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Critical Voices: Kanye West Cruel Summer
The goal of Kanye West Presents GOOD Music: Cruel Summer, was to show that Kanye West can transcend his larger-than-life ego and make room for members of his label, GOOD Music Records, to pen the quippy rap hooks ready for pop radio. Unsurprisingly, Kanye couldn’t handle being in the background—his hands are all over this album, dominating every track either lyrically or in production. As a result, when taken as an effort to promote GOOD Music as a roster of legends, this album is mediocre at best.
2 Chainz is a standout on Cruel Summer, his spiked-sweet-tea accent hammering home filthy verse after filthy verse. The rapper closes the summertime smash hit “Mercy” by shouting about cuting “ya girl, now your girl need a bandaid,” and makes admittedly less gory appearances on “The One” and “The Morning” which solidify his down-South grittiness. But 2 Chainz isn’t signed to GOOD Music. Neither is R. Kelly, who anchors the club banging opening track “To the World,” nor The-Dream, who adds a silky sexiness to the subdued “Higher,” nor Jay-Z, who rekindles his Watch the Throne bromance with Kanye on the album’s I-don’t-give-a-fuck-if-the-beat-sucks fourth single, “Clique.”
When we look to standout GOOD Music verses, however, there isn’t much to be found. The label’s second-in-line, Big Sean, has been on a steady decline since his promising first full-length LP Finally Famous. He has bright spots on Cruel Summer, cracking clever derriére-obsessed puns like, “Whoa—make make the ground move, that’s an ass-quake/build a house up on that ass, that’s an ass-state,” but he bludgeons “Clique” and is forgettable on “The One.”
Other GOOD Music artists don’t receive much airtime at all. In the fittingly titled “Creepers,” Kid Cudi’s self-loathing emo introspection isn’t anything we haven’t heard on the Man on the Moon series. “The Morning” is a musical cesspool: Raekwon, Cyhi the Prynce, & D’Banj add filler to a sloppy soup of muddied lyrics and a lost vision. As the album ebbs, things only get worse as Teyana Taylor ruins John Legend’s otherwise great record “Bliss.”
Compared to successful releases from Lil Wayne’s Young Money and Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, Cruel Summer fails to showcase GOOD Music’s overall talent—assuming that it even exists. The only thing Kanye succeeds in doing is making a poorly compiled collection chock-full of cameos, while still managing to make it all about him.