Of the five Kanye West-produced ‘Wyoming sessions’ albums released over summer, Kids See Ghosts, which pairs the rapper up with long-time collaborator Kid Cudi, was certainly the most unexpected. The two have a known chemistry – Cudi having worked on every Kanye album since 808s & Heartbreak – and the subsequent reveal of the album’s spooky, psychedelic artwork (by Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami) meant that excitement was high for their joint venture, despite Cudi’s lack of recent output and Kanye’s…tumultuous year. The result, however, was different to what anyone imagined: Kids See Ghosts is an other-worldly, mind-bending project that’s certainly one of the year’s most atmospheric and intriguing hip-hop albums.
Central to the album is the idea of freedom – that is, creative freedom that allows the duo to construct a new dimension of ideas and sounds. Kanye’s production is insane; both dreamy and nightmarish, aggressive and mellow, Kids See Ghosts has an ethereal quality like nothing else released this year. The drums on ‘Feel The Love’; the ghostly chants on ‘Kids See Ghosts’; the genius sampling (like the Louis Prima vocals on ‘4th Dimension’ or Kurt Cobain guitar riff on ‘Cudi Montage’) – all of the elements on Kids See Ghosts work in harmony to create a supernatural feeling, like stumbling across a graveyard during a ‘summoning of the dead’ ritual. It’s an album with a truly exciting, unique and delicious sound.
This freedom applies to the artists and their lyrics, too: like ghosts leaving the bodies of their hosts, Cudi and Kanye’s spirits are finally free. For Cudi, this is freedom from the demons of his mental health; after checking himself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges in 2016, Cudi is now sounding his best in years, rapping about his journey to recovery throughout, most notably on empowering track ‘Reborn’. Kanye, meanwhile, has clearly thrown off the societal constraints that have stopped him fully expressing himself in the past – as seen in his erratic Twitter rants and open support of Trump in the last year, and evidenced in lyrics like “One day they hate you / Next day they love you / I’m still yelling ‘f*** you!’” on the aptly-titled ‘Freeee’. Yet his rapping is, on the whole, the most enjoyable it’s been for a while, with conscious verses like that on ‘Cudi Montage’ – “Everybody want world peace / ‘Till your niece get shot in the dome-piece” – proving that Kanye has still got something to say.
The 7-track format of Kids See Ghosts allows only a brief peek into this other dimension, but it’s hard not to be captivated by what resides there; indeed, the album seems to have captured the souls of critics, with it appearing on most publication’s ‘Best-of-2018’ lists, and thus is certainly deserving of a place in our Top 10. Although the amount of weirdness present means it won’t be to everyone’s taste, Kids See Ghosts is still one of the most interesting, unique and replayable albums of 2018.
Kids See Ghosts was released on 8th June via Def Jam Recordings.