Rating: 8.5/ 10
For anyone with a somewhat solid grasp on the career arc of Kanye West, this should at least sound a little familiar. It’s not the first time we’ve heard of him revamping an entire album; Kanye did that for his debut album, and it turned out to be one of the best moves he’s ever made. Kanye’s also familiar with making people wait; throughout the G.O.O.D. Friday releases, he’s at times dropped them so late it could be considered Saturday to some. So Ye’ suddenly post-poning the iTunes version of his latest G.O.O.D. Music creation, Cruel Summer, until late Tuesday afternoon isn’t that big of a deal. As long as the music’s still good, then most of us will tune in. Those who waited to cop the iTunes version indeed got a better-sounding project, but the content – and the overall feeling of déjà vu – is still intact.
The entire album is paced to flow together, but the LP manages to do that well despite five of the tracks being out well before Cruel Summer’s release. From R. Kelly’s teaming with Kanye on “To The World”, to the perfect addition of Ghostface Killah on “New God Flow”, to the seemingly revamped mixing of songs like “Sin City” and “The One”, all of this seems to be in the name of doing something different from the rest of the industry. That thought’s furthered by “Higher”, which features a solid rhyme from Ma$e and an overall infectious sound due to Cocaine 80’s influence. To top it off, Marsha Ambrosius laces the hook for the aforementioned “The One” with relative ease (even if the content is somewhat weird to hear her vocalize), and Raekwon’s verse on “The Morning” is another reason why the Wu-Tang still pose lyrical problems.
The biggest issue with Cruel Summer isn’t that it’s released four days before Fall begins on September 22, or that it’s only 12 songs, or that it officially cosigns Chief Keef into the mainstream market, or even the fact that to get the best-sounding version of the LP you have to cop the iTunes version. Instead, it’s more so the fact that as good as the music is, it still can be considered (sonically) an extension of Kanye’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and his joint LP with Jay-Z, Watch The Throne. With the roster that Yeezy has built, it wasn’t far-fetched for some to expect an album of the year candidate, but it is disappointing and ironic that G.O.O.D. Music could only crank out a good LP. This could be one of the few cases where the overproduction pocket that Kanye’s quarterbacked from in the past actually hurts the replay value of Cruel Summer in the end.
With that said, Kanye’s still showing why he’s musically relevant, as he refuses to get stuck in a “box” like others, even at the risk of alienating the few of his fans that think he’s doing too much. If you liked his last two outputs, then chances are that you’ll enjoy this one as well, if not more. Bangers like “Mercy” and “Cold” are still as aggressive as ever, while seemingly everyone on the label has incredible outings whenever they’re featured. Although almost half of the songs here have been heard before, Cruel Summer is still a solid play that accurately displays the potential of the G.O.O.D roster; that’s undeniable from any angle.