Album Review: Kanye West and Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts

kids see ghosts

Kanye West and Kid Cudi

Kids See Ghosts (released June 8, 2018)

We’re three weeks into G.O.O.D. Music’s run of summer releases and so far results have been mixed to say the least.

Pusha T dropped easily the best album of his career (and arguably one of the best albums of the year, period) with DAYTONA – triggering a firestorm with you-know-who who did you-know-what with you-know-who.

But let’s keep that between me and you.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kanye West’s ye was an unfiltered, unfocused and seemingly unfinished mess. It’s like Kanye wanted to make a statement about his highly publicized mental health issues but just couldn’t find the words.

Thankfully, Ye finds a kindred spirit in Kid Cudi on their joint project, Kids See Ghosts, which feels like a natural extension of the ye album. And this time, the story is much clearer.

I’m writing this post days after we learned that designer Kate Spade’s death was ruled a suicide and mere hours after renowned chef Anthony Bourdain suffered the same fate. Mental illness and depression have long been been a scourge in our society, where symptoms aren’t often seen or, at worst, laughed off. Cudi and Kanye’s battles with mental illness are well documented and become a focal point of Kids See Ghosts, which makes the most of its short seven-track runtime.

The album’s immediate draw is its production, which is always the hallmark of every Yeezy release. “4th Dimension” features downright chaotic soundscapes, with G.O.O.D. Music MVP King Push once again strolling through to show off his lyrical crown. “Cudi Montage” starts off with a weird blend of hi-hats and warbling chants before mischievous gremlin giggles break out across the track. There’s no way that combo should work but it does. And very well. Kanye breaks out creepy banjos straight from Deliverance for “Reborn,” which turns out to be an appropriate mood setter. Sonically, it’s one of the better produced releases of 2018.

But what gives Kids See Ghosts its staying power is the themes it addresses. THANKFULLY, Kanye is actually in the mood to rap this time around, and he’s got something to say. “Feel the Love” features Cudi repeating to himself “Ain’t no stress on me Lord, I’m movin’ forward/Keep movin’ forward, keep movin’ forward” while Kanye bears his soul:

I was off the chain, I was often drained
I was off the meds, I was called insane
What a awesome thing, engulfed in shame
I want all the rain, I want all the pain
I want all the smoke, I want all the blame
Cardio audio, let me jog your brain
Caught in the Audy Home, we was all detained
All of you Mario, it’s all a game

Ye said it himself, mental illness is not a game.

“Freeee” (aka Ghost Town Part 2) opens with words from Marcus Garvey – “When man becomes possessor of the knowledge of himself, he becomes the master of his environment” – and becomes a celebration of triumph, with Ye, Cudi and Ty Dollar Sign singing their shackles off. They’re taking control of their lives and it’s an empowering – and much needed – message.

I know many fans feel “cheated” by these abbreviated releases but, much like Pusha’s album, Kids See Ghosts makes it point without overstaying its welcome. It certainly has its drawbacks, which almost always involve Cudi’s cringeworthy singing (“Kids See Ghosts”) and occasionally mumbly flow (“Fire”). I am NOT a fan of Croonin’ Cudi.

Still, Kids See Ghosts winds up exceeding expectations with top-notch production, decent chemistry between Cudi and Kanye and surprisingly poignant themes.

Don’t write Kanye and Cudi off yet. Their story ain’t over.

Best tracks: “Cudi Montage,” “Feel the Love,” “Freeee”

4 stars out of 5

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