By John Glynn
Both Kanye and Jay were extraordinarily protective when wrapping up Watch The Throne, employing an array of security measures to guarantee any chances of a leak were impossible. When it finally was released, nobody had heard the album in its entirety, making its release a special occasion, one of those shared moments in music so rarely experienced. With that being said, this calamity was always destined to happen, Kanye West ‘s G.O.O.D. Music ‘Cruel Summer’ LP was leaked online a week before its official release (September 18th). In this new era of music, album leaks have become the norm, often eclipsing the genuine release date. Publications like SPIN and the LA Times were the first to review this highly anticipated album. What did they think of it? Who really cares? What do I think of it? Thanks for asking, here it goes.
‘Cruel Summer’ demands your attention from the very beginning. The LP plays out like a musical novel, with R. Kelly’s sugary voice setting the initial scene. “Let me see you put your middle fingers up to the world,” Kelly demands, the collective hostility and resentment is almost palatable. Kelly’s vocals cavort around the drum-driven track, with Yeezy floating in and delivering a killer line, “only n*gga in Beverly Hills/where the hell is Axel Foley at?” Yeezy aint’ finished yet, not long after receiving Nicki Minaj’s non-endorsement in Lil Wayne’s “Dedication 4″ mix tape, Mitt Romney earns yet another mention on “To The World.” Unsurprisingly, the mention is not something that will help the Republican presidential candidate’s election campaign. With just over a minute remaining in the track, West raps, “I’m just trying to protect my stacks / Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax / Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax.” Probably not the shout out Romney was hoping for. On the other hand, in the White House, something tells me Mr. Obama might have this track on repeat.
The triumphant opener is laden with gigantic beats, thriving synths and some incredibly immodest verses. Honestly, these vocalists complement each other in such a stylish manner, here’s hoping to a ‘Watch The Throne’ type collaboration between these two heavyweights.
If there’s one word that describes the latest offering from Kanye , it’s “theatrical.”Next up is a song steeped in dopeness (and yes, I know that is not a real word). “Clique” comes loaded with manic verses and a chorus haunted by demonic voices. Big Sean sets the ball rolling by doing what Big Sean does best, you know, that Big Sean thing. He’s semi goofball and semi badass, “killing everything” that blocks his progression in the world of hip-hop. It’s a routine steeped in schizophrenia, one minute Sean is talking about spa days, the next he’s stating how he has become “ THE f—ng villain.” Initially, when Sean arrived on the scene, I really did not rate this guy, but this track demonstrates how the rapper has developed, almost justifying his Kanye influenced swag.
With all that being said, Sean is merely the warm up act on this track; enter Jigga Man, Jay’s verse is his only manifestation on the entire album, and boy does he make it count. Rhyming dexterously about being a “drug-dealing cousin”, Jay bounces over the synth pulses in his effortless style, finishing up with a customary reference to illegal paraphernalia. The Jigga Man is punching well below his weight here, but like watching Lionel Messi play in a 5 aside tournament, it’s still a joy to see a true master at work.
Kanye wraps things up, delivering lines immersed in exceptionally random references, ranging from his whirlwind romance with Kim Kardashian to Tom Cruise’s personal life. The rhymes are equally perplexing, one example being: “I’m way too black to burn from sun rays / So I just meditate at the home in Pompeii / About how I could build a new Rome in one day.” Perplexing but always entertaining, isn’t that Kanye in a nutshell? The Kid Cudi powered “Creepers,” with its magnetic hand-clapping beat mixed with Cudi’s rapid-fire declaration of guilt, is far more fascinating than anyone could’ve envisaged.
Even though Kanye steals the show on “New God Flow,” Pusha T gets two full verses in before surrendering the mic. The wildly talented artist starts off with an explosive couplet—”I believe there’s a God above me / I’m just God of everything else.” Needless to say, Kanye raises the lyrical bar. Nobody understands the art of unreserved controversy quite like Kanye—perhaps he really does believe that being a hated-on champ puts him and LeBron in an unequaled league of their own. Kanye knows only too well that lines of this nature are going be continually discussed, thus guaranteeing the fact that this song will etch its way deep inside your mind.
Even though Kanye doesn’t appear on every track, I do believe that the album has managed to meet the extreme hype. It’s a compilation album, it features many different artists and many different styles, from John Legend to Pusha T, there was always going to be a glitch or two.” Cruel Summer” is certainly a superior effort when compared with Rick Ross and his Maybach Music inspired offering. With the outstanding sequencing and production of high quality, the LP glides along effortlessly, achieving a consistency not easily achieved with a compilation mix.