The third installment of G.O.O.D. Music’s “Project Wyoming,” a collection of five albums produced entirely by label founder Kanye West, dropped this past Friday, June 8. The album, titled KIDS SEE GHOSTS, is the first official collaborative project between West and long-time mentee Kid Cudi. It has been both highly hypothesized and anticipated since the two established a creative relationship after West’s production of Cudi’s debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, in 2009.
Released roughly a year and a half after Cudi publicized his debilitating anxiety and depression, KIDS took on comeback-album credentials for the melancholic singer/rapper whose best years seemed to be behind him. The album was also West’s second shot at redemption in the public eye after reminding fans that he’s a tad nuts (a characteristic of West that people always seem to forget) through various brash right-wing rants. Long story short, after Cudi’s concerning absence and ye’s generally lukewarm reception, fans, myself included, really wanted KIDS to deliver. Hype increased even more after Takashi Murakami, designer of West’s Graduation cover, released his visuals for the project a few days before its release. Unfortunately, KIDS failed to leave an impression.
In the vain of DAYTONA and ye, the album features just seven tracks kicked off with a gripping banger, this one titled “Feel The Love” featuring Pusha T and a startling Kanye verse that turns the scatting of “Lift Yourself” up ten notches. But, unlike its predecessors, KIDS gets progressively duller and loses steam after the fourth track, a typical casualty of long albums that a seven track album would aim to avoid. Specifically, tracks five and six, “Reborn” and “Kids See Ghosts,” respectively, are long, mundane pits of low energy.
It hurts to admit, but the album’s droning spirit is due almost entirely to Cudi. Song after song, the listener is trapped in a repetitive cycle of the singer’s mundane melodies and boring brooding; Cudi might say he’s “reborn,” but his contributions feel uninspired. Oddly enough, though KIDS sounds very much like a Cudi album, toeing the line between hip hop and distorted alternative, Kanye is the best part. On “4th Dimension,” the living legend raps with the sharp and sparky flow of his classic “Gold Digger,” coming off as confident and aggressive after the brutally honest ye, which detailed marital issues and suicidal thoughts, cast him in a vulnerable light.
Lyrically, however, the project is admirable. Kanye and Cudi, both recently stabilized after bouts with mental illness, relish in their new freedom and provide words of encouragement to listeners. On “Fire,” Kanye raps, “I done proved to myself, back on that rulin’ myself,” suggesting he’s realized he’s capable of regaining control of his life. Cudi follows, sharing, “It’s so many days I prayed to God / All this pain, I couldn’t seem to find a way,” speaking honestly about his depressive state. Perhaps the most emblematic lyrics of the album are ironically found in one of those aforementioned pits of low energy, “Reborn,” when Cudi sings, ‘I’m so reborn, I’m movin’ forward / Keep movin’ forward.” With these lines, Cudi shares his joy of newfound contentment while simultaneously encouraging listeners to keep their heads up in times of strife, pretty much summing up the purpose of KIDS. So, if you can get past the album’s lackluster sound, you might be able to find some solace in its uplifting lyrics.