Kanye West Presents G.O.O.D. Music - Cruel Summer

Much like last summer’s Watch The Throne, G.O.O.D. Music’s posse record Cruel Summer is a Kanye West record, at least musically speaking. Like Watch The Throne, Cruel Summer is lined with the maximalist, detail-fixated production that basically comes synonymous with Kanye’s discography, and the record employs work from celebrated, critically beloved hitmakers like Hit-Boy, Noah “40” Shebib, Hudson Mohawke, and West himself. And, to West or whomever’s credit, the production on Cruel Summer never overreaches in the way that Watch The Throne might have (I love Watch The Throne, but you know, there’s some cringe-worthy stuff on there. “WHAT’S A GOD TO A KING?” That kind of thing). Everything — again, musically speaking, I’m not going to account for Kardashians today — orbits around West. The comparison he makes between himself and LeBron James on “New God Flow” — “Went from most hated to the champion god flow / I guess that’s a feeling only me and LeBron know” — is an apt one. Just by his association, West pulls everyone else on his team up.

And Cruel Summer, like those LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers teams, is pretty awesome to watch for a while, though the warning signs pop out almost immediately. It doesn’t take long to figure that out; the epic intro track “To The World” finds R. Kelly reaching back for one of his most memorable hooks ever (“Deuces minus one / Middle fingers in the air tonight,” Kels begins, and it gets better. He’s on fire with these hooks lately) before ceding the floor to Kanye, who sets the scene. But then, there’s this puzzling, tacked-on-sounding bit of singing by Teyana Taylor at the track’s close; I’ve got nothing against Teyana Taylor, but why is that there? Moving forward, that thought is momentarily brushed aside by the 2-3 punch of “Clique” and “Mercy,” two lean hits; the former yields one of Kanye’s most revealing, odd, funny, dark, utterly West-ian verses ever, and the latter, a syrup-drenched, swaggering thunderbolt of a posse cut, could easily be billed as the rap single of the summer (on which Kanye’s verse is probably the least memorable). The mean “New God Flow,” at least the leaked version, has an unfortunate outro which was basically amended by the new, Ghostface-featuring version that hit yesterday.

But, again, worrisome stuff keeps happening. When Raekwon shows up on “The Morning,” he lays such a thick layer of prowess on the proceedings that — relative to the surrounding crew of Big Sean, 2 Chainz, CyHi The Prince, Common’s adjacent verse that begins “I was born by a late chicken shack and a church / That mean the flow got wings and it come from the dirt” — he might as well as be a reincarnated Notorious B.I.G. stopping in for an unannounced guest appearance. We get pulled out of it by the adrenaline rush of the charging “Cold,” but that’s the last of that straight dope; shit gets messy fast after that.

And when I say messy, I mean to say that Cruel Summer completely falls off of a cliff once Kanye steps off the surface, and the record basically becomes that 19-63 Cleveland Cavs team from 2010-2011. G.O.O.D. Music hangers-on like Mase and CyHi murmur through their verses. “Sin City” takes all of the cheesy parts of Watch The Throne and siphons them into about two minutes, where a spoken-word Malik Yusef verse (“You are all unwelcome to Sin City /Yet the population still increases its density / And that increases its intensity / Which increases the propensity”) opens it up for CyHi The Prince, the worst rapper associated with G.O.O.D. Music. There’s a Kid Cudi solo track which Spin’s Brandon Soderberg pointed out is basically the same song as one of the songs from his WZRD side project. No rappers appear on the effective album closer “Bliss,” a duet between John Legend and Teyana Taylor.

As much as the first half symbolizes all of the upward pull and momentum Kanye can instill in a group project, the second half shows how feckless it can be without his firm grasp on the proceedings; outside of a lone verse on “The One,” which he produced, he’s basically absent. When Cruel Summer begins to slip, it falls hard. So, it’s fitting that the closer is G.O.O.D.’s lame remix of Keef’s “I Don’t Like,” itself a symbol of Kanye West’s more irritating tendencies. “Most rapper’s taste level ain’t at my waist level,” Kanye brags on “Mercy.” That’s true; compared to some, his tastes are downright astute. But, in the end, the humbling reality of Cruel Summer is that, while you might have all the talent, taste, and know-how in the world, you’re only going to go as far as your supporting cast will take you.

Cruel Summer is out 9/18 on Def Jam.

Comments (40)
  1. In closing, Swerve.

  2. This probably isn’t worth much but I think I enjoyed my first listen of Cruel Summer more than I enjoyed my first listen of Watch The Throne.

  3. Still a better posse record than OF Tape 2

  4. I do agree that it falls off on the latter half but I wouldn’t say it is as bad as you claim. Fortunately for people like CyHi, a little bit of Kanye goes along way and his hands being on this record give even some of the worst lines (“she ride a broom on the beach, that’s a sandwich”) an increased sense of importance/value in the grand scheme of things. I think Kanye brings the absolute best out of people, which is why it is disappointing to see the strange exclusion of some of the more exciting rumored features as well as actual G.O.O.D. members like Mos-Def and Q-Tip. Still, the point is that Kanye has the power to make people like 2 Chainz and Big Sean seem charming, entertaining and cool, something they have trouble accomplishing on their solo projects (though Big Sean is a sweetheart IMO). It’s fascinating to watch but this project definitely could have used a few more months in the incubator and a better tracklist.

    • Not to mention the exclusion of key members along with the inclusion of a lot of random people adds further confusion to who is actually on G.O.O.D. Music, it’s a hindrance to the name if we don’t even know who is officially a part of the family.

  5. Lift Off is by far my most-skipped song in iTunes. Talk about cringeworthy.
    Can Big Sean just go away?

  6. gotta agree with Corban, not feeling the back half whatsoever

    throw the first 6 tracks on an EP and it would be straight fire. that or add the Good Friday releases

    • I’ve basically said this in a post somewhere on this site before, but they should’ve definitely had some of those Good Friday songs on here, especially because some of them are great and it would’ve exposed them to a larger audience. Pretty much any of the tracks that haven’t already been released somewhere else (“The Joy” or the ones that eventually did make it onto MBDTF) are just as good as the stuff on here, if not better. “Christian Dior Denim Flow” = amazing. Same with “Lord Lord Lord” and “Chain Heavy.” And the rest is pretty great too (“Looking for Trouble,” “Take One for the Team”)…these are so much better than most of what’s on here except for “Mercy,” “Clique,” “So Cold” and maybe a few others that will grow on me. I just feel like it was a wasted opportunity to get some of that other stuff out there beyond people who would bother finding it on the internet, and it could’ve made for a super strong compilation if they had them on there.

  7. I haven’t heard the album yet, but I have always felt that this was “Kanye West, and a Bunch of Otherwise Forgettable Musicians” (with a few exceptions), so it is nice to hear that my belief is validated somewhat here.

    Also it is a huuuuuge disappointment that Q-Tip, easily the most talented rapper on GOOD Music, isn’t on the album.

  8. I like that Kid Cudi song.

  9. I love CyHi’s verse on “So Appalled,” but I guess that is the only thing I’ve heard from him, so maybe he is not always that good. Woo constructive comment.

  10. Speaking of Kid Cudi, its nice to hear him come back to a straight rap song on that Hit-Boy mixtape

  11. so basically all the songs i planned to listen to are awesome and all the ones i was gonna skip over suck. cool summer.

  12. Not enough love for Pusha T imo

  13. I was completely blown away by the first half of the record. I need to listen again to fully form an opinion. I agree that the latter half doesn’t soar to the same heights, but it’s still enjoyable. It would have made more sense as a summer record; it just feels late yet still somehow unfinished. I think some of the impact of the record was dulled by some of these songs being out forever, since we couldn’t be shocked by them all over again.

  14. “Mess up your whole life like the uncle that touched you.”

    Goddamn I love you Kanye West

  15. I guess I don’t know what I was expecting, since I love MBDTF so much. It makes me wonder how Kanye can make an album so close to perfect as that one is but then put his stamp on such a bloated, lackluster album like Cruel Summer. This album might as well be a Lil Wayne mixtape.

  16. I really like higher, I think that songs amazing

  17. It was G.O.O.D., not great.

  18. I disagree with the Cyhi comment. In Cruel Summer he easily tops Common and Little Sean

  19. Clique, Mercy, New God Flow and Cold are easily the best commercial hip-hop singles released this year

  20. The line was “WHAT’S A KING TO A GOD?”…not the other way around

  21. Ma$e, a G.O.O.D Music hanger-on?…And in the same breath as Cyhi? Please…

  22. Really drops off after the first half, and even “This Morning” doesn’t stand up to what’s around it, but I also think it’s worth noting how much better Ye’s become at rapping since College Dropout.

  23. Creepers is nothing like Teleport 2 Me, Jamie though… Just because he sings the hook, that doesn’t mean they are the same song. Brandon Soderberg is an idiot, and it makes me wonder if you actually listened to the song or just grabbed what other people said about the album and formed it into a review (even though I agree a portion of the album is below average)

  24. Couldn’t disagree more on the CyHi statement, dude is easily one of the best on G.O.O.D.

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