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G.O.O.D. Music, Cruel Summer

Cruel Summer offers a start in stark contrast to that of the last crew compilation of note, Maybach Music Group’s Self Made 2. Whereas their opener showcased everyone on the roster (plus Kendrick Lamar) in a lengthy lead in, the G.O.O.D. Music set is ushered in with “To The World,” where R. Kelly’s victorious vocals and a symphonic backdrop are punctuated by a 40-second verse from Kanye West where he declares himself the “God of Rap.” As the album progresses, it becomes clear that this beginning is a reflection of the team hierarchy and thus a reflection of its output. Where Rick Ross (even while appearing on most songs) found a way to play the back, using SM2 as a presentation tool and platform, Kanye is consistently front and center here. Yeezy is on eight of the 12 joints. And he should be. These are Cruel Summer’s best songs.

Though he surely was an integral part of the cultivation of each song on the album—and, more likely than not, from the way people speak of him, of it’s every detail—Kanye’s physical presence proves the major factor in the outcome of tracks. Those with him flourish; those where he can’t be found end up, indeed, lacking—not on the whole, but in the context of the project. “Creepers,” Kid Cudi’s solo endeavor, and “Bliss,” a John Legend and Teyana Taylor duet, seem awkwardly slapped onto the end of the album, as if to showcase the non-traditionalist members of the crew. Pusha T and The-Dream don’t recapture the rawness of “Dope Bitch” and “Exodus 23:1” with “Higher,” though Ma$e’s uninspired showing doesn’t help the effort.

That still leaves a healthy batch of impressive, often incredible music. The first four songs may be four of the year’s best: the Chi-town pairing on “To The World” and previously released singles “Clique,” “Mercy” and “New God Flow.”

On the whole and on cuts where he shares the stage, ’Ye still manages to grab the spotlight by consistently kicking rhymes both bolstered by and grounded in more passion, vigor and candor than those of his counterparts. Even as he’s aged, and his career and circumstances have evolved, and bathing luxury becomes more commonplace, Kanye has yet to abandon the openness and therapeutic elements of his music. That fact rings true here, too (“Went through, deep depression when my momma passed/Suicide, what kinda talk is that,” he rhymes on “Clique”; “It’s hard preachin’ the gospel to the slums lately/So I had to put the church on the drums, baby,” he waxes on “The One”). The rest of the G.O.O.D. family, though, is less adept at the practice—though there are glimpses, and the entire roster is talented (just not Kanye-talented), so most stay afloat with technical skills.

And then, of course, there is the issue of reconciling how to digest an album where four of the first six songs and five of the total twelve were released well in advance of the project. The prism through which to view the album is distorted by the leaks, so the set’s rich color isn’t as immediately visible as it would have been otherwise, or will be over time. It’s hard to hold the fact that the album’s best songs have already been committed to memory against it, but it’s equally as hard not to.

For anything involving Kanye West, there’s an uphill battle against what have proven to be reasonably lofty expectations. We expect perfection, classics, or something closely bordering on those levels of excellence from him. So when there’s a project involving him that, like this one, doesn’t quite hit those marks, it becomes a bit of a disappointment. Even if it is better than nearly everything else out. And that last fact cannot be forgotten. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)

  • wat

    According to the review, it seems like you wanted to rate this lower but didn’t…

    • Nemesis_Enforcer

      Basically. Like they’re scared of Kanye or something. The album is sub-par with a few highlights. But very few.

  • be real

    mase’s verse was uninspired? come on

  • Yea, I said it.

    Spell check fam. Album of the year. Kanye is on his way to being the best, ever.

  • raytarded

    So this review was basically to diss the rest of the crew smh. Big Sean, Push, Common and Cyhi went hard as fuck on this album. There were actually some tracks where they out-spitted Kanye. They truly deserve some props, this is a shitty review in my opinion!

    • Jon Dog

      No offence, but anyone could out spit Kanye son. Jeesh.. Common is an emcee, Kanye is a rapper. BIG difference.

    • O-Nycely

      Yeah no shit I totally agree, Kanye’s lyrical skills have improved immensely within the past 2 years but when you add a polished, seasoned MC such as Common and the underrated phenom Pusha-T (who in my opinion is at the pinnacle of his career and currently the BEST lyricist in hip-hop today) not to mention Kid Cudi and this dude CyHi The Prynce is hella impressive and can hold his own with the best some of rap’s best as he as proved in the past. Actually I feel Big Sean has been overrated; he can spit mad game bout pipin hoes wit his king kong cock, girls gettin their shit packed, etc. but his lyrics lack depth and the cock-hop is gettin played out All in all though, G.O.O.D. Music has possibly the greatest production team ever assembled in history and if everything falls into place they have the potential to take hip-hop to a level where they truly will be ‘Getting Out Our Dreams’ in music.

  • black jesus

    the coaster dmx just dropped was better than this

  • Andy

    I don’t know why they’re blowing up Kanye on this album, he’s not the rapper that he was in his Late Registration/ College Dropout days his content’s not as deep. Cyhi impressed me, he killed the tracks he was on. Also saying that Common isn’t as talented as Kanye is blasphemous, the man is a legend. Not feeling this review

    • Matt

      Stfu MBDTF was the deepest shiiit kanye ever wrote, you know nothing of rap

      • Andy

        MBDTF was deeper than his first two albums? Nah. MBDTF was the beginning of this artsy fashion designer shit he’s on now, he talked about real shit on his first two

        • caliblaze916

          not as deep? so how do songs lik blame game,all of the lights,runaway,why i love you, and murder to excellence not hav deep content

          • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

            THERES A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING REAL AND BEING EMO DEP . DRAKE IS EMO DEEP . STFU

  • http://twitter.com/wizsirlopu jean pierre orellana

    xxl reviewers are the worst

  • Batman

    I think this review is a pretty good review, I agree he was downplaying the rest of G.O.O.D. Music, but he was definitely right about some of the things he said in here. I don’t think this album was as good as I thought as it was going to be because all of the records that dropped first were insane (Mercy, Clique, New God Flow, I Dont Like Remix…Cold was good, didn’t think it would be on here though). Main thing I didn’t like about the album was that there wasn’t any symmetry between the tracks. This is Kanye’s worst album but that’s not saying much considering everything he does is top of the line.

  • yo

    xxl writers thats the shit i dont like.

  • kodee

    Crap review. The first 4 songs – the best 4 songs of the year? Huh?

  • Junghova

    I liked this album better than the MMG album that just came out and I thought Big Sean really stepped it up as did Cyhi. Pretty dope album overall IMO!

  • http://twitter.com/TheRealBSTRONG GymaHolic

    Thought the Album was dope it could have got a XXL but im coo with XL wish Common was on more tracks

  • bully

    To the world (over the top but i like it) Clique, Mercy, New god flow, The morning (raekwons’ verse) are the best songs on the album. good album not great. not a classic ,but this album produced the best hip-hop singles this year

  • Mtavarez727

    The only thing that should be xl is beats. Idk but i was a bit disappointed with it. With the exception of Mercy, Clique, and the morning, everything else was sub par.

  • Fucc

    L at best

  • Lil_Jay

    i believe in G.O.O.D. Kanye West is the best in the game right now.

  • GOODlife

    needed more cudi

  • realist

    Theh production alright pusha the the best the rest garbage

  • Lebron

    They misspelled “L”.

    • too funny…and true

      HAHA

  • Pegasus Flow

    Fuck this album and fuck this bias review. Who would waste money on this crap?