G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer Track-by-Track Album Review by Ron Worthy

Title: Cruel Summer (Sampler)
Artist:  G.O.O.D. Music (including R. Kelly, Common, Pusha-T, Teyana Taylor, 2 Chainz and more)
Label:  G.O.O.D. Music, DefJam
Duration:  54:31
Released: September 14, 2012
Producers:  Kanye West (also exec.), Che Pope (also exec.), Andrew “Pop” Wansel, Anthony Kilhoffer, Boogz & Tapez, Dan Black, Hit-Boy, Hudson Mohawke, Illmind, Jeff Bhasker, Ken Lewis, Lifted, Mano, Mannie Fresh, Mike Dean, Mike Will, The Twilite Tone, Tommy Brown, Travis Scott, Young Chop

Since hearing the leaked Mercy, which could arguably be called the urban song of the Summer of 2012, I was very excited to hear what Kanye and crew had in store for the full length player.  Sure, I was hoping for it during the actual Summer instead of the Fall, but at this point, I trust Kanye’s judgement.   The truth is, classic music takes time.  Sade releases albums like 10 years apart and noone complains.  And yes, I am putting Kanye in that category.  For what he has done for hip hop and music, he will go down as one of our generations greatest.

This album is really a coming out party for Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music roster of established and new artists ranging from R&B’s John Legend and Teyana Taylor to actor and hip-hop vet Common to new schoolers like Big Sean and 2Chainz among others.   With the proliferation of crews in the game today, this release certainly faces a decent amount of competition.  I’m sure Rick Ross and Lil Wayne will be checking those week 1 numbers.

That said, we took the time to review this joint track by track so you know what to check for and what to skip.

Overall Grade: B+/A- [amazon_link id=”B008RLY1OU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]BUY[/amazon_link] (3.5/4.3)

Track by Track Review:

01. Kanye West and R. Kelly: “To the World” – B+  
Rock and roll middle fingers cast at the world in this slick intro.   Fellow Chi-town player R. Kelly puts in solid work on the hook.  What began as mere David Guetta Ibaza-pop evolved into a nicely executed cut with entertaining 16s.

02. Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Big Sean: “Clique” – A-
Dope beat and Big Sean rides it like a Harley, easy and steady.  Jay kills as usual over the soaring sample light track.  ‘Ye delivers in the cleanup spot with the usual wealthy rap guy braggadocio, which actually sounds less cliche than you would expect.

03. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha-T, and 2 Chainz: “Mercy” – A+

04. Kanye West, Pusha-T, and Ghostface Killah: “New God Flow” – A-
This is a late night rolling with your boys cut.  Delivered over an aggressive classic boom-bap beat, this track is for the streets.  Well executed verses and a general positive vibe make this an enjoyable listen indeed.   By the way, Ghost steals the show as usual on this one with his classic Wu flow and vibe.

05. Raekwon, Pusha-T, Common, 2 Chainz, Cyhi the Prynce, Kid Cudi, and D’Banj: “The Morning” – B+
Beginning with a serious reggae vibe, this track knocks from beginning to end. While leadoff Raekwon murders it as usual with that Shaolin-cocaine slinger flow and all the MCs deliver, I felt the theme of the hook was lost in the verses.  It all sounded like folks just emailed verses to Kanye and he assembled the best of the lot.  It’s a solid track with a sick beat but I didn’t follow the thesis.

06. DJ Khaled: “Cold” AKA “Theraflu” – A+
Classic.  This song knocks from beginning to end, production and verses.  The standout moment of this song in my  opinion is the Kris Humphries “HIM” reference relating to his new relationship with his ex, Kim Kardashian.

07. The-Dream, Pusha-T, and Ma$e: “Higher” –  B
I am really tired of auto-tune but I tried to look past it in evaluating this song, which uses the technique liberally.  Pusha-T delivers cleverly intricate rhymes but without much depth besides the complexity and flow.  Former churchboy (just kidding) Murder Ma$e returns from the rap archives and actually delivers an updated swagnificent flow, which is almost believable.  Puff may even return his calls after hearing this one.

08. John Legend, Travi$ Scott, Teyana Taylor, Cyhi the Prynce, and Malik Yusef: “Sin City” – B+
We really dig the thick electronic synth line that provides the soundbed for this track. In addition, we love the melodies that John Legend and Teyana Taylor create on the hook.  This song is lyrically superior and really helps to build the cautionary tale thesis, which we appreciate.

09. Kanye West, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, and Marsha Ambrosius: “The One” – B
Wow.  Kanye got usually sweet Marsha Ambrosius to say “Motherf-cking” and “Sh-t. LOL.  Just kidding, but really.  We weren’t expecting that one.  Nevertheless, she delivers a very melodic hook over a piano driven (and military drums at points), synth laden track which is accented with a variety of “One” samples from classic hip hop tracks.  Lyrically, the song is ok but not great.  It definitely had potential, but lacks cohesion, mostly due to 2Chainz’s verse, which seem phoned in.

10. Kid Cudi: “Creepers” – C+
First off, I dig Kid Kudi for having the gumption to create a new sound.  This has to be one of the reasons Kanye was attracted to him.  As such, I was excited to see him included in this project.   However, this song just doesn’t move me. The track feels incomplete on some level and the vocals and lyrics are just ok.

11. John Legend and Teyana Taylor: “Bliss” – A 
Butter.  We are hoping that this song will find its way to radio, but with the hip hop oriented stations sticking to their guns and urban adult contemporary going through an identity crisis, this great song may not get the broader exposure it deserves.  Teyana delivers with a very sultry performance and John Legend brings it home with an emotive and soaring second verse.  Well done.

12. Kanye West, Chief Keef, Pusha-T, Big Sean, and Jadakiss: “Don’t Like” – A-
First off, I LOVE the Rick Flair references.  Rick, a legendary wrestler also known for his swag, provides the perfect comparison for this group of seriously confident rappers.   This song is a simple club banger that you have to love.   While Chief Keef is not the prodigy everyone is claiming, he holds his own among some very gifted MCs.

Overall Grade: B+/A- [amazon_link id=”B008RLY1OU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]BUY[/amazon_link] (3.5/4.3)

While not a classic in its entirety, there are some serious classic cuts on this album.  Unfortunately, the best songs for the most part are the ones that you have been hearing for the last several months.   Among the cuts I hadn’t heard before, the standouts for me would have to be Bliss and Clique, both of which are solid musically and lyrically.    The rub with this album is that the production is stellar in general, but there seems to be a lack of cohesion within the songs and between the crew itself, who don’t come across as a real “crew” on the album, which would have been nice.   In our opinion, it’s that camaraderie that produces the best music and while this is a G.O.O.D. effort (pun intended), it could have been better if that element had come through more convincingly.

Finally, given the number of strong singles on the album, it may have been better for sales to release this album a lot sooner in the Summer so the strength of well-timed singles like Cold/Theraflu would have made more of an impact rather than having to release subsequent singles to maintain buzz.

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