Wild to think that it feels like eons ago (October 2011, to be exact) when legendary beat-maker and confidently brash Chi-town rapper, Kanye West, first revealed his plans for a GOOD Music collaborative album. With help from Def Jam Records, Cruel Summer is the first creation from members of the new record label and features participation from a star-studded cast that includes John Legend, Pusha T, Big Sean, Kid CuDi, Common, R. Kelly, and more (*correction: Nicki Minaj was included on “Mercy” remix version found on Dedication 4) . The original plan was for a formal scheduled release date in August, but that was later pushed back to September 18, 2012, in order to have a digital copy of the disc leaked a few days early, in typical fashion.
After listening to it a few times through, my general impression is that it contains many of the favorably distinct sounds similar to what folks heard on Kanye’s previous solo record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That album was quite the impressive amalgamation of thunderously bold tracks, particularly given it was his first public offering since his famous Beyonce tirade where he shamelessly threw Taylor Swift under the bus on national television. Interestingly however, that album received nearly flawless scores from many major music authorities, and while this latest record comes no where close to that level of “perfection,” it is an admirable effort from the almost-psychotic narcissistic talent known simply as Kanye.
It is clear that he is totally into himself. (Case in point: the Coachella 2011 appearance, during which he wore a woman’s jacket, performed in front of a Greco-Roman backdrop, and flew by on single-person platform driven by a crane above the 75,000-person audience). But hey, if you have good style and you know it, don’t be afraid to show it?
Unfortunately, the album is quite top-heavy with Kanye’s influence clearly heard throughout the first half; yet, it’s disappointingly absent from the latter portion. His recent tendency has been to OVER-produce, but I guess that is much better than the alternative. The maximum attention to detail yielded positive results: the album spawned four singles: “Mercy,” “Cold,” “New God Flow” and “Clique,” all of which already made it on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
It is also evident who he will be voting for in the Presidential election this November, given his harsh lyrics directed at Mitt Romney: “I be all up in Goldman Sachs like these n***as tryna hold me back, these n***as tryna hold me back / I’m just trying to protect my stacks / Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax, Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax” (from the track, “Hold Me Back”). Nicki Minaj even joins in on the fun on their filthy club track “Mercy,” fuming, “I’m a Republican voting for Mitt Romney / You lazy bitches is f***ing up the economy.” Yikes.
What is most clear is that Kanye has found his notorious style of the moment. While he may never be one of our favorite role models, his current determination to create a strong collective of musical talents under one brand is a symbol of his leadership and professional vision. Props to you Yeezy, but we might need another album soon that you can claim entirely, so listeners can fully experience your vision.
5 adjectives to describe the album: spit-fire, fearless, impudent, crude, audacious
Favorite club beat: “Sin City” (deep synth very similar to “Hell of a Life” from MBDTF)
Most likely to be enjoyed by your mother (maybe): “The One”
Best lyrics: “Went from most hated to the champion god flow / I guess that’s a feeling only me and LeBron know“ (from “New God Flow”)
Funniest pop culture reference: “Love us or not, the Mark Zuckerbergs of the block / Hug your knot, staying rich, we was built for the guap” (from ‘The Morning”) and “I know Spike Lee gon kill me but let me finish / Blame it on the pigment, we living no limits / Them gold master p ceilings was just a figment / Of our imagination, MTV cribs” (from “Clique”)
Top chorus: “Shake that body, party that body / Come and have a good time with G-O-D.” (from “New God Flow”)
Top track: Mercy (oh, oh, oh, OK!)