6. WRONG. I hate to keep going back to Kanye (no, I don’t), but one of my biggest peeves about Cruel Summer is how impersonal it is. One of the things that made Late Registration, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, etc. so great and feel so vital is how personal they felt to their creator. In a genre that too often confuses bluster for an actual emotion, Kanye was a breath of fresh air — he wrote down and recorded rhymes that too many other rappers would have been embarrassed to. Not because they were bad, but because they were too intimate.
On Watch the Throne, which at least had the excuse of meaning to be a fun distraction from making “Something Important,” and Cruel Summer, Kanye’s taken a step back. His production expertise remains, but the words just aren’t there; any rapper could have penned, “So I just meditate at the home in Pompei/About how I could build a new Rome in one day.” That’s not to say it’s not good. It’s just that it’s not great. Is that unfair? Probably, but that’s what happens when you make something as good as “Diamonds of Sierra Leone.”
7. RIGHT. Raekwon in “The Morning,” particularly, “All my n*ggas watches is rough/Grabbing our crotches yelling, ‘What up?’/The jeans cost $500? F*ck,” which I’m reading as a minor Kanye diss; he’s not street enough. Dissension amongst the ranks isn’t such a bad thing, after all.
8. WRONG. Despite Cruel Summer‘s packed roster, there are notable GOOD Music signees who don’t make an appearance on the album. Where’s Yasiin Bey? How come Common only gets a single verse? Surely Jadakiss could have been bumped from “I Don’t Like” in favor of Q-Tip, right?
9. RIGHT. Everything about “New God Flow,” GOOD Music’s rallying cry. It’s the best track on Cruel Summer, IMHO, with spirited, impassioned turns from Kanye West, Pusha T, and Ghostface Killah, who contributes, “I got soccer moms paying for c*ck/Asians get it from behind while they cleanin’ their wok,” all over a haunting, looping piano beat.
10. WRONG. What the hell is going on in “Bliss”? Not only is it Cruel Summer‘s worst song, it’s the worst song BY FAR. It sounds like the closing credits of an ’80s action film, complete with soaring eagle sound effects. Also, ending the album with “I Don’t Like” is a letdown, particularly coming from the guy whose former albums close with “Big Brother,” “Late,” and “Lost In the World/Who Will Survive in America?” It’s not a bad track by any means, but — well, on second thought, maybe it is the best way to end the album. It’s disjointed, cocky, a little bloated, yet contains an occasional flash of brilliance with a memorable beat. It’s Cruel Summer.