‘Cruel Summer’ Album Review: Kanye West Indulges His Not So G.O.O.D Instincts


G.O.O.D. Music, Cruel Summer

Release date: September 18, 2012

The best moment on Cruel Summer, the new compilation album from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, occurs towards the end of “New God Flow.” When released in June, the track—which like Ghostface’s 2000 song “Mighty Healthy” samples Melvin Bliss’s “Synthetic Substitution”—concluded with West leading a lengthy call-and-response sing-along. Here, on the album version, it closes with a nutty verse from Ghost where he references his eagle bracelet and brags about his lion’s eating habits. It’s not a classic Ghostface verse. It’s not even the best sixteen on the song. But it’s got the element of surprise going for it.

Anyone that follows music blogs or watched this year’s BET Awards has heard nearly all of Cruel Summer’s highlights. The first single “Mercy,” already in the pantheon of great posse cuts; the fiery “I Don’t Like (Remix)”; Jay-Z’s verse on “Clique”; West blacking out on “Cold”; and of course, “New God Flow.” This is the rap game circa 2012—get it first and get it for free. If it sucks, oh well, a new song or mixtape will be out by lunch—but you gotta save something for the paying (ROTFL!) customers, right?

Those suckers are barely rewarded. Well, there’s “Bliss,” a sultry duet between Teyana Taylor and John Legend that combines the right amount of bombast, synths and animal noises. (Seriously, is that the Falconer from Saturday Night Live or Ghost’s eagle?) And, um, and…oh, Raekwon actually says, “Love us or not/the Mark Zuckerbergs of the block” on the otherwise sluggish posse cut “The Morning.” So that’s nice.

In place of the stuff that makes West’s solo albums so great—little things like cohesion, excitement and creativity—there’s ridiculous grandiose arena rap like the opener “To The World,” mawkish snoozers like “The One” and “Creepers,” a tuneless Kid Cudi solo joint. There’s also a spoken word interlude, two verses from CyHi Da Prince and a baffling cameo from West’s favorite rapper Ma$e. Kanye West indulges his worst instincts on Cruel Summer, throwing more and more and more at every song. Being provocative doesn’t always get the people going. —Thomas Golianopoulos