After almost a full year of hype, Cruel Summer hit store shelves and online retailers Tuesday for many fans to hear for the first time (or purchase what they previewed via last weekend’s leak). The album features Kanye West as well as other G.O.O.D. Music artists such as Big Sean, Pusha T, John Legend and Kid Cudi. Guest appearances include Jay-Z, Ma$e, Ghostface Killah, 2 Chainz, R. Kelly, The-Dream and more. Such a star-studded cast must give many fans goose bumps about the album, and they may not be wrong to feel this way.
The production alone on “To the World” (featuring Kanye West & R. Kelly) will have many ready for more as the album’s opener showcases two of Chicago’s most famous artists in hip-hop. R. Kelly sounds very different in this track, while Kanye references Rick Ross with the lines, “These n—as tryna hold me back” before going on to name-drop Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his tax ordeal, “Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax!” The track comes together nicely and sets the tone for the rest of album. At this point, it is also where the album virtually becomes the radio (“Clique,” “Mercy” and an extended “New God Flow”). Thankfully “The Morning” provides a breath of fresh air. A beautiful but crowded track (it features Raekwon, Pusha T, 2 Chainz, Cyhi the Prynce, Common, Kid Cudi and D’banj), the song has a simple charm about it that’s hard not to like.
A shortened version of “Cold” follows before listeners are treated to “Higher” — a Clipse-inspired track where Pusha T shines alongside The-Dream, Ma$e and Cocaine 80s (“Known to have a hundred and one like dalmatians” is probably one of the slickest punch lines I’ve heard this year). “Sin City” and “The One” could have been kept off, while “Bliss” and “Creepers” should have been saved for John Legend’s and Kid Cudi’s next solo projects. The final track on the album — and disappointingly so — is the remix to Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like,” which was also released months ago.
Cruel Summer is a strong display of the diversity of artists Kanye West has signed to his label, but it falls short on a couple of levels, with the most important point being this — it only offers seven new songs (5 were previous releases). Lyrically, the album is unfocused. None of the songs have a clear connection to the others to the point that it sounds more like a compilation than a joint release. Sonically, the album is wonderful, with production that rivals — and on some points exceeds — Watch the Throne, but the instruments tend to take precedence over the actual rapping. Finally, the album is missing artists that are actually signed to G.O.O.D. Music such as Mr. Hudson, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Q-Tip while it heavily features 2 Chainz. Still, this album is not one that should simply be passed over.
- “To the World”
- “The Morning”