Just one week after dropping “Ye,” Kanye West has returned with “Kids See Ghosts,” a seven-track collaboration with rapper Kid Cudi.
Despite Cudi and West having a rather tempestuous relationship since Cudi signed with G.O.O.D Music in 2008, the pair put their differences aside to work on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” on “The Life of Pablo.” That truce didn’t last long — Cudi publicly criticized West and other top artists for using a team of writers for their songs. But the release of “Kids See Ghosts” suggests that those differences have been set aside.
Everything “Ye” failed to achieve, “Kids See Ghosts” accomplishes with flying colors. On “Ye,” West attempted to address his recent controversies with the media, but his focus on personal image superceded the creative production of the project. Many critics claimed the most successful song on “Ye,” “Ghost Town” is a step above the other six tracks because it was originally slated to be a part of “Kids See Ghosts,” but was shifted to “Ye” at the last minute — giving fans a sneak peak of the musical masterpiece to come.
“Kids” addresses both artists’ struggles over the past several years. Cudi focuses on his battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, while West lyricizes his struggle with self-acceptance. Throughout the record, both artists complement each other as they come to terms with their identities.
The album opens with “Feel the Love,” an experimental track that distinguishes itself from the rest of the tracks in structure and mood. It opens with a resounding and reverberating “I can still feel the love” from Cudi , these lyrics serve as the backbone of the song. Unexpectedly, the first and only verse in the song comes from Pusha T, who addresses how the three artists are no longer worried about others’ opinions, instead focusing on their own goals and paths to success. Following Pusha’s verse, West enters with a barrage of “Grrrat-gat-gat-gat-gat’s” and “Brrr-ah-da-da-da’s,” alluding to not only the vocals heard on “Lift Yourself,” but also preparing listeners for the ominous sound of the remaining songs on the album.
“Reborn,” is tinged with a confessional, almost apologetic quality. Both West and Cudi take responsibility for their actions, promising to move forward and acknowledging that change must start with them. Cudi’s chorus focuses on a sense of redemption: “I’m so- I’m so reborn, I’m movin’ forward/Keep movin’ forward, keep movin’ forward/Ain’t no stress on me Lord, I’m movin’ forward.”
The chorus also touches on faith in God, a theme also present in the songs “Fire” and “Cudi Montage.” “It’s so many days I prayed to God/All this pain, I couldn’t seem to find a way,” Cudi raps on “Fire.” The song shows how Cudi has attempted to find peace through the power of Christ. West’s faith is most notable in “Cudi Montage,” in which Mr. Hudson, Cudi and West harmonize beautifully in the chorus, “Lord shine your light on me, save me, please/Stay strong.”
No Kanye West album would be complete without a slew of samples. “Kids See Ghosts” is tinged with both old and new influences, including Marcus Garvey, Kurt Cobain and Louis Prima. Prima, a mid-1900s New Orleans jazz artist, is featured “4th Dimension.” The song samples Prima’s “What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin’).” One of the more upbeat songs on the album, “4th Dimension” expresses West’s view of his own musical contributions as a sort of gift to his listeners.
The titular track combines a few of the themes of the album and brings back some themes from past songs in West’s verse. With a great flow of rhymes, West brings together the courage he built up for this album, his faith in God and how he has exceeded the expectations others had for him. He even refers to himself as “Mr. West,” a self-given nickname unheard for quite some time, implying that West is on the path to recovery.
“Kids See Ghosts” rightfully trumps “Ye” by a long shot. The West and Cudi album is a complete and refined product that masters the art of collaboration. Both artists have endured mental health issues that have caused them to act out, turning the public against them, but the record can be held as an act of redemption, even recovery.
The introspective work seamlessly illustrates the artists’ respective struggles along with their journeys of self-discovery. Overall, “Kids See Ghosts” successfully merges contrasting sounds and production, reasserting Kanye West’s musical aptitude.