The British summertime. Once filled with green fields, long, hot sunny days and short nights. Now replaced, somewhat rather harshly, with a few outbursts of sun, grey, gloomy days and umbrellas. Some would say that our Summers and the expectations surrounding them are rather…Cruel. Something that Kanye West has probably experienced during the making of this album. And if, on purchasing the G.O.O.D music family’s debut collection, you were expecting a body of musical reflections on the effects of global warming, you, sir, would be frankly mistaken.
Instead what we have here is a slickly produced mixtape slash album featuring some of the “finest” talents in US hiphop today. But is it actually any good?
As an avid hip-hop fan, I’ve been waiting for this album for a good few months, dating back to the time when it was originally going to be released in the summer (and it actually made sense to call it Cruel Summer). In this time, Kanye released a whopping 5 tracks off the album (which of course everyone and their mother downloaded).
In all fairness, those singles all bump. Pretty hard. Special shout out to
Mr Cheeks 2 Chaiiiiiiinz’s closing verse on the trunk rattling, Trap inspired Mercy; Ghostface Killah’s verse on the Ghost-sampled New God Flow and the grimey, dingey posse cut, Clique.
In today’s music climate, if you’re going to release 5 singles from one project, you are going to need a healthy collection of album cuts to back it up and to Kanye’s credit, there are a few notable other cuts here. R Kelly (love him or loathe him) puts in a stellar performance on the anthemic opener “To the World”. “Higher” features the Dream doing his best impression of a wounded, robotic woman and a rejuvenated Mase offering some choice words to his former Badboy labelmate/Islamic convert Loon (“you know I’m not Muslim my n***a, I’m about my bacon”). The exquisitely produced, 80’s sounding “Bliss” finds crooner, John Legend and socialite-cum-singer, Teyana Taylor both in fine voice.
But once you deduct those tracks, you definitely feel that Cruel Summer could have been so much more and unfortunately, there are numerous misteps. For all the reppin’ that Common does for G.O.O.D. music, he is criminally underused – just one short verse on the illuminati-ode, “In The Morning”. And D’Banj’s inclusion in that same song is downright laughable – some random crooning in the background. Almost a slap in the face for the whole Afrobeats movement.
In comparison, for some inexplicable reason Cy-hi The Prince is all over this album despite his lyrics being that of more of pauper.
Oh yeah, and Kid Cudi’s track ‘Creepers’ is boring. There. I said it.
Cruel Summer, for better or worse, offers a snapshot of hip-hop in 2012 (albeit doing so in a much slicker way than the average stuff that tops the charts these days). Lots of bass, slight paranoia, over-indulgence and some good punchlines. There was a lot of hype over this album and in all honesty, it was always going to be a tough feat. But compared to Kanye’s previous albums Watch the Throne and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, this album fails to take any of the musical steps forward that they did. It’ll still sell by the bucket load due to the extensive guestlist but frankly, there isn’t really much new ground being broken here.
So basically, every sample of this song has been pretty good. Shout out’s to George Clinton and Funkadelic for creating such a timeless tune. Salute!