“Kids See Ghosts” is a self-titled album and the first full collaboration from hip-hop legends Kanye West and Kid Cudi. The album is seven tracks, just like other G.O.O.D Music albums, “DAYTONA” by Pusha T and “ye,” also by Kanye, that were both released within the last three weeks. This album features a few guest appearances from names like Pusha, Ty Dolla $ign, Yasiin Bey and Mr. Hudson.
Kanye is one of the all-time greats and is coming off a very good album in ”ye,” but arguably his worst solo release in his career. Cudi started off his music career on fire with the “Man on the Moon” albums, but has since released a frontrunner for worst album ever made with “Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven,” then followed by a mediocre “Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin.” So, while I know these two work very well together, I came into this project with my expectations a little lower, as collab albums, in general, are usually underwhelming, and I wouldn’t put either of these two at their musical peaks.
I’ll just come out and start with this: I was brutally wrong to put my expectations down, as this album is a stunning piece of work, and shows the best of both the artists involved at multiple points in the tracklist. “ye” had Kanye at some of his most personal, and it created some terrific verses for sure. But, though his time is more minimal here, he makes every single second of it count, and consistently sounds as innovative and fresh as he was when “The College Dropout” was released.
As for Cudi, a man who has truly hit rock bottom awful with some of his musical efforts, he makes a total 180, bringing some truly beautiful choruses combines with easily the strongest verses I have heard from him in nearly a decade. The chemistry that these two share has always been obvious, but with “Kids See Ghosts,” it feels fully realized, and it truly feels like the two constantly bring out the best in one another.
Starting with the opener, “Feel the Love,” Cudi’s chorus is electric, it’s beautiful, catchy and it is brilliantly molded with outstanding production. The production reaches new heights with Kanye’s off-the-wall ad libs that, while at first were off-putting, have totally grown on me and get me amped every single time. Oh yeah, the Pusha T verse at the front is superb, as well.
Moving to “Fire,” a track that, while short, has a frantic, hyped up Kanye verse followed quickly by a nearly-equally great Cudi verse, possibly the best Cudi verse since his “Man on the Moon” days. I wish this track added another verse, but as it stands, the production hits hard, and the chorus at the end simply works with Cudi’s melodies.
This is followed by “4th Dimension,” which uses a terrific Louis Prima sample that makes the whole track go, and then Kanye once again sets the song on fire with more energy than almost anything on “ye.” By the way the “If I get locked up, I won’t finish the sent-” line Kanye delivers here is an absolute bar. And, yet again, Cudi stuns me with amazing flow, great bars and an energetic delivery that I have missed from him for years. These first three tracks, while all relatively short, all hit exactly how they are intended, and they all consistently have me amped up from their masterful production and terrific vocals.
I love a lot of what “Freee” does on a production standpoint, and Ty Dolla $ign’s guest vocals are truly gorgeous. This is also one of the wildest and insane songs on an album that continues to be ambitious with every song that proceeds it, and that is not something I expected from Kanye and Cudi this late into their careers, and that is what makes this album work so incredibly well.
This track moves into “Reborn,” which has quickly become my favorite track on the album. Cudi’s voice has never sounded smoother than on this chorus, the production is sharp enough to stand out, but not enough to take center stage, as Cudi consistently does that every time he says to move forward. Kanye’s verse is as heartfelt as his previous album, and it is lyrically powerful, with his delivery being as sharp as ever. Cudi’s verse is more subtle, which makes it all the more powerful with what he is saying, especially considering all the turmoil Cudi has faced in recent memory.
“Reborn” is the emotional peak of this album, and is also the slowest song here, and, unlike “ye” that felt lesser when it went slower on occasion, this album grows even stronger by beautifully melding in this breathtaking song.
The title track for the album, “Kids See Ghosts,” has yet another peak Kanye verse full of quick-witted quips and a choppy, but extremely effective flow. I loved Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def’s contribution to the chorus, as for how great Cudi’s voice sounds on this project, a mixup helped more than hurt.
We then move to the closer, “Cudi Montage,” starting with a lovely sample from a Kurt Cobain track, and Cudi delivers another great verse here at the end. This sample sounds like something that could of fit on the disaster that is “Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven,” but you can feel the improvement, and it is all helped with a beautiful chorus by Cudi and Mr. Hudson, made even better by Kanye’s gorgeous vocals in the back half. Broken record here, but Kanye’s verse is peak Kanye: managing to be resonant, intense, emotional and visceral all at once, as this is a truly sensational closer to a truly sensational album.
While I can go back and say I thoroughly enjoy every song given to us here, two of the tracks have some small things I would tweak. The title track is very good, but for being the title track, I was expecting to be blown away, and it didn’t do just that. I thought Cudi’s verse here was the weakest on the album, just not packing much of a punch, even though it was by no means bad.
“Freee” should be commended for being weird and bold, but the chorus is too weird for me to get totally on board. I would have appreciated more of a verse or a switch-up, and it never hits on being a part two to “Ghost Town” as much as I had hoped.
Once again, as has been my complaint for the last two albums, I really wish this was longer than seven songs. However, I wish more that these seven songs were extended on more, especially the opening three tracks, as all of them are truly spectacular. But, they feel cut short abruptly, and if they could have been closer to four minutes, this album could truly be one of the best in recent memory.
“Kids See Ghosts” is one of the best projects of the year, and one of the best collab albums in years. This is an audacious, risky and consistently surprising record from two men who are nowhere near the front portion of their careers. Kanye hasn’t been this exciting since “Yeezus,” and I loved “Life of Pablo,” and I would dare say Cudi may have never been this good, at least not since his debut album. These two mix together seamlessly on every track, with the flows working nearly every time, the choruses working and the production blowing me away with every chance it got.
This is an album that consistently improves with every relisten, a truly special work that shows the best of what these two can do, and I really hope this isn’t the only thing we hear from Kids See Ghosts, because this is an electrifying piece of work.
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