By Luke Jackson
“Kanye’s latest micro-album captures the confidence of Ye and the vibes of Cudi in just 7 short tracks, but it’s inconsistencies show at times.”
2018 has been a wild ride for Kanye Omari West. On April 15th, when Kanye hopped back on Twitter and embarked on a polarizing stream of consciousness, chaos ensued. We’ve seen loyal fans and lovers of his music shun him because of his support of President Trump, and we’ve witnessed multiple major news outlets slam Kanye for his questionable comments about slavery. However, with all of this bad news and terrible press, Kanye still drummed up considerable buzz for his long-awaited eighth studio album.
Titled simply as “ye”, the new album was as personal and open as Kanye had ever been on any of his albums. Ye, as a project, was direct, to the point, short, and drastically different from Kanye’s customary epic, extravagant, indulgent albums of late such as Yeezus and The Life Of Pablo. Ye left many typical Kanye fans parched- disappointed even, but luckily, it seems as if his newest collab album with Cleveland native, Kid Cudi, seems to quench those thirsts in a shot glass sized portion.
KIDS SEE GHOSTS serves not only as a return to form for Mr. West, but also as one for Cudi, who has been struggling with the toll of mental health issues and scattered ill-advised artistic decisions in recent years.
Leading off, the song “4th Dimension” is dominated by a silky smooth sample from legendary New Orleans Jazz singer Louis Prima, and features dark, heavy drums that perfectly compliment Kanye’s signature confident voice and flow. This confidence also oozes on the track Fire, where Kanye seems to recognize the difference between himself on ye and his performance on KSG, as he raps “I done proved to myself, back on that rulin’ myself”.
Despite this confidence, one place where Kanye acknowledges his own insecurities and failures comes on the stripped back, simple song; Reborn. This acknowledgment of weakness doesn’t appear to be in a confessional way like it was on ye, but more so as a reminder of a place where Kanye used to be, and a place that he has since escaped for more happier days.
Cudi also provides phenomenal verses on both of these songs, the latter of which (Reborn), feels like it would fit right in on the tracklisting of Cudi’s best album, Man on the Moon. Cudi emanates a feeling of a rejuvenated and younger artist on most of this album. Cudi weaves together tightly rhyming and melodic verses that feature a persona that reminds the audience how drugs completely destroyed Cudi’s young and bright career. This trend takes center stage on the track 4th Dimension when he says “Such a lost boy, caught up in I had/ What’s the cost boy? Losin’ everything that I had”.
While Cudi’s melodic verses are highly welcomed and are a signature of his entire discography, Cudi has never been a fantastic singer. When he stays within his small register and complements his vocals with good rhymes and flows, he can create amazing and classic works like his famous song “Day ‘N’ Night” from the 2009 project Man on the Moon.
However, when Cudi relies solely upon his voice to carry a song, the results can be disastrous. A prime example of this phenomenon is his 2015 album “Speedin’ Bullet to Heaven”, which was so horrendous that esteemed music critic Anthony Fantano gave the album his first (and only) 0/10 score. Thankfully, tracks on which Cudi attempts to reach into his upper register and really sing are given other elements that accent his vocal performances and make them tolerable like on Feel the Love, where Cudi’s singing sounds more like shouts of pain than vocals.
Focussing in on Feel the Love, the shortcomings of Cudi are seemingly compounded when Kanye begins to throw so many ridiculous ad libs at the audience during the second chorus that the track begins to sound like Kanye is attempting to do a Desiigner impression. The song starts to seem doomed. However, somehow, the tribal drums and an average Pusha T verse tie the track together with a theme of chaos and salvages a song, that in concept, should be a terrible one.
Another notably poor vocal performance by Cudi comes on the final track of the album: Cudi’s Montage. Unlike Feel the Love, Cudi’s singing portion isn’t as prominent across the whole track. However, opposing Feel The Love, Kanye’s role is a beneficial one, as Ye’s verse about violence and retaliation might be one of the best storytelling verses he has penned since College Dropout.
In summation, KIDS SEE GHOSTS is an above average album that benefits from a short, 23-minute run-time. All of the ideas and sounds that Kanye and Cudi had felt are fully fleshed out, and instead of cramming of complex concepts into a moment in time, both artists stuck to a more focused approach and executed upon a set of defined, isolated ideas with proficiency.
Kanye’s recent trend of sawed-off albums, that began with Pusha T’s 7 songed “Daytona”, continued with Kanye’s equally sized Ye, and followed up with the similarly constructed, KIDS SEE GHOSTS, has been a massive success. All three of these bite-sized albums were polished and of quality, and because of their short run times, don’t give the listener time to worry about forgettable and skippable deep cuts on the album like you saw with Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo”.
Songs like Reborn and 4th Dimension display how much work Kanye put into each idea and the craftsmanship of its delivery. Instead of putting a sufficient amount of work into 15 to 20 tracks, Kanye and Cudi put every newton of energy that they had into 7 concise and intricately crafted tracks. Listening to this album from beginning to end is a remarkably digestible experience, while also being highly enjoyable as well.
Kanye’s prior albums like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Graduation were two and a half times as long as KSG, which prevented a lazy listener from attempting to fully consume the greatness of those genuinely incredible works of art. Kanye made his two most recent albums so short so that anybody would be able to easily access them and fully appreciate their brilliance.
KSG is one of the most polished and perfected albums in Kanye’s discography. It serves as an example of how skilled, profound, and meticulous Kanye is as both a lyricist and producer when he has clear visions for what he wants. Each and every one of the tracks on this album is fully listenable, from beginning to end, and there is no song that anyone should even think about skipping.
This album has a few mistakes. There are missteps every so often, but those small errors are drowned out by layered vocal harmonies and Kanye’s masterful sample manipulation. If you consider yourself a fan of music in general, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album.
It’s that good.
I know that this figure means absolutely nothing considering the fact that this is the first ever music review that I have done for this site, but I like to see an “out of ten” review system as a bell-shaped curve. If the album is average, expect to see it in the 4-6 range. If an album is anything above or below that, that means the album is either abnormally good or bad. I will conclude every weekly album review with a score, and I would expect for people to get a better feel for what a good and bad score is after the sample size expands.