Release Date: Sep 18, 2012
Record label: Mercury
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock
Kanye West doesn't really do low stakes. He once identified his competition as "Michelangelo, Picasso, the pyramids," and it's not like you form a group with Jay-Z, name it the Throne and put a gold embossed cover on the album because you're afraid of high expectations. So consider Cruel Summer the first real creative vacation West has taken in his illustrious career – an occasionally exhilarating, ultimately underwhelming showcase for Kanye and his friends (many of whom are signed to his G.O.O.D.
For a guy known to be cantankerous, Kanye West plays awfully well with others: He was an excellent tag-team partner for Jay-Z on Watch the Throne, and his 2010 instant classic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy featured key contributions from the likes of Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and Bon Iver. He appears on seven of the 12 tracks on this much-buzzed first compilation for his G.O.O.D. Music label, though he dominates the proceedings even when he’s silent.
Kicking off with R. Kelly doing vocal gymnastics over the most polished and professional of Pop Wansel beats, Cruel Summer is a mistitled fireworks show from Kanye West and his G.O.O.D. Music label/roster/empire, one that comes off as mixtape-minded follow-up to his flossy Jay-Z team-up Watch the Throne. Big difference here is that the arrogance canon isn't aimed at anything particular, as West and company put their middle finger up "To the World," because those shoes are just so damn stylish you don't need a reason to tolerate anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Kanye West's penchant for superabundance is one of the most exhilirating things in pop music. Where others might make do with a single producer, Kanye will have three and finish it up himself when they're not looking. While other rappers will showcase their lesser-talented mates, Kanye signs Common and Clipse's Pusha T. As for guest vocalists, why not R Kelly, John Legend and The D.R.E.A.M? All appear on this impromptu project that's somewhere between album and mixtape: some tracks coming over like sketches; others as pastiches of hip-hop trends.
G.O.O.D. MusicCruel Summer[Def Jam / G.O.O.D. Music; 2012]By Craig Jenkins; October 1, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThe party line on Cruel Summer, the label compilation from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint, is that it shouldn’t be mistaken for a proper Kanye West album.
Paging Dr Freud, paging Dr Freud, Kanye is back in the building! The rapper/producer whose megawatt talent is only comparable in size to the number of untreated psychological afflictions he reveals every time he opens his mouth, is here with a new album and, by the sound of it, the drugs still don’t work. As anyone who witnessed those 15-minutes-plus live versions of ‘Runaway’ (“Let’s have a toast to the douchebags/assholes/ jerkoffs”) on the ‘Watch The Throne’ tour will attest, Kanye doesn’t seem close to winning the battle with those wicked voices in his head. And listening to the songs on his sort-of, but not-really new album ‘Cruel Summer’, it’s safe to assume that his time on Planet Kardashian hasn’t blunted his perspective at all.
Everyone has their own opinion on Kanye West, an opinion which is inescapable when he releases a new album or when people look back at his back catalogue. Roughly there are two views on Yeezy. 1. He’s a jackass, an arrogant prick who interrupts boring country music singers; he’s teetering on the edge of madness and his music is crap.
Cruel Summer is not Kanye West's record; listening to it, I found a certain peace in reminding myself of this. Cruel Summer is a crew album, a chance for all of the rappers he's signed to his G.O.O.D. imprint during the past few years to momentarily feel like they own the place. They range from former greats like Pusha-T to half-decent punchline rappers like Big Sean to entourage bottom-feeders like CyHi the Prince, and spending a long time in their presence can feel like being trapped in a reality-TV house.
We could trace Cruel Summer, the compilation record from Kanye West’s long-developing G.O.O.D. Music label, back to the posse cut "Mercy,” which came out in April of this year. Or we could look to G.O.O.D’s snowman-in-residence Pusha-T, who excitedly tweeted about new sessions in January. We could take it back to 2007 when West signed two then-unknowns, Kid Cudi and Big Sean, who later provided him with some commercial success.
While Cruel Summer appears much later into Kanye West’s headlining career, it’s hard to avoid comparisons to Jay-Z’s similar minded The Dynasty, released in 2000. Like that album, Cruel Summer aims to do what the G.O.O.D. Music brand has always aimed to do, which is promote all the artists Kanye’s aligned himself with by plastering his name all over it.
Cruel Summer, a compilation helmed by rap superstar Kanye West to showcase the artists signed to his G.O.O.D. Music imprint, deserved its advance hype mainly because a posse record that spread the love was a welcome reprieve from a music industry dominated by egocentric pop and hip-hop. Unsurprisingly, this LP (which mystifyingly shares its name with a Bananarama single) still feels like The Yeezy Show.
Kanye West :: G.O.O.D Music Presents Cruel SummerDef JamAuthor: Steve 'Flash' Juon"It's a cruel (cruel) cruel summer, leaving me here on my own." No? Well for a child of the 1980's, the words "Cruel Summer" will always bring Bananarama to mind first. If Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music compilation takes off, then "Cruel Summer" will evoke memories of 2012 for a whole new generation, and it won't even matter if they've seen his movie of the same name (starring Kid Cudi) or not.
When the reigning flowster and impresario of hip-hop drops a compilation album and calls it Cruel Summer, questions abound. First: Why is Kanye West so bummed out? His best buds join him on every track; his record label, G.O.O.D. Music, appears to be flourishing; and the lyrics themselves suggest no seasonal shortage of groupies, “foreign cars,” cash, or refined strains of weed.
01. The Layperson’s Response Cruel Summer, by Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music crew, is dense. Rap albums are frequently stuffed to the gills — overflowing with guest verses, producers (fresh and familiar), a mishmash of styles and moods, the club track, the radio hit, the street single, the one for the ladies, etc.
The odds were against this one from the beginning. When Kanye West founded label G.O.O.D. Music in 2004, it was just him, Common, and John Legend ? three guys who, despite a few obvious differences between them, shared enough ground to make sense as a team. But in the years since, Kanye has added the likes of Pusha T, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, The-Dream, CyHi the Prynce, and Kid Cudi, some of whom are viable creative presences, some of whom seem to be on the team for mere commercial potential.
Cruel Summer offers a start in stark contrast to that of the last crew compilation of note, Maybach Music Group’s Self Made 2. Whereas their opener showcased everyone on the roster (plus Kendrick Lamar) in a lengthy lead in, the G.O.O.D. Music set is ushered in with “To The World,” where R. Kelly’s victorious vocals and a symphonic backdrop are punctuated by a 40-second verse from Kanye West where he declares himself the “God of Rap.” As the album progresses, it becomes clear that this beginning is a reflection of the team hierarchy and thus a reflection of its output.
Something went wrong: Kanye West should, by all rights of sense and justice, not need anyone to defend him. The price of shoving your luxurious gluttony down the throats of your listeners with every syllable should be clear: no one can feel bad for West. I mean, if half of what Ye claimed on Watch the Throne was true, the guy could not conceivably have a better life.
For what its worth, Kanye West's done his best to put it off. His label, G.O.O.D Music, is eight years old and in that time different names have come and gone (remember Fonzworth Bentley?). West teased the possibility of a crew album in 2006, when he shot a very Puffy-like video with John Legend, Common, and Consequence for “Grammy Family” (suits, speedboats, and champagne, all in black and white).
Every project Kanye West has been attached to so far has had a unifying, well-executed concept, elevating his artistry in the process. Even middling efforts like 808 and Heartbreaks had a binding idea at its core. Cruel Summer is a showcase for West's stable of G.O.O.D. Music artists and is definitely not his latest solo album, yet it's a curious release that's bereft of West's usual attention to quality control.
Forgive Kanye West: he’s been terribly distracted. There’s the immersion in the fashion world: “Dinner with Anna Wintour/Racing with Anja Rubik.” There’s his sneaker line with Nike: “Hold up, I ain’t trying to stunt, man/But the Yeezys jumped over the Jumpman.” There’s the still unrealized creative aspirations: “I just meditate,” he raps, “about how I could build a new Rome in one day.” And of course, there’s the new girlfriend, Kim Kardashian: “My girl a superstar all from a home movie.” These are more than hobbies; they’re preoccupations. On “Cruel Summer” (G.O.O.D./Def Jam), the spotty new compilation from his G.O.O.D.
Kanye West’s long-awaited compilation sounds hasty and formulaic. Marcus J. Moore 2012 Love him or hate him, Kanye West is always intriguing, whether he’s flipping religion into a club jam or riffing on the Sierra Leone diamond trade. There’s often substantial depth to his solo recordings, and even if the results aren’t always remarkable, there’s an overwhelming sense of passion behind each album.