A single synthesized beat reverberates and then transitions into an up tempo. As tension builds, R. Kelly’s warped voice commands listeners to flip off the world — staking a theme for the rest of the album.
Cruel Summer which has a more bitter, cocky, and powerful feel to it sums up what the world has come to know of Kanye to a T. Unsurprisingly, Cruel Summer is sure to compete with the successes of his previous efforts, but Kanye did not make the record alone. The list of featured artists on this album is both huge in numbers and quality: Jay- Z, Pusha T, R. Kelly, John Legend (just to name a few) all share a track with Kanye. With this much talent pooled together it’s not hard to expect great tracks, and that’s what you get on Cruel Summer.
What makes Kanye’s music so interesting is his samples. On this album in particular, “New God Flow.1” starts off with a dramatic piano solo and a man singing spiritually, but not before long a synthesized beat comes in over-top of the piano. Throughout the song the original sample reappears as a refrain. This track features Kanye, Pusha T, and Ghost Face Killah; each artist has his or her own verse that highlights his or her different styles, and once again Kanye does a great job of combining different sounds to create a single awe-inspiring one.
Every album Kanye does has an exciting mixture of fast, unique lyrics and sound bytes, which also appear and add a different layer to the tracks on this album. Cruel Summer seems to have the bitterness and edgy sound reminiscent of Kanye’s previous album My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy: each track mentions social and political issues such as racial inequalities and political figures.
If there is one element you can count on with any Kanye album, it is that he fearlessly uses very expressive language, such that he freely expresses his opinions on a range of topics from politics to celebrities. And in the middle of all these themes there is a religious undertone to most of his songs. This album in particular seems to be focused on God and Jesus, and even declares that he was crucified like the latter.
Another highlight on Cruel Summer is “The One.” Opening up with a choir, simple piano chords and Marsha Ambrosius’s soulful voice, this track powerfully states that Kanye is the one. Adding to the epic nature of this track, militaristic drums arrive, as if soldiers are marching to the hip hop artist’s words.
Despite all arrogance (classic Kanye), it’s a powerful number, talking about never giving up. This one stands out from the rest because it’s not as in-your-face as the rest of the tracks seem to be: it is almost calmer, despite my monolithic depiction. By calmer I mean it is not as synthesized or loud as tracks such as “Cold.1,” which features DJ Khaled who in himself is very much in-your-face and dramatic.
If you are a Kanye fan, or even just a general fan of hip hop, you will love this album. Cruel Summer is definitely not for younger siblings, but for those of age it’s perfect.
Mr. West just keeps getting better and better. In case anyone forgot, this album reminds listeners and competition that Kanye West is a force to be reckoned with in the rap/hip hop game.
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