Monday, October 8, 2012
REVIEW: Cruel Summer - G.O.O.D. Music
1. To the World - Kanye West and R. Kelly
Okay, we're really not off to a good start. I don't know how R. Kelly is still taken seriously even a little bit in 2012. This is Kells doing his best Akon impression and singing the most faux-tough guy lyrics ever ("Let me see you put your middle fingers up to the world") that sound like something Eminem wrote in 2004 for Encore and subsequently scrapped. Actually, even Kanye's flow is reminiscent of that era Eminem. The beat, produced by approximately 18 people like most recent Kanye tracks, is extra cheese as well. I don't see me giving this one ANY play again.
Instrumental rating: 2.5/5.0 Produced by Pop, co-produced by Kanye West, Hudson Mohawke, Ken Lewis, Mano, Travis Scott, and Anthony Kilhoffer
Lyrical rating: 2.0/5.0
2. Clique - Big Sean, Jay-Z, and Kanye West
The mumbly singing at the beginning is kind of random...but once the song starts it's immediately a lot more to my liking than the struggle on the last track. There's no track I've ever heard that I've thought "YO THIS NEEDS A VERSE FROM BIG SEAN" but he kind of does his thing on here. Of course, it's for naught once "G.O.O.D. Music's drug-dealing cousin" gets on the mic and delivers one of his better verses in recent memory. The verses Jay gives Kanye on Kanye albums are just incredible...no clue why that fire was so lacking on Watch the Throne. Kanye really steals the show with his verse, though. He seems to have all but left behind his old backpacker persona in favor of an exceedingly cocky (even by his standards) one, but somehow it works for him; his verses are packed with swagger and braggadocio and it suits the mood of the album excellently. Oh, and the beat is really dope...I don't have much to say in description of it, it's not too complex but it works. One complaint though...Sean both calls himself "B.I.G." on this track and compares his crew to Wu-Tang...chill Sean.
Instrumental rating: 4.0/5.0 Produced by Hit-Boy, co-produced by Kanye West, Anthony Kilhoffer, and 40
Lyrical rating: 4.0/5.0
3. Mercy - 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Kanye West, and Pusha T
For starters, this is more like the Big Sean I'm familiar with. Basic punchlines, basic flow. If this beat wasn't so great his verse would be a real downer (besides the instant quotable, "white girls politicking, that's that Sarah Palin"--this album is chock full of lines like that). Pusha fares better with a more energetic flow and punchlines galore. Then things get weird, with the reggae sample ("Dust a Sound Boy" by Super Beagle) wailing unintelligibly for a few lines before Kanye comes in and the beat abruptly switches to an up-tempo techno. I really wasn't a fan of the change at first, but in time it's grown on me, despite having no apparent relevance to the song other than to make a fairly pedestrian Kanye verse sound more urgent. He manages a great line or two as well though: "don't do no press but I get the most press kit, plus yo, my bitch make yo' bitch look like Precious!" Finally the beat returns to normal for a scene-stealing verse from 2 Chainz...yeah, I said it, loosen up your backpack straps, 2 Chainz is the star of this track. The beat is hard with its heavy bass and dancehall samples over midtempo keys (not sure that "keys" is the right word there but if you don't know what I mean listen to the song).
Instrumental rating: 4.0/5.0 Produced by Lifted, co-produced by Mike Dean, Mike Will, Kanye West, and Hudson Mohawke
Lyrical rating: 4.0/5.0
4. New God Flow - Ghostface Killah, Kanye West, and Pusha T
This track was released well before the album dropped with verses from Kanye and Pusha, while the hook was a vocal sample from Ghost's "Mighty Healthy", and it already was incredible. Pusha spits two excellent verses, and not to be outdone, Kanye contributes one of his best verses in recent memory as well over foreboding piano and a dark, spare instrumental. When the tracklist was released and I noticed Ghost listed as a feature, my first thought was "Wow, Kanye is really still carrying on this corny trend of listing sampled artists as a feature like he did on 'Otis' and 'The Joy'?" and forgot about it. When I finally got my hands on the album and played it, I was VERY pleasantly surprised to see the track had been updated with a MONSTROUS verse from Tone himself, in my opinion the single best verse on the album, and it's hardcore as ever too: "bust hammers with pot holders and yo, dead a cow for its fucking leather" are the hardest bars ever to be associated with a Kanye track in my memory. This is an instant classic to me.
Instrumental rating: 4.5/5.0 Produced by Kanye West, co-produced by Boogz & Tapez and Anthony Kilhoffer
Lyrical rating: 5.0/5.0
5. The Morning - 2 Chainz, Chef Raekwon, Common, Cyhi da Prynce, D'banj, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Pusha T
A spare beat dotted with electronic blips sets the stage for this posse cut, which is a pretty solid track but unspectacular. Common makes what is curiously his only appearance on the album, but has the misfortune of following a great Raekwon verse, marking the second time on this album a Wu-Tang member has stolen the show from the artists it's supposed to be showcasing. It's honestly like they heard Big Sean say his "crew deeper than Wu-Tang" on "Clique" and set out to prove him horribly wrong. Really, the verses after Rae are all fairly unspectacular, especially Kanye, who rehashes bars he already spit in the previous track which reeks of laziness. D'banj, who is apparently G.O.O.D. but I had never heard of before, brings a competent hook.
Instrumental rating: 3.0/5.0 Produced by Kanye West, co-produced by Illmind, Jeff Bhasker, and Travis Scott
Lyrical rating: 3.5/5.0
6. Cold - Kanye West
Yes, DJ Khaled is credited as a feature on the track listing but if you aren't rapping or singing I want to know what business you have getting a "feature" credit. I blame Diddy for this trend. Actually, I never even heard DJ Khaled's signature ad-libs anywhere on the track...there is an outro by DJ Pharris, but no Khaled that I hear. Anyway, this is Kanye's only go for dolo on the album and he fares well, with a heavy-hitter beat again punctuated with electronic blips. Kanye spits some aggressive ignorance on this track, which is notable for offending both PETA ("tell PETA my mink is dragging on the floor"; PETA publicly criticized Ye for that one) and Theraflu ("Theraflu" was the original title for the song but after Theraflu attempted to distance themselves from the track, Kanye changed the name to "Way Too Cold" before settling on "Cold"). This is nothing groundbreaking but a solid track nonetheless with some top-shelf Kanye smack-talk.
Instrumental rating: 3.5/5.0 Produced by Hit-Boy, surprisingly all by himself!
Lyrical rating: 3.5/5.0
7. Higher - Cocaine 80s, Mase, Pusha T, and The-Dream
I'm going to get a few complaints out of the way right off the bat. First, I hate The-Dream. He's a great songwriter but he's a terrible singer that has no business anywhere near a mic ever, and he stole Christina Milian from me, planted his filthy seed in her, and left her. I'm looking for you, Terius, and I plan to settle this. So you already know I hate this hook because of him. Next complaint is the Brett Favre of rap himself has decided to once again come out of retirement to spit his struggle on yet another track as if ANYBODY in 2012 is sitting around clamoring for more Mase verses. Pastor Mason needs to take his seat and remain in it. Finally it's yet another electronic beat and these are getting increasingly forgettable as the album goes on. Also there's this weird effect that sounds like a baby crying, and I never liked that when Timbaland did it, and he did it better. Pusha drops a pretty nice verse, but with the current of mediocrity he's swimming against it gets lost.
Instrumental rating: 2.5/5.0 Produced by Hit-Boy, co-produced by Kanye West and Mike Dean
Lyrical rating: 2.5/5.0
8. Sin City - Cyhi da Prynce, John Legend, Malik Yusef, Teyana Taylor, and Travis Scott
Massive amount of bass and reverb on this track. I'm not sure who this Travis Scott guy is on the first verse, but he's wack right out of the gate. There's also an obnoxious amount of vocal effects being used in this song, whether it's on the verses, or Teyana Taylor's otherwise beautiful hook. Malik Yusef has a kinda cool spoken word interlude before Cyhi takes over. Now, Cyhi is a decent rapper I guess. He's pretty inoffensive most of the time but he rarely really IMPRESSES me, and that's the same thing here. I'm vibing with the track alright, and Cyhi is just spitting typical Cyhi fare, but then he actually has the nerve to say "she rode the broom on the beach, that's a sand-witch, so I ate her like it" and it was all I could do not to hit skip. A wack punchline usually just makes me roll my eyes, but occasionally you get one of those doozies that about ruins the track...this is one of those times. Anyway, he limps through the rest of the verse before Teyana's sultry voice takes over again--I can't help but think this track would be about 20 times better if it was just her and Malik. Truthfully, I never did hear John Legend on this, but whatever. Maybe I'm not paying enough attention to these tracks to catch the more subtle features; it can be hard to do when there's like 8 people on every other track.
Instrumental rating: 3.5/5.0 These beats aren't terrible but you really do expect so much more from a Kanye project. This one is produced by Tommy Brown, co-produced by Travis Scott.
Lyrical rating: 2.0/5.0 Kick Travis Scott and Cyhi off this and it'd be worth at least a point and a half more.
9. The One - 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Kanye West, and Marsha Ambrosius
"This must be the obligatory inspirational track," I thought, as the choir vocals and lyrical piano melody played and the sultry voice of Marsha Ambrosius began wafting from my speakers. "This is where they tell us how they all worked so hard to get to the top and no one can take it away and you can too and other such uplifting talk." And then suddenly the Floet croons that she's "got a pistol on my hip and it's gonna be some shit, if you want then bring it on, see I'm a motherfucking soldier" and my jaw about hit the floor. Already Marsha has delivered the most hardcore bars on the entire album outside of the Ghostface Killah verse earlier. Anyway, Kanye mostly just brags on his verse, comparing himself to Michael (Tyson, Jordan, Jackson, AND Phelps). Big Sean delivers a verse that even he sounds bored with, but it's not TERRIBLE, barring the "my weed loud, I need a hearing aid" line he sneaks in there. 2 Chainz closes out the rapping with a verse you'll either love or hate, depending on your general feelings toward 2 Chainz, for me it's forgettable. James Fauntleroy brings the track to a close with a sung outro.
Instrumental rating: 3.5/5.0 Produced by Kanye West, co-produced by Hudson Mohawke, Twilite Tone, Anthony Kilhoffer, Mannie Fresh, and Lifted, because apparently it takes half a dozen people to make a slightly above average beat these days.
Lyrical rating: 3.0/5.0
10. Creepers - Kid Cudi
I'm a Cudi fan, but I really couldn't get into this track. The beat has kind of an annoying clapping rhythm that carries on the whole song, and Cudi is mostly shooting blanks lyrically with lines like "if I had one wish it'd be for more wishes, duh, fuck tryna make it rhyme". Come on Scott. There's not much else to say about it; Cudi being the only one besides Kanye to have a solo track, this should've been so much better than it was--something I'm finding myself saying a lot.
Instrumental rating: 3.0/5.0 Produced by Dan Black
Lyrical rating: 2.0/5.0
11. Bliss - John Legend and Teyana Taylor
Right off the bat, where have the beats like this been the whole album?! This is easily the best beat since "New God Flow" and possibly the best instrumental on the album. It's very orchestral and cinematic, and it's laced with the beautiful vocals of Legend and Taylor, singing of a "Bliss"ful love. This is excellent material here; every rapper on G.O.O.D. Music has just been showed up by the label's two songbirds.
Instrumental rating: 4.5/5.0 Produced by Hudson Mohawke (oh and look, he made a beat more complex and BETTER than all the rest, and completely by himself...you know what they say about too many cooks...)
Lyrical rating: 4.5/5.0
12. Don't Like - Big Sean, Chief Keef, Jadakiss, Kanye West, and Pusha T
This is easily the most infamous track on the whole album. First, there's the obvious complaint that Keef himself is wack as a rapper. Then, there's the controversy about the culture of violence that Keef glamorizes and the very public ignorance he displayed with the spotlight this track gave him. Then there's the rant Keef tweeted about how he didn't need Kanye's help to blow up. Then there's the horrific diss track Chris Brown put out to Drake over this beat...I'm holding these guys indirectly responsible. Finally, and least offensively, there's the somewhat ironic fact that Keef, easily the worst rapper featured on the album and not a G.O.O.D. Music artist, is responsible both for the album's most popular catchphrase ("that's that shit I don't like") and one of its most successful singles. As for the rest of the artists, we get a solid verse from Pusha, a decent verse from Kanye, a surprisingly dope verse from Sean, and finally an unusually raspy, even by his standards, verse from Jada. Jada didn't deserve closing duties on this--his verse is the most forgettable outside of Keef's. Sean really went in here, this is his best contribution to the album and he steals the entire show on the song. Beatwise, again, this is an outside producer who contributed a fat, pounding beat that is among the best here.
Instrumental rating: 4.5/5.0 Produced by Young Chop, co-produced by Kanye West, Twilite Tone, and Noah Goldstein
Lyrical rating: 3.0/5.0
Instrumental rating: 3.6/5.0
Lyrical rating: 3.3/5.0
Composite rating: 3.5/5.0
Honestly, I feel like I may have been a little overly generous. This album is simply drowned in mediocrity; you expect SOOOO much more musically from a Kanye album and the MCs, despite notable contributions from Ghost and Rae and the consistently solid but still unspectacular Pusha T, mostly fail to deliver anything powerful. And where in the world were Mos Def and Q-Tip? The best songs were the singles we all had heard before it even dropped...other than the addition of "Bliss" I was very underwhelmed by the album tracks. Still, it's not a complete loss, it has enough going for it to make it worth hearing, and a few tracks will certainly get repeat play--but overall it was a letdown. Purchase at your own risk--you'd probably be best off simply downloading the best tracks on iTunes and passing on the rest.