Kid Cudi and Kanye West's first full collaborative album is a violently melancholic hip-hop gem which leaves a haunting impression but falls just short of being the classic many hoped for.
Avoiding notions of the biblical when discussing Kanye West and his work proves to be an indulgent, yet difficult, task. This month has seen him release his most understated and personal album, Ye – entitled with reference to one of the bible’s most commonly used pronouns which can refer to both the individual and the many. Ye has also frequently proclaimed himself a contemporary God, a creator with bipolar for a superpower; one minute boasting divinity, the next appearing fragile in interviews and debating his own suicide.
Kid Cudi then could be seen as his modest prophet. Signed by Ye’s ‘GOOD Music’ label in 2008, assisting with production and providing guest vocals on the game changing 808s & Heartbreak and releasing the underrated West produced gem Man on the Moon: The End of Day, Cudi proved himself a huge talent in his own right.
Kids See Ghosts therefore marks the first officially joint album of the self-proclaimed deity and his underappreciated prodigy, with the result falling just short of their supposed celestial status.
Its all too brief 7 song track-list kicks off by reflecting West’s superpower to full effect. The “I can still feel the love” hook of its opening introduces us to the abrasive album to come, forwarding a very different impression to the soft self-assessment of Ye. Second track ‘Fire’ hosts the strongest beat of the album. Violent strings riff over a boots on the ground rhythm undercut by mournful winds and an iconic Cudi hum. A melancholy chorus of “On this road I find, these scars I left behind/ Heaven lift me up” calls back to the rock-hop melodies of Cudi’s Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven and leaves one of the most prominent lasting impressions of the Kids See Ghosts sound.
Staying true to form, West and Cudi’s sample selections are innovative, effective and incredibly broad. Closing track ‘Cudi Montage’ makes use of incomplete Kurt Cobain riff ‘Burn the Rain’ from the Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings album. Thematically it makes the perfect choice, offering only further exploration of Cudi’s own depression as he asks ‘Where’s home on this hidden earth?’ drawing parallels between the mental struggles of two artists. ‘4th Dimension’ goes one further and uses a 1936 Christmas song in ‘What Will Santa Say?’ by Louis Prima. The track feels almost like a dropped track from West and Jay-Z‘s Watch the Throne, distorting a classic sample to form a war cry backing and a deep base beat.
Lyrically, this is some of Ye’s best work since Yeezus, with Cudi remaining consistent in the dark exploration of his own soul. ‘Reborn”s dense hook is the album’s most catchy and its most optimistic, reciting ‘I’m so reborn, keep moving forward’ as if in desperate search for some kind of hope. Title track ‘Kids See Ghosts’ offers Kanye’s best flow to be released this summer, although his references to sex might benefit from added maturity even if they never venture to the lengths of his infamous ‘Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1’ bleach line.
Considering Ye and Cudi’s history, Kids See Ghosts had the potential to be something biblical. Although it never really challenges the masterworks of either artist’s discography, it easily provides one of the most interesting albums of the summer and so far the best of GOOD Music’s ongoing prolific run of releases. A melancholy mood album with an abrasive force, Kids See Ghosts haunts just as much as its title suggests and will continue to do so as we keep moving forward.
Kids See Ghosts is available now via GOOD Music.