Review Summary: A brilliant example of a mixed bag.
Taking into consideration that nearly half of this album was already available to the general public by the time of the actual album's leak (ahem...release), there are few that probably haven't already come to their own conclusions about Cruel Summer
. Simply putting it, it's an enjoyable album, that contains some brilliant beats, verses, and features, but also contains some that are less than wondrous.
Look no further for missteps than the album's opener, "To the World", an otherwise enjoyable song with some good vocals from R. Kelly...for almost half the song. It's too long to be a proper intro track and it's too short to be fully fleshed out. Kanye's verse is significantly lazy, cracking one of his lines about *** that stopped being clever shortly after he started using them (especially considering that with R. Kelly's presence, he had the perfect opportunity to drop one about urine - zinger!). The mistakes on the album vary by song - "To the World" is overly long and places too much emphasis on Kelly, "Sin City" has an inability to hold much interest other than Malik Yusef's spoken word, and "The One" has a pretty dull beat. The album's big failing, though, is in features, and the lyrics of said features.
Some features are just disappointing - it's been far too long since Jay-Z spat something that was above average - and some are just facepalm-inducing. There is too much Big Sean ("Bang bang, riding for my niggas and that's for life/High class, I'm just surrounded by these low-lifes"), 2 Chainz ("When my nigga went to jail, I said Free Gucci/I done bought so much ***, I should get free Gucci") and CyHi da Prynce ("She rode the broom on the beach, that's a sandwich"). And there's too little Common, Raekwon, Ghostface, or Cudi, and no appearances of other, more worthy G.O.O.D. Music artists like Q-Tip or Mos Def. Luckily, those four's few and far between appearances can practically save the album from the pit of mediocrity, with help from Ye and Pusha T, who probably have the most appearances. The former is still stuck in his Watch the Throne
mindset of braggadocio over anything of import. His verses are still quality, but they no longer carry the same weight that they once did. The latter, even when his bars aren't brilliant (there was no reason to rhyme "everything else" with itself three times in a row on "New God Flow"), does a great job of still making them sound good (and when his bars are brilliant...you best look out).
Also, how did DJ Khaled get a feature for just saying the words "Kanye West, Swag King Cole, DJ Khaled"?
The beats are quite good overall, though. "Mercy", "I Don't Like (Remix)", and "New God Flow", in particular, are bombastic, dark, and smooth. Hit-Boy's "Higher" and "Cold" could also be called album highlights. On the other hand, "Sin City" and "The One" manage to be astoundingly slow and dull in comparison. No need for everything to be a banger, but at least hold the interest of the listener. But on Cruel Summer
, there are plenty of fantastic sounds - strings, dark synths, heavy bass - to do just that. Musically, the album is done well.
As an album with at least twenty people featuring on it, Cruel Summer
was bound to be eclectic. But its so varied in quality - primarily due to the lyrics and features of the album, the production is good almost all across the board - that it's not an album you can listen to in full without skipping through a few songs. Still, those songs that are really enjoyable ("NGF", "Clique", "I Don't Like", "Bliss") help redeem the album.