Review Summary: seeing ghosts and back
I’m not sure anybody knew how this project would turn out when Kanye announced the collab back in late April. Although most probably hoped for some amalgamation of ‘Make Her Say’ and ‘Gorgeous’, my pessimistic mind flew back in time to the 2012 duo project WZRD
. Not to say my expectations were that
low, it’s just that with Kid Cudi’s inconsistency throughout the past 6 years and Kanye’s, well, Kanye-shit as of late, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high.
Speaking of too high, remember when Cudi was seeing ghosts, locked up in that 2015 studio moaning about chicken sandwiches and candy？ Although I can only speculate, it’s pretty clear to me that the collective’s name refers to those dark, drug-induced demons the man faced while presumably on some form of psychedelics. Cudi makes “moving on” a lyrical keynote as the music blends his hallucinatory potential with Kanye’s knack for production and sampling, harmonizing into a summery strawberry-lemonade refreshment. ‘Freeee’ sounds like a realized WZRD
single with bass blaring under the record’s best vocal performances. Supported by gospel gang vocals and some dynamic instrumentation, it’s one of the most immediately memorable tracks as it blossoms with a jubilant clashing of percussion, quirky sampling, and buzzing guitar performances. Yet as “ I feel free…
” lingers on into the reverb-drenched foreground, lessons learned from past pysch(e)-abuse coincide in the form of a simple mantra: letting go. Honestly, for two formerly stubborn artists, it’s brilliant to recall elements of failed projects, re-envision them, and simply declare by the end of it all: “keep moving forward
”. And despite all of the countless past influences cropping up, this album certainly feels like the tonal equivalent of progressing through the disorienting darkness and finding that blinding light at the end of the tunnel. Although ‘Reborn’ contains one chorus too many, I can almost excuse its repetitiveness; Kid Cudi is tackling his own regrets. It’s a flashback to his MOTM
stoner days as the song recalls that incredible balance between introspection and motivation, vibing along to a floaty ‘Sky Might Fall’-esque dreamboat. Plus, it’s backed elegantly by a friend who happens to be one of the greatest producers in the hip-pop realm.
I feel like I’m focusing on my childhood-era icon, Scott Mescudi, a bit too much, and although we do see a bit more of Cudi’s vocals, I’d still call the effort an even 50/50 split. While on Ye
Kanye sounded like he needed to clear the air, on Kids See Ghosts
the cool summer breeze is too revitalizing for any bipolar side steps. Kanye allows his buddy’s conceit to become his own, as bars often see him accepting his own madness while brushing critiques of past projects aside: “through with mixed-messages, through with the mail
”. The brilliantly sampled ‘What Will Santa Claus Say’ proves to be the highlight of the seven-track release, seeing both Cudi and Kanye spitting their most fun-induced verses, even referring to each other’s music (“now this the theme song
” and “put the beams on
”). It’s an appropriate climax for an album so concerned with righting wrongs and celebrating individuality. As such, the maniacal laughs that fade in before Cudi’s verse make so much sense for an introduction, smoothly melding to an otherwise very Kanye-sounding song. Even Kanye’s nod to Big Shaq within the opener’s frenzied shouts (“Grrrat, gat-gat-gat
”) doesn’t come off as purposefully psychotic but instead hilariously playful, allowing for his own production and vocals to scatter-dance together. It later proves to be a common theme for the album; sharp and rushed percussive hits often fly in without notice, complimenting yet contrasting the often smoothed out, cloud-catcher production Cudi resides in. Although past interactions between the two artists have spawned fascinating results, there is an intentional fusion at play; neither artist sacrificed any part of themselves but instead utilized production and songwriting as agents for synthesis rather than a stylistic clashing.
In December of 2015 for SB2H
’s review, I ended the piece by stating: “this is what it’s like to listen to the death of a musical career”. Although it was clouded by emotion and disappointment for the endeavor’s overlong experimentation, nothing Cudi’s done since has gotten me hopeful for a full recovery from that malevolent excuse for a release. As if inspired by the grunge-riddled attempt, the closer utilizes a more-respectable Kurt Cobain guitar riff for a statement of religious hope within violent times. The two patch their thoughts together brilliantly; it’s just the right amount of political anger and human sympathy, allowing for a cry out to God to cap off the solemn note with a splash of perseverance. I guess what I’m trying to say is, despite my previous sentiments and fears, Kid Cudi’s rebirth is just as beautiful as his metamorphosis into that lonely Man on the Moon. With the help of Kanye, I can now confidently restate my conclusion: this is what it’s like to listen to the breath of life reinvigorating a musical career.