version of the Cruel Summer album review. No one can take over a track like Kanye when he feels like it, Pusha T is vicious, Big Sean is getting better by the minute, Kid Cudi is Kid Cudi, 2 Chainz is 2 Chainz and Common and John Legend are essentially absent. While everyone else is solid, there are no epiphanies, no “that artist is the next to blow!” moment that particularly deserves mention. Tenaya Taylor, CyHi, D'banj and the rest may someday achieve true solo success, but we won’t look back at Cruel Summer as the album that put them on. There, I think that pretty much sums it all up. Actually, there might be one way to sum up Cruel Summer even more succinctly...

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted September 19, 2012
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