On Oct. 19, 2011, Kanye West tweeted the following: “GOODMUSIC. THE ALBUM. SPRING2012.” From that point on, expectations have been through the roof for what West and his signees were up to. The hype truly began to build this past April when West released “Cold,” featuring DJ Khaled and “Mercy,” which features Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz. Both songs instantly became hits, with Mercy rising to No. 1 on the Billboard charts earlier this summer. Five months later, the G.O.O.D. Music team released its first compilation album, “Cruel Summer,” just three days before the last official day of the season.
The album starts off with “To the World,” starring West and R. Kelly. This track is sure to be the next chart-topping single from the album. I can picture it now: thousands of fans packed in a stadium for West’s next tour with their middle fingers up, as R. Kelly repeatedly requests before beginning the first verse. One of the most enjoyable lines of the album references a classic episode of Chappelle’s Show when R. Kelly says, “The whole world is a couch, b—- I’m Rick James tonight, I don’t give a f—.” The song then transitions into a quirky, fun verse from West. If you’re looking for a good song to wake up to every morning before going to class this term, “To the World” would be a good pick.
“Cruel Summer” then goes into a series of hard-hitting club-bangers, beginning with “Clique,” the album’s latest single, which features Big Sean, Jay-Z and West in that order. After great verses from Sean and Jay, West begins his bars with “Break records at Louis, at breakfast at Gucci, my girl a superstar all from a home movie.” As if that wasn’t a good enough start, West brags about his hit single from “Watch The Throne” later in his verse when he says, “What n—-s did in Paris got ‘em hanging off the Eiffel.”
“Clique” seamlessly transitions to “Mercy,” the song that has everyone and their mother saying “Swerve” thanks to Big Sean. The song begins with verses from Sean and Pusha T before a synth-led breakdown for West’s verse, in which he delivers the line of the album: “Something ‘bout Mary, she gone off that Molly, now the whole party is melting like Dali.”
Another crisp transition leads to “New God Flow,” which now features a verse from legendary emcee Ghostface Killah. As if the song wasn’t good enough already, the breakdown leading into Ghostface’s verse makes this song one of the best on “Cruel Summer.” Pusha T delivers another incredible performance here, where he leads the way with two verses.
“I believe there’s a god above me, I’m just the god of everything else,” Pusha proclaims as he begins the song.
“The Morning” begins with Nigerian singer D’Banj, who stars on the hook of this song. Guest feature Raekwon delivers an incredibly witty line when he says, “They yelling chef killa play with the cooks, I say ye with two chains on, we common, let’s push,” as he cleverly references four G.O.O.D. Music artists. The song comes to an end with West sampling his own verse from “New God Flow” (yes, you read that correctly), but somehow, as only he could, it flows perfectly into “Cold,” the last track of the club-banger series that dominates the first half of the album.
One of the most unique songs on the album is “Higher,” which is produced by G.O.O.D. Music signee Hit-Boy and features The-Dream, Pusha T, Ma$e and Cocaine 80s. While the most surprising part of the album is the return of Ma$e (he wasn’t missed that badly), Pusha T delivers the best verse of “Cruel Summer.” His amazing bars come to an end as he says, “Get raunchy in Givenchy, my palm reads, passports, pinot noir in arm’s reach, paddle shifting, push button, no car keys, the penthouses are poolside with palm trees.” James Fauntleroy of Cocaine 80s delivers an amazing outro with heavily layered vocals that he’s become known for across his work.
If you’re reading along while listening to the album, now would be the time to grab hold of your seat because the bass at the beginning of “Sin City” might push you around a little. This song is definitely the weak point on the album, specifically due to Malik Yusef’s awkward rant and Cyhi the Prynce’s disappointing verse.
The album continues at a slower pace with “The One,” which features a piano-led melody, heavy snare hits and a beautifully sung chorus from Marsha Ambrosius. The laid-back track leads into KiD CuDi’s “Creepers,” which sounds like a song straight off one of his solo albums.
“Cruel Summer” begins to wind down with John Legend and Teyana Taylor’s duet, “Bliss,” the only rhythm-and-blues song on the album. While it sounds out of place in the grand context of the album, it’s still a very good track that showcases two talented signees. But of course, it can’t compare to G.O.O.D. Music’s version of “Don’t Like.” The album’s grand finale features Chief Keef, Big Sean, Pusha T, West and Jadakiss. It closes out the compilation album with a bang.
While it might not have been exactly what you expected, “Cruel Summer” is a very good album despite five of the 12 songs (all featuring West) being released before it hit stores Sept. 18. With a compilation album, it’s hard to have a consistent sound throughout, especially with so many different artists and styles of music on the label. But overall, “Cruel Summer” was able to bring a number of unique tracks to the table, and it presented a platform for the G.O.O.D. Music artists to showcase their talent to the world. As a team they were able to deliver one of the year’s best albums.