Kanye West Presents Good Music Cruel Summer (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S a measure of just how good Kanye West has become at appealing to listeners beyond the hip-hop genre that his latest album disappoints whenever he isn’t around.
A collaboration project featuring work from himself with artists from G.O.O.D Music, it’s a hip-hop heavy-hitter that mixes the commercial with the harder hitting. It’s at its best, however, when playing to the masses and drawing in outside influences.
Album opener To The World, for instance, is a strong fusion of pop-lit hip-hop and R’n’B that features a killer chorus, some emphatic beats, an electronic bed and a good mix of West and R Kelly vocals. What’s more, it’s an empowering song designed to encourage the disenchanted to “stick your fingers up to the world” and all its rogue elements.
On the evidence of this opener, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re about to embark on a classic.
The harder hip-hop sound more synonymous with modern artists is evident on Clique, which also draws contributions from Jay-Z and Big Sean. It’s catchy but X-rated, featuring all the watch-words that tend to make a lot of contemporary hip-hop so unappealing. But it just about gets away with it.
Mercy draws on some Eastern influences in its all-star blend of Kanye, Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz, but has a monotonous vibe attached as well, which comes in contrast to another of the album highlights, New God Flow, which mixes one of the best beats on the LP with some subtle piano chords and a typically egotistical rant from Kanye, declaring himself to be the biggest thing on the planet (apart from God).
West then disappears for a while, allowing his fellow label-mates to take centre stage. But while there are some interesting moments, they can’t match West for mastery of the medium or general appeal.
DJ Khalid’s Cold is very urban, very simplistic and very angry without really hitting its mark, while Higher (featuring The-Dream, Pusha T and Ma$e) makes over-use of vocoder laced vocals and sounds a little too much like old-skool D-12.
John Legend brightens up Sin City but the album only really gets good again when West returns to contribute vocals to The One, along with Marsha Ambrosius and Big Sean. The blend of beats and piano chords, albeit in a less aggressive fashion, also works well in delivering one of the album’s slower moments.
He also appears on album closer Don’t Like, an all-star finale that goes for one of the most attitude-laden cuts on the LP and drifts close to 50 Cent territory… but adds that touch of class, once more, that allows the track to get away with it.
Cruel Summer is therefore a mixed bag of an album. It passes the time before West’s next full album. But it often promises more than it ultimately delivers.
Download picks: To The World, New God Flow, The One