Whilst the Maybach Music Group ran roughshot over the three months of inconsistent summer weather, the enigmatic powerhouse collective known as G.O.O.D Music was quietly creating a buzz akin to a tropical hurricane. News of the imprint’s joint album Cruel Summer began to surface as the group’s leader, Kanye West, spent this past summer adding lyrical muscle to affiliates Pusha T, Big Sean and 2 Chainz’ cuts [in addition to fleeing from the paparazzi with ‘new’ beau Kim Kardashian]. As we enter the Autumn months, can his collective create an ‘Indian Summer’ of substantial heat?
In a fitting start to the album, Mr West takes the lead alongside fellow Chicago great [but non-G.O.O.D Music affiliate] R Kelly for the hands to the sky anthem “To The World.” A mixture of blistering drums, piano accompaniment and Kells’ octave stretching vocals, Kanye’s short verse of attending fashion shows, repping Chi-City and shouting out Rick Ross is solid and packs enough of a punch to show the rapper-producer-label head still has the lyrical hunger to keep his status as a revered emcee intact.
With ‘ye proving his musical clout throughout most of the new millennium, Cruel Summer is arguably about which of the newcomers on the G.O.O.D roster have the potential to make the step up to superstar territory. When given the chance to rhyme alongside the duo of greats Kanye and Jay-Z on “Clique,” Detroit’s young starlet Big Sean doesn’t disappoint; his charisma fragranced verses smoothly complementing Jigga and Yeezy’s next level of balling rhymes.
An album composed of Versace, Lamborghini and Gold Bottle references, Cruel Summer is more about sporting the most bragging rights than anything else. The Lamborghini Murcielago inspired “Mercy” produces bouncy, automobile raps from Big Sean, Yeezy, Pusha T and 2 Chainz, whilst the controversial “Cold” finds Kanye sticking a middle finger up to animal rights group PETA and “threatening” to have Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband Kris Humphries dropped from his homie Jay-Z’s team Brooklyn Nets.
For all the limited content and overindulgence in the fast life, it’s the quality of production and heaviness of the cuts which allows G.O.O.D Music’s Cold Summer effort to excel; as when Push and West tag team over a thumping piano heavy instrumental and Ghostface Killah sample (courtesy of Kanye and producers Boogz and Tapez) on “New God Flow.”
The collab heavy “The Morning” sees the Chef Raekwon, Common, D’Banj and plenty more rock solidly on the reggae inspired track whilst the ominous Cocaine 80’s collective bring an exotic flavour to “Higher,” which also features CyHi The Prince, The-Dream and former Bad Boy, Ma$e. Although such collaborative efforts are successful, the long term damage is that various artists are restricted to just a few bars, leaving very little time to actually hear the potential they have when going solo.
Amidst all of the egos on Cruel Summer there is room for more mellow surroundings. Long time G.O.O.D Music ambassador John Legend brings a sparkling offering alongside Teyana Taylor on “Bliss” whilst the ever eccentric Kid Cudi gets reflective on the chilled “Creepers.” Even with a majority of the project leaked before its release, Cruel Summer carries more than enough heavyweight offerings to result in a memorable and effective joint effort. Similar to the G.O.O.D Friday tracks prior to Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy release, a number of the collaborative efforts provide show stealing performances, with the MVP award arguably going to Pusha T.
With material often diverting into various breaks and patterns, musically the output is enjoyable and provides its fair share of surprises, doing well to mask over the [at times] flagging lyricism. Even for the limited appearances they make, contributions from CyHi and Kid Cudi are impressionable and provide a timely reminder of the depth of the roster – but further additions from Common, John Legend and an appearance from signee Q-Tip would have added some much musical needed maturity to balance out the boyish nature of rhymers like Big Sean and 2 Chainz.
Either way, the final results of G.O.O.D Music’s Cruel Summer are of more than a satisfactory effort and ensure that, beyond the controversies and beefs, the ever growing roster have the know-how to live up to their label’s name.