Kanye West’s record label GOOD Music released a full-length album, Cruel Summer, on Sept. 18. The 12-track album brings together a veritable who’s who of current rap and R&B artists from R. Kelly to Jay-Z.
Cruel Summer is a mix of R&B and hip hop with a few rock influences mixed in between.
The tracks are consistently well-polished and well-produced. West not only brought back producers who have helped him out before, such as Hit-Boy, the producer behind last year’s massive hit “Niggas in Paris,” but he has also recruited new blood including British rock artist and producer Dan Black and Scottish-born electronic music producer Hudson Mohawke.
“To the World” is the highlight of the album. With its layered keyboard sounds, a broken down drum beat and R. Kelly’s fantastic R&B hook, it’s a great way to kick off the album and it will more than likely stick in your head.
“Clique” reunites the dynamic duo of Jay-Z and West. The two previously worked together on Watch the Throne. With its heavy bass and operatic samples, the Hit-Boy produced track, sets the tone for many of the rap tracks of the album. Jay-Z’s raps help the track flow and West’s verse, which references his current girlfriend Kim Kardashian’s sex tape, makes the track a real treat.
Other album highlights include DJ Kahled and West on the track “Cold” as well as West, Pusha T & Ghostface Killah performing in “New God Flow.”
Unfortunately, all of the aforementioned tracks play during Cruel Summer’s first half.
As the album progresses, things change. The later tracks, with duller beats and uninteresting verses, lack energy. The seventh track “Higher,” for instance, feels slow in comparison to the gospel-inspired fourth track “New God Flow,” and Pusha T’s verse on “Higher” sounds more like offbeat sentences than rhythmic hip-hop.
The low energy of the second half is only briefly broken up by the strong melodies in the album’s tenth song, “Creepers,” a Dan Black produced Kid Cudi solo track.
Cruel Summer isn’t groundbreaking, but it doesn’t bring with it any terrible tracks either. Although there are numerous voices on the album and each song sounds unique in its own right, there is nothing that really binds the album together as whole.
However, with a little bit of everything on this album, it is very likely if you pick Cruel Summer up you will find something you like.