Since its 2004 founding, G.O.O.D. Music has been considered one of the industry’s most top labels, and its highly anticipated compilation album Cruel Summer, released Tuesday, did not disappoint. Ringleader Kanye West and his fellow rap and hip-hop impresarios have put together a quality album in a time when no other labels are showing this type of team connectivity.
As with much of West’s work, the album strikes a nice balance between mainstream radio hits and quality production for the tougher to impress. You can feel West’s presence on the beats that follow unorthodox drums and samples. Notable production also comes from Hit-Boy, Young Chop, and Travis Scott.
Cruel Summer features 5 singles, three of which reached top 10 positions on the Billboard Hot 100. “I Don’t Like,” “Mercy” and “Clique” have all been receiving plenty of radio playtime, and are steadily creeping up the iTunes charts.
The success is hardly a surprise, especially considering the talent assembled. West recruited two label mates, 2 Chainz and Big Sean for “I Don’t Like”, as well as hip hop legend Jadakiss. “Mercy,” perhaps the most popular radio hit from the album, again features 2 Chainz and Big Sean, as well as G.O.O.D. Music’s Pusha T. “Clique,” the last released single and a number one hit on iTunes, gets a boost from West mentor Jay-Z.
Those who complain about the album’s shallow lyrics will still appreciate the top notch production and talent assembled here. And the tenants of collaboration and camaraderie that populate the world of G.O.O.D. surely compensate. From West’s genius artistic visions to Common and Big Sean’s lyricism to the grimier street styles of 2 Chainz and Pusha T, Cruel Summer is able to create a variety of songs that encompass a vast world of hip-hop.
Still — and this is no real surprise — West is the centerpiece, the man off whom all others play. He sets a thematic tone for the album as he likens himself to “the God of Rap” on “To The World,” or claims that, “G.O.O.D. would have been G.O.D. but I added more O’s,” as he does on “The One.” The other artists try to keep up, bragging about how rich and powerful they are.
But as always, Kanye adds some humor to the album, like when he raps about his girlfriend Kim Kardashian on the songs “Cold” and “Clique.” “Cold,” released before “Kimye” became a thing, expresses a particular distaste and jealously for Kris Humphries.
“And I’ll admit I fell in love with Kim / Around the same time she had fell in love with him / Well that’s cool baby girl do your thing / Lucky I ain’t have Jay drop him from the team,” Kanye says.
In “Clique,” Kim’s sex-tape is fair game — “my girl a superstar all from a home movie” — a display of braggadocio so heavy and free of judgement it can only be entertaining and appreciated.
Again, though, the true strength of the album lies in the production. On multiple songs, the beat changes two, three, sometimes even four times. This alone shows the progression of G.O.O.D. over the last few years. And these intricacies make up for what is lost in deep, meaningful lyricism.
On beats alone, the label claims its spot among hip hop’s best.