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Kid Cudi & Kanye West – KIDS SEE GHOSTS Review

June 11, 2018 | Posted by David Hayter
Kid Cudi & Kanye West
8.5
The 411 Rating
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Kid Cudi & Kanye West – KIDS SEE GHOSTS Review  

1. “Feel the Love”
2. “Fire”
3. “4th Dimension” feat. Louis Prima
4. “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt.2)”
5. “Reborn”
6. “Kids See Ghosts”
7. “Cudi Montage”

There’s no doubt that Kid Cudi has exerted a tremendously positive influence on Kanye West’s career. From 808s & Heartbreaks (2008) onwards, the stoner rap maestro helped Kanye explore his id: painting his emotions onto both beautifully bright and screamingly nihilistic canvases. Sadly, Kanye rarely managed to return the favor and steer Cudi’s career towards more fertile pastures. His collaborator, while sporadically brilliant, seemed to wilfully come off the rails releasing music that frustrated more often than it thrilled, culminating in 2015’s frankly insufferable Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven.

Mercifully, the lopsided nature of this relationship comes to an end on Kids See Ghosts: a work of perfect synchronicity. The swift seven track formula, employed on both Pusha-T’s Daytona and last week’s Ye, manages to restrain Cudi’s worst excesses while enlivening Kanye with his partner’s bohemian spiritualism. The result is joyous music that feels rich and substantive despite its 23-minute runtime. If Ye was a bleak and immediate exploration of how one unrestrained individual can subject his loved ones to a world of pain, then Kids See Ghosts is a hymnal to moving forward and enjoying a freedom so few among us are afforded.

But talk about opening an album with a curve ball. “Feel The Love” might work from a narrative perspective, but it stands alone as a stark explosion of energy and malign intent. Pusha-T’s voice is the first we hear. He stands unflinching: a grim reaper with blood on his bony fingers. He sets the scene for an album concerned with moving on and overcoming a troubled past, but Push clearly still has vengeance on his mind. His every syllable is laced with implied violence. His scornful brutality is a world away from blissed out mindscape inhabited by Cudi and Kanye.

Mr. West’s contribution to the track, by way of comparison, is a joyous explosion of sheer glee. The mechanical beat bangs so hard he can’t help but unleash a series of wild and exuberant BRRRAAAAPPPSSS and faux gunshots. Yes, this is exactly what Big Shaq so expertly parodied a year ago, but Kanye isn’t playing the tough guy. He’s the little kid in Yemen, firing his AK47 skyward in a slam dance of celebration, rather than a gesture of thuggish malevolence.

Why is Kanye so happy? Well, despite telling the world, just one week ago, that he was numb – a victim of rapacious appetites, lacking of any semblance of self-control – he is now celebrating the very fact that he feels. Yes, the same Kanye who excoriated himself for causing his wife and daughters so much pain, is now clenching his fist, punching the air and bathing in the light of love.

Kids See Ghosts and Ye, despite being separated by a mere seven days, are light years apart in terms of attitude. The freedom to self-destruct and emotionally cripple his intimates is replaced by an exhilarating rush of pure personal liberty. Kanye and Cudi can say and do as they please. There is a slight hint of menace in their cry, “I don’t feel pain any more, I’m so FREEEE”, but the message is clear: every cloud has a silver lining. They don’t dive head long into a maelstrom of ill-advised actions out of pure idiocy: they are living for the moment and there is an incredible rush to being loose from obligation, inhibition and self-doubt. On “Kids See Ghost’s” coda they take it a step further: celebrating an escape from society itself into a regal libertarian paradise (“civilisation without society, stability without stasis, places and spaces”). A dog-eat-dog world where unrestrained wealth affords you escape from any and all judgement, except God’s.

On “Fire”, Kanye constructs a brutalist factory to hack and saw together a beat that sounds like the malfunctioning offspring of Outkast’s one ring wonder “The Whole World” and Fat Les’ boisterous “Vinderloo”. This is a crooked march through an abandoned playground: rusty nails and broken springs jut out from every corner and a dirty blue-grey murk pollutes the air. What’s remarkable is that this horror show beat sets the stage for a beautiful hymn led by Kid Cudi. This is a personal prayer to overcome the pain of our past. They might claim to be above it all now, but “Fire” makes it clear, while Ye and Cudi have survived, their psyches have been contorted. Religious faith is their light; even as their existence remains mired in a wasteland.

This time last week we were wishing Kanye wouldn’t undermine such a compelling narrative with so many awful one-liners and half-thought-out rhyme schemes. Today, we sit back and marvel at how single minded, witty and ungodly tight Kanye’s wordplay has become. On the divine “Reborn”, Yeezy’s words flow with effortless freedom and blistering precision as he confesses his sins: “I was off the chain/I was often drained/I was off the meds/I was called insane/What an awesome thang/Engulfed in shame/I want all the rain/Embrace the pain/I want all the smoke/I want all the blame”.

His jokes have come on leaps and bounds. There are no cringe inducing punchlines here, only genuinely inventive flourishes. His “4th Dimension” verse concludes with playful aplomb (“if I get locked up I won’t finish the sen…”), before a wicked witch cackles atop a psychedelic slave ship soul jam. Better still, even when Kanye is boasting he is – wait for it – almost lovable. No, seriously, he’s no longer bragging about stealing and demeaning your girlfriend, he’s alighted on the kind of wild rockstar braggadocio that can put a smile on even the most curmudgeonly cynic’s face: “It feels so good it should cost/I bought an alligator, I ain’t talking Lacoste”.

If Yeezy brings the buoyancy then Cudi makes sure the album’s core spirituality and naval gazing expansiveness never slips from view. On the magnificent title track, he purrs and caress his was across the beat. He could tame a tiger with his enticingly relaxed timbre. You can’t help but want to join him in this blissed out realm of self-examination when he murmurs, “Same thing, in a room/Sitting by myself, finding heaven soon/Many things that would trouble you, look beyond for a feeling like you never knew”. Fittingly, when the time comes, Cudi is the one to deliver the album’s pivotal realisation and true hammer blow: “At times wonder my purpose, easy to feel worthless, but peace is something that starts with me”.

Their one-two punch proves impossible to resist. Cudi paints in faint watercolors and subtlety shifting liquid acrylics. His is a world of dreams and illusions. Kanye’s is material. He scorches the canvas in thick slabs of oil, sometimes he smears, often he stabs, but occasionally he offers vivid flourishes of unmistakable detail. Ye no doubt succumbs to Cudi’s sonic LSD, but he’s still peaking from the cocaine. His pent up energy and his perfectionist approach to production ensures that this ship never slips its anchor. Kids See Ghosts is soulful sorcery; birthed of two opposing forces, the album, however miraculously, arrives at perfect equilibrium.

8.5
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Kids See Ghosts is a work of perfect symmetry, as Cudi’s spirituality helps Kanye escape the self-destructive regret of the past week. Rich in color, mired in chaos and yet ungodly precise: this is the perfect blend of mind bending LSD (Cudi) and teeth churning cocaine (Kanye). More than a return to form for both men, this is something else entirely, Kids See Ghosts is gloriously other.
legend

article topics :

Kanye West, Kid Cudi, David Hayter