It has become one of the cherished trends in Hip-Hop to build a team of talent. Some being better than others, artists and label heads alike have made themselves players in a game where to win you recruit the best artists that can benefit the team you’re creating. Playing their position, they act as soldiers (or for a select few in each unit, more of a leader) as they represent their team in every sense, while on the road to revealing their music and improving the growth of their fanbase. Lil Wayne did it in creating Young Money, we’ve seen Rick Ross do it with Maybach Music and more, each group going as far as releasing projects to solidify the team and show what they’re capable of once they come together. The case is no different with G.O.O.D Music.
Led by Hip Hop’s arrogant trendsetter Kanye West, G.O.O.D (Getting Out Our Dreams) consists of various entertainers who shine in different lanes (i.e. the Hip Hop and Pop genre’s meet with Big Sean, Pusha T handles a more hardcore audience, CyHi is suitable for the deaf) but nonetheless the time has come for the crew led by Mr. West to come forward and show what they’re capable of as a unit. Titled Cruel Summer, the project has been pushed back and delayed time and time again, creating some sort of chatter but West is not new to pressure, delivering arguably 5 classic albums over the course of his time so far in this industry. That said, it’s never been possible to declare if a project is going to have longevity in the minds of the listeners but Cruel Summer is far from a bad attempt at such a standard, even if the project is lacking as a whole.
The album feels familiar early on with the majority of the tracks prior to the release of the project being released as singles, not including the intro that made you remember R. Kelly’s still alive. “Clique” is a burst of power in the form of an instrumental (courtesy of G.O.O.D’s own Hit-Boy) in which Big Sean proves he can hold his own with his heroes, there’s a captivating verse from Ghostface Killah that still slightly misses it’s mark on “New God Flow”, and “Mercy” hits hard with a set up that retains the feeling that it doesn’t take itself seriously until Ye reveals 2 Chainz.
We’re reminded that the entire project wasn’t given to us ahead of time (unless you downloaded the leak) with the inclusion of a fresh instrumental and more lyricism on “The Morning.” Raekwon, joins the G.O.O.D team of artists as they slay the beat, each in their own fashion, before dropping into West’s open letter of braggadocio on “Cold” and moving right into the slightly familiar “Higher” which feels like an improved version of “Gotta Have It” (which makes sense, since Ye co-produced both) from West and Jay-Z’s group album Watch The Throne, with more contributors such as The-Dream, Cocaine 80’s and Harlem’s own Mase to raise it to another level. The problem here is that while it’s still a decent track, the formula doesn’t bring it to the peak West may have been hoping for.
From here on the short project moves forward with completely new music, speeding into the instrumentally unique “Sin City” produced by Tommy Brown and the newcomer Travis Scott (who also supplies the beat with some decent bars) as the rest of the team including the singers John Legend and Teyana Taylor and excluding the immediate roster (Kanye, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz) craft something that serves as a firm reminder of the team’s second string. The track does a wonderful job of reminding you of the main two important factors: Why they’re there (signed to G.O.O.D Music) and why they’re there (still the backup choice). The lyricism is borderline cheesy (CyHi, we’re looking at you on this… actually, we’re always looking at you on this) the spoken word pieces make sense where they stand, and Legend’s singing just reveals to the listener that Taylor has some learning to do.
We see a different take on 2 Chainz with “The One” as he lays his Gucci laced vocals on a more wholesome record about being successful. Kid Cudi then takes over for the eerie yet appreciated “Creepers”. The man on the Moon’s fanbase is reliable and they’d probably praise it if he read the Swedish TV Guide but this slice of Cudi alone is great and feels good as is, even with his questionable wish to have more wishes. “Bliss” takes center stage next with the two main singers taking spotlight with a beat courtesy of electronic music producer Hudson Mohawke, which ultimately feels like it just fulfills it’s duty of providing more time for Legend and Taylor to shine, even if it’s a filler. Ending the project is the controversial “Don’t Like” remix which grinds hard on its way out leading up to the conclusion that this team still has a long way to go.
It’s clear that the faction known as G.O.O.D Music oozes talent in all forms but it doesn’t come without practice and time. A fair share of artists on this (Taylor and boys on this alike) needs time to improve so they can bring their best to the surface. Without that space to sharpen their skills altogether Cruel Summer just feels rushed, unorganized and more like a compilation or a bad attempt at a “Best of G.O.O.D Music” collection and less like a showing of musical unity between gifted musicians.
Timeless Tracks: Clique, Creepers
Pros: If you’re a fan of the D-League in G.O.O.D Music, you’ll be happy.
Cons: Feels like a G.O.O.D team, doing less than what they’re capable of.