Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Kanye West and G.O.O.D Music Present: Cruel Summer

reviewed by Neil Chhabda

“Cruel Summer” was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated albums of 2012. Saying that expectations were high would be an understatement. Kanye West has enjoyed plenty of success with collaborations in the past; last year his collaboration album with Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne” was a critical and commercial success. Singles such as “Otis” and “Paris” spent several weeks in the Top 10 in the USA and the UK. Even before then, on what is his best album to date, “Graduation”, the finest tracks always featured other artists, not ones that were necessarily well known, but those who brought something fresh to the song and made Graduation incredible. It should have been a similar story with Cruel Summer; the same arrogant albeit unquestionably talented Kanye West bringing his unique and clever lyrics, delivered to perfection, and some unknown artists with great potential, looking to show the world that they have what it takes to be the best, by adding some of their charisma and lyrical genius to this album.

Yet “Cruel Summer” didn’t turn out to be incredible. It was good, but that’s really it. As expected, the album provides some catchy tunes and some controversial lyrics, but it lacks that edge that we’ve come to expect from Kanye West, it lacks innovation, and ultimately it epitomises mediocrity. The album just sounds “samey”. There are some highlights such as Kanye West rapping “I’m just tryin’ to protect my stacks, Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax…” referencing Romney's low tax rate and refusal to release a substantive number of tax returns. Furthermore, the track “Creepers” is a song with surprising depth about depression and drugs, delivered flawlessly by Kid Cudi. There are some flashes of genius, but too often they are from Kid Cudi, John Legend or West; the established artists. And this is what worries me. This album is not about Kanye West, it is about the new performers, the brightest prospects in rap. This is the biggest disappointment. Too often their raps are about money or sex or intoxicants. There is no real soul to what they’re rapping about, no passion, no sense of direction. This is summarized by Pusha T mentioning a female’s backside five times in his first five lines.

As a result of this, the whole album suffers. In fact, if Kanye West wasn’t this, this would be a failure. These stars such as Big Sean rap arrogantly, but unlike their mentor West, they don’t quite have the talent or reputation to back it up. A lot of lyrics are simply bland and about money. Tupac Shakur at the age of Big Sean was universally respected because he rapped about the issues still facing his race and rapped not to make money, but to inspire people to change their attitudes. Despite Kanye West’s best efforts, this album is a disappointment and is nowhere near his best work. The opening song to the album “To the World” is a good start to the album, and R.Kelly provides an infectious chorus, but apart from some moments of brilliance, the album doesn’t really get much better. One highlight is in the song “Clique” when Kanye West raps, “Eat my breakfast at Gucci, my girl a star from a home movie…” referencing his wealth and fashion sense and also Kim Kardashian’s controversy. Perhaps this is what the album lacks; ingeniousness and fresh raps. Kanye West referenced his girlfriend’s biggest and most emotionally traumatic controversy in a song. This is what was expected from this project. Conclusively, Cruel Summer will go down as a decent album that was never great and failed to hit the heights is had the potential to. Ultimately it will go down as a disappointment.

The album can be streamed for free from Spotify:  Kanye West Presents Good Music Cruel Summer

It is available to be bought from all good online and physical music stores.

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