In retrospect, it feels surreal that G.O.O.D Music—or rather, Kanye because G.O.O.D. Music goes as Kanye goes—pulled this off.
Sometime after Kanye West decided to log back on his Twitter account to preach inspiring messages of self-will, but before the MAGA hat and the slavery that sounds like a choice comment, the Charlemagne The God interview and the rest of the nonsense, he told us he’d give us five albums in five weeks, each at 7 tracks produced by himself. We’re used to getting all we can from a single Kanye album release cycle, so what would it look like for five albums in a row?
A goddamn circus, that’s what.
Still, the weeks and Fridays rolled by and somehow so did the albums, starting with Mr. President Pusha T and staying on track all the way to the fifth of the series for Teyana Taylor’s turn. Once the dust had settled, Kanye had done exactly what he had promised: five seven-track albums in five weeks. Kanye had done a whole lot too, but he had kept his promise. Okay, technically we received 36 tracks produced by Kanye, which doesn’t relinquish his promised and is somehow better?
And other than for a little interlude where the world stopped when Jay Z and Beyonce released a surprise album, no biggie, other than that yeah we kept watching, listening, streaming, tweeting and whatever else-ing.
It’s now about a month after the dust has settled and the world has moved away from the bonfires and listening parties of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. For the most part, the G.O.O.D. Music folks delivered with five fairly good to excellent albums. How well do they stack up to each other?
1. Pusha-T, Daytona
DAYTONA is an easy choice at No. 1. It launched a number of magazine profiles, talk show interviews and performances, a US-wide tour and most importantly, it showcased that G.O.O.D Music was indeed ready and about to do this thing. The label president, Pusha-T has been having himself a moment in our collective conscience but none of it, not even the feud would Drake, would have meant anything without a quality album.
Pusha-T hasn’t offered the world the most consistent solo albums since Clipse broke up, but in the end maybe all he ever needed was an arbitrary seven-song limit. A rapper with a razor sharp focus who’s also the poster boy for your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper moniker, the boy takes us through the inner workings of dealing boatloads of dope and looking damn good doing it, all the while he brings out the best in Kanye West productions. If you knew you knew, and now with DAYTONA the entire world knows.
2. KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Kids See Ghosts
They’ve dominated the rap music sound for the better part of a decade, and even though it’s overdue by at least five or eight years, the Kanye West and Kid Cudi album is finally here under the KIDS SEE GHOSTS moniker. The tweet-length version of this album would be to write that KSG works well as an album, because Kanye and Cudi work well together—but of course, Kanye rarely does Twitter well. (His return to the platform the foremost proof of that.)
Kids See Ghosts is perhaps the one album from this G.O.O.D. Summer run that feels longer than its runtime of 23 minutes. It’s also a good microcosm of Kanye and Cudi’s evolving relationship as it eventually arrived on streaming services with a mislabeled track list and overdue on Friday around noon EDT—but ultimately, we all forgave them. As soon as we hear Kid Cudi’s familiar voice booming and humming on the album opener, we can still feel the love and we feel free. The Cleveland native has been able to channel and harness Kanye’s considerable gifts as a producer ever since he collaborated on 808s & Heartbreak, prompting the Chicago icon to revisit wounds of his psyche, both old and new. Kids See Ghosts is no exception. It’s a meditation and triumph of will and self-belief, and we even get a godly Kanye verse rapping about mental health.
We’ll be listening to Reborn until the end of time, and so will you.
3. Kanye West, YE
Whereas the short, seven-song structure served well and enhanced a surgical lyricist’s message like Pusha-T, it’s a disservice to Kanye West, who’s always preferred to take the scenic route and scramble through his thoughts, almost in real time as he raps on his albums. On YE, Kanye does precisely this, as he hadn’t written any lyrics until eight days prior to release day on June 1, 2018. YE is a deeply sad album that might not live on in posterity among the crown jewels of the Chicago rapper’s catalogue, but it’s still a worthy effort.
Coming on the heels of criticisms over his latest misdemeanours, including but not limited to wearing the MAGA hat of his dragon energy brother, as well as the seemingly consensus from our collective society to finally needing to cancel Yeezy season once and for all, YE discusses the real-life ramifications of a megalomaniac fighting mental illness—or, as Kanye puts it on Yikes, his superpower. The album is not as neat or as neatly constructed as others he’s made, but it hits all the hallmarks we’ve come to love from his best efforts: the soul of College Dropout, the orchestration of Late Registration, the Old Kanye, and the numbness and raw thoughts of 808s & Heartbreak. YE doesn’t clarify or attempt to explain some of the man’s most perplexing and damaging actions and soundbites. Instead, Kanye reckons with the very real consequences of his behaviour on YE; though Kim wouldn’t leave, Kanye says there was a time he thought she would.
YE is Kanye’s rawest and saddest album. He’s open about battling suicide ideation and struggling with becoming a positive role model for his daughters, because he knows what he’s rapped about women at times in his career. Kanye says his mental illness is a superpower, but we don’t buy it. Shit can be menacing, frightening. Find help, Ye.
4. Teyana Taylor, K.T.S.E.
Unfinished or not, Keep The Same Energy (K.T.S.E.) is a perfectly fine album and an excellent and wonderful return to music for the Harlem-based singer. We don’t need to Google her anymore, but we’re still wondering how well does K.T.S.E. work as a (re)introduction to the world for the 27-year-old singer?
We’re slotting the album near the bottom here because ultimately it might not have as much an impact as, say, Taylor’s turn in Kanye West’s 2016 video for Fade. Still, she created a beautiful work of art, a soulful and versatile album that borrows from many difference influences that highlight just how versatile this «Rose From Harlem» is. K.T.S.E. was the last of these five albums to see the light of day. It’s a traditional R&B album that benefits from a Kanye at the top of his soul game with relatively sparse productions. Issues/Hold On is a clear highlight and WTP will have dance floors going wild all summer long.
5. Nas, Nasir
Just as easily as DAYTONA slots in at the top, Nasir is an easy choice for last on the list. Not necessarily because the beats aren’t knocking, because Kanye does give the rapper a wonderful canvas of soulful samples and beats that beg for someone to pour their heart out. And not necessarily only because the entire world had moved on and totally forgotten about the album a mere 24 hours after its release when the Carters surprise-dropped Everything Is Love.
But the world has moved on, and it’s mostly due to Nas’s failings. He sounds bored, uninspired and his typical conspiracy theory knockoff lyrics do little to distract you from the things that he isn’t saying. Dope beats, dope rhymes, but sometimes we need you to address the awful allegations that you were a dirtbag to your ex-wife.
Smarten up, Nas.