***1/2 (out of 4)
You’re going to see a lot of flowery reviews for the first “crew” album from Kanye’s G.O.O.D Music collective that mention things like “brash delivery.” I’m not going to do that. In order to properly encapsulate this undeniably great record, I’m going to tell you specifically what sucks and, far more significantly, what doesn’t on “Cruel Summer.”
What doesn’t suck:
• Pusha T: On “Cruel Summer,” he proves that he’s the Arn Anderson to Kanye’s Ric Flair. For those of you who don’t get that reference (congrats on actually having a social life in the early 90’s) that means Pusha T’s the self-appointed enforcer of the crew. He addresses the simmering feud between G.O.O.D and Young Money camps on “New God Flow” with vicious delivery. He’s arguably the best rapper on the album.
• Chicago’s Odd Couple finally unites: It seems weird that we haven’t ever heard a collaboration between Kanye West and R. Kelly on a track, but it’s the first thing you hear on this new record, thanks to “To The World.” It’s also one of the best songs on the album. Coincidence? I think not.
• The production: Spotlighting “Clique,” “Higher,” and the singles specifically, this is an expertly produced album from top to bottom.
• You’ve already heard half of the album: Out of 12 songs, 5 have already been released as singles/videos. That’s kind of ridiculous and diminishes the excitement.
• The G.O.O.D Music B-Team: Singer Teyana Taylor adds nothing to the album, and verses by CyHi Da Prynce and Common get overshadowed.
• Ma$e’s verse on the song “Higher”: Let It be known that I love Ma$e. Which is why I can say that his mumbled return verse is beyond disappointing. Sigh.
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