Ten years ago, Kanye West and Kid Cudi changed the trajectory of what pop music sounded like with 808’s and Heartbreak.
The album was on the heels of Kanye losing his mom and a break-up with his then fiancé, Alexis Phifer. Cudi was the lonely stoner protégé that had the underground music scene of NYC buzzing with his A Kid Named Cudi mixtape. Together, they have forged a sub-genre that spawned some of music’s biggest names today; Drake, Travis Scott, The Weeknd and Future, just to name a few, all used elements of 808’s to catapult their careers. After years of fans wishing for a full-length project from the two polarizing figures, the moment is here. But is it too late? Are Kanye and Cudi past their musical prime? Cudi, unlike Kanye, has seen his decline happen not due to unwarranted opinions and outbursts, but due to his own personal demons. Kanye, on the other hand, has watched his career turn into the Truman Show, with his erratic behavior and poorly thought out comments on display for the world to see.
Two months ago, Kanye announced G.O.O.D. Music would, over five weeks, release five albums all produced by him. Of the forthcoming albums, the most anticipated was the joint album KIDS SEE GHOSTS by Ye and Kid Cudi. Scott Mescudi’s melodic hums paired with Kanye West’s pop-friendly anthems and chopped up soul samples work harmoniously. Kanye has recently come under fire from both fans and critics for his uninspired lyrics and support of President Donald Trump, which longtime followers of his music may find surprising. There are moments where “the old Kanye” rears his head, lyrically, but for the most part his only shining moments are with the production. Serving as the sequel to “Ghost Town,” the stand out track from Ye, this album sounds like a hazy, psychedelic trip, while walking through the beautiful landscapes of Wyoming.
Cudi’s treasured voice echoes on album-opener “Feel the Love,” accompanied by Pusha T‘s signature luxury coke raps, and hilarious machine gun ad-libs delivered by West. The track’s minimalism works seamlessly with Cudi’s vocals. On the Andre 3000 co-produced track “Fire,” Cudi attempts to channel his Man on Moon glory, but falls short. The title track offers a rare Mos Def aka Yasiin Bey feature, with Kanye delivering his most inspired rapping in years, painting images of flying cars and retro Japanese futurism. The Ty Dolla $ign- assisted “Freee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” sounds like the well-executed alternative rock song that Cudi has been attempting to make on his own since leaving the G.O.O.D. music imprint. The clear album stand-out is “Cudi Montage” produced by Cudi, Mike Dean and Dot Da Genius. The track contains a guitar riff from Kurt Cobain’s “Burn the Rain,” that slowly builds into a beautiful chorus from Cudi, West, and Mr. Hudson: “Lord shine your light on me, Set Me Free,” Kanye croons. “Stay Strong!” Hudson sings, as Cudi delivers his iconic hums.
“Reborn” finds them putting their recent turmoil in the rearview, sounding more like a duet apologizing to each other. Both have experienced massively embarrassing meltdowns in the public eye over the past two years.
During his DAYTONA press run, Pusha T divulged that Kanye likes to hear him one way and one way only. And from taking that direction, Pusha delivered his best solo project to date. On Kids See Ghosts, Cudi is the lead actor in a space western, with Kanye co-piloting the ship. KSG didn’t live up to 808’s or Man on the Moon’s greatness, but it absolutely gave us some of West’s and Cudi’s most focused work to date. The best example of this is the album cover; a beautiful Takashi Murakami piece that obviously had thought and care put into it. Very much unlike the iPhone photo Ye used for his own project.
KSG, the superior project to Ye, fulfills its purpose of giving two artists that struggle with many demons the freedom to channel them into their art and create their own world. I think during these sessions Cudi and Ye realized what their fans always knew, which is that the two needed each other more than they were likely aware. This album was a group therapy session. Two men that have seen some incredible lows over the years, reconciling with themselves, each other, and even with us. On KSG they were able to further cultivate the concepts that Cudi introduced on Man on The Moon, painting a futuristic picture with other-worldly sounds and chopped up samples. The beauty is they actually made a good super group album. Many artists have tried this feat and failed. The Firm, The Commission (Biggie died, not their fault), C.O.L.O.U.R.S., CRS, Murder INC. Fantastic Four, and the list goes on. Creative differences, schedule conflicts, deaths, or the project just being flat out bad. Hearing the names of these incredible rappers joining forces gave rap fans eargasms, but they just didn’t take off. Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Mike Dean and Dot Da Genius weren’t able to deliver a classic super group album but they were able to restore a feeling a lot of us felt ten years ago hearing 808’s. A lot of people didn’t like 808’s but it is possibly one of the most if not the most influential albums of the past decade so give KSG some time to marinate. Not saying it’s perfect but I am saying don’t be surprised if another ten years from now this is another highly praised collaboration from these two.