The ever-entrepreneurial producer/rapper showcases his label GOOD Music with an impressive collaborative project that features a slew of the industry's A-listers including Jay-Z, R Kelly and John Legend
GOOD MUSIC/ CRUEL SUMMER
Founded in 2004 by Kanye West, GOOD (getting out our dreams) Music has so far signed a clutch of talent _ from R&B artists such as John Legend and Common, to rap/hip hop acts including Big Sean and Kid Cudi. So when West announced plans for a compilation album last year, hopes ran high _ understandably so given the undeniable fact that what we have here is the man whose personality truly embodies the phrase ''larger than life'', what with his brutally honest and occasionally confessional tweets (his Twitter account to date has over eight million followers) and his infamous stunt at the 2009 VMAs when he interrupted Taylor Swift during her award acceptance speech.
West's outrageous behaviour aside, Cruel Summer marks yet another milestone in his career. And even though this is technically not a solo album, his cameo appearances on tracks remind us that this compilation is, after all, his brainchild. Take, for example, the album opening To The World, on which R&B crooner R Kelly proves that he's still on top form, but has his thunder stolen by West, who drops in mid-track laying down the following audacious lines: ''Deuces minus one/Middle finger to the sky tonight/The whole world is a couch.''
The line-up on Clique and Mercy in itself reads like a summary of Cruel Summer with the presence of rap heavyweights such as Jay-Z, Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz. The former track in particular hits the nail on the head as Big Sean delivers the hook: ''Ain't nobody f**king with my clique/Ain't nobody fresher than my muthaf**kin clique.'' This is because the compilation, at its core, is West's attempt to showcase his crew while simultaneously reminding us of his own musical prowess.
Apart from the two tracks above, New God Flow (featuring Pusha T, Kanye West and Ghostface Killah), The Morning (D'Banj, Raekwon, Common, CyHi the Prynce, Kid Cudi, Pusha T) and Higher (featuring The-Dream, Pusha-T, Ma$e and Cocaine 80s) are also stand out tracks with the word ''hit'' written all over them. The rest of Cruel Summer unfortunately spirals out of control. Bliss may feature fine vocalists in the shape of John Legend and Teyana Taylor, but the track comes across sounding so dated, like it was some leftover tune from the early 1990s.
Worse, The One (featuring Big Sean, 2 Chainz and Marsha Ambrosius) has us mistaking it for a pseudo ballad cranked out by a long-forgotten boy band. Yes, it's really as awful as it sounds.
Even if you're not partial to West (and/or his personality), if rap music is your thing, Cruel Summer certainly won't disappoint as it reads like a Who's Who of the scene, and then some.
There are not many people in the world who can round up this much talent for one album _ and that alone is commendable.
Plus, this compilation contains enough obvious hits to buy West some time before he has to make another album of his own _ perhaps after tying the knot with Kim Kardashian?
Big Ass/Dan Neramit
Following what could only be described as a tumultuous year, homegrown rock group Big Ass (photo above) finally got their act together, having found themselves a new frontman _ Daycha ''Jeng'' Konalo _ and are poised to reclaim the throne from the local rock music scene. With heavy guitar riffs and thumping drums to the fore, their new single Dan Neramit perfectly heralds the band's comeback and should sit well with die-hard fans. And, as the group's newest addition, Jeng fits right in and doesn't disappoint when it comes to delivering powerful vocals.
Alicia Keys (featuring Nicki Minaj)/ Girl On Fire
R&B diva Alicia Keys ditches her piano and teams up with rowdy rapper Nicki Minaj to give all the ladies out there a morale boost on her new single Girl On Fire. While this may be a dream collaboration for the fans of both parties, the song falls flat, as Keys _ normally a world-class songwriter _ churns out sloppy lines such as: ''Looks like a girl, but she's a flame/so bright, she can burn your eyes/Better look the other way.'' Even with help from one of the most exciting female rappers in the industry, the track is still more likely to bore than inspire.
Ke$ha/ Die Young
American pop singer/songwriter Ke$ha follows up her 2010 debut with Die Young, the first single from her second album, Warrior. The track is pretty much standard Ke$ha, serving up the infectious electro-dance pop formula coupled with her talky-rap style and the lyrics that embrace a feeling of carpe diem (''Let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young''). Given the production and songwriting, it's obvious that she's aiming to emulate the success of Tik Tok, which is a shame because the world has moved on and we were expecting something new from the pop songstress.
Taylor Swift/ Begin Again
After giving us the spunky first single We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, the country/pop sweetheart gets mellow with Begin Again, an acoustic ballad oozing the newfound optimism and tenderness after her much publicised breakup. Here, Swift's diary-like lyrics are still intact as she croons: ''Walked in expecting that you'd be late/But you got here early and you stand and wave/I walk to you/You pull my chair out and help me in/You don't know how nice that is but I do.'' Her country fanbase will undoubtedly develop an affinity for this particular number, thanks to the banjo and fiddle.
Solange/ Losing You
Hailing from the house of Knowles, Beyonce's baby sister Solange previews her third, yet-to-be-named studio album with the first single Losing You. Produced by Blood Orange (the same guy who worked his magic on Sky Ferreira's Everything is Embarrassing), the track is essentially a break-up tune slyly disguised in a laidback, funky vibe that goes hand in hand with Solange's personal style. ''We used to kiss all night but now it's just no use/I don't know why I fight it, clearly we are through/Tell me the truth, boy, am I losing you for good?'' she asks almost rhetorically alongside the steady beat imbued with both melancholy and resignation.
About the author
Writer: Chanun Poomsawai