As the years have gone by, hip-hop music has revolved largely around rap cliques. Many have come; many have gone, from the Beastie Boys, to Wu-Tang Clan, to NWA, to G-Unit. Every generation of hip-hop fans have had a certain rap group or clique that they idolized. In the 2010’s the culture has welcomed a couple of new cliques to emerge and takeover. “Young Money”, “MMG” and “G.O.O.D. Music” are arguably the most popular music families out in hip-hop today. But G.O.O.D. Music in particular, led by hip-hop perfectionist Kanye West has been the group many have had their eye on ever since West signed promising young artists such as Big Sean, Kid Cudi, and Pusha T. Being claimed as one of the most talented crews in hip-hop by some, and one of the most over-rated crews by others, it is safe to say that their collective effort “Cruel Summer” has been long awaited and anticipated. But has it lived up to listeners’ expectations or has it been a failure as many eyes and ears have hoped? Here’s a track by track review of G.O.O.D. Music’s “Cruel Summer“.

1. To The World - R.Kelly embraces us with his fine vocal skills and the production is top notch with a variety of beautiful drum sequences, violin touches, and piano glimpses. Kanye West starts off the album with an introduction of what to expect. Spitting a solid verse, ‘Ye lets Kellz do most of the shining on the track as he profoundly sings the hook, compelling the listener to press rewind.

2. Clique – Produced by Hit-Boy, “Clique” serves as the first “banger” of the album. James Fauntleroy intros the song and sets the hook perfectly for Big Sean. The hook is nothing spectacular and a big step down from R. Kelly’s triumphant efforts. Sean, Jay, and Ye, all lay down solid verses, talking mainly about their individual successes rather than “posse related” rhymes. Jay-Z begins his verse with the names of his closest family but then wanders off to bragging about his stature. West has an interesting and arguably the best verse on the song. The only problem is that the production which first seemed banging starts to get slightly annoying as the song goes on, and its annoying nature increases with more spins of the track. Regardless, it’s a solid record.

3. Mercy – The summer jam of 2012. “Lamborghini Mercy, your chick, she’s so thirsty”- the catchy chorus grows on you after every listen until you can’t stop bopping your head. It’s a true banger, worthy of multiple spins. However, the lyrical content is not replay worthy in most places. Big Sean drops a mediocre verse playing on the word “ass” mostly and 2 Chainz shows exactly why it is a blasphemy to take him seriously as a music artist, spitting some of the most worthless rhymes on the album. However, Pusha T completely destroys the song with his memorable verse, saving the song from becoming another commercial record with just a hot beat.

4. New God Flow – Easily one of the highlights of the album. The production is phenomenal, notably the piano loops, and Kanye makes it known as to why he’s the best sampler in hip-hop today. Pusha T and Kanye West both spit hard rhymes that will make you want to go back, but it’s Ghostface Killah that steals the show and blows you away with his intense verse. This is a gem, and is exactly the type of music expected from this camp. Album off to a great start.

5. The Morning – The song welcomes new G.O.O.D. music signee, D’Banj who brings back in the “Marley” feel. Raekwon has the first and arguably the best verse on the song, outdoing 5 artists from the G.O.O.D. music camp single handedly. This is Common’s only verse on the album which is disappointing because he spits a mere 8 bars and is nowhere to be found afterwards. Production wise, it’s decent. Can get really repetitive though with more listens, and is slightly reminiscent to the following track, “Cold.” Overall, solid song.

6. Cold – Being one of the earliest songs released by Kanye West, a few had thought it would make the final cut of the LP, and many believed it should not have been on it. Regardless, it’s on there but sadly, fails to go recognized. Spitting 2 verses mainly about his clothes, style, and possessions, Kanye fails to grab the listeners’ attention and Hit-Boy laces one of his weaker efforts. But it’s the DJ Khaled credit that is most surprising about this song. Not only did he not produce the record, it’s not even him performing those cringe worthy, unnecessary shouts at the end. On a collaborative album, this song leaves the listener to question the fitting of “Cold.”

7. Higher – Hit-Boy, along with Kanye West and Mike Dean, bounces back with the production as it’s another highlight in the instrumental category. The-Dream comes correct with his singing but yet again, the lyrics are mediocre. “Shoe game outta this world, I outer-space ‘em”. Pusha T brings forth his weakest effort on the album, and Mase although decent, fails to connect with anything mention worthy. The outro can get irritating with Cocaine 80’s saying not much besides “higher than a motherfucker.”

8. Sin City – Teyana Taylor completely steals the show with another showcase of talented singing on the album. John Legend is a fine addition as well, but rap-wise, the song fails to impress yet again. Travis Scott’s and Malik Yusef’s appearance are both questionable and Cyhi the Prynce misses out on his moment to shine, with the sex-analogy “She rode the broom to beach, that’s a sand-witch/so I ate her like it, haters hate to like it” being the best out of the forgettable verse.

9. The One – Following a couple of average songs, “The One” finally lifts up the mood and brings “rap” back as the main focus of the album. Kanye West and Big Sean drop solid verses perfectly flowing with the beat. The production is fantastic with the luscious piano, snare drums and 808’s. 2 Chainz spits another digressing verse, but it goes unnoticed because the singers, Marsha Ambrosious and James Fauntleroy captivate the listeners themselves.

10. Creepers – A solo Kid Cudi song, serving as one of the shorter cuts on the album, “Creepers” is another good by not great record. With an aimless effort, Cudi fails to impress listeners like he once did with his first album. “Creepers” can be a hit or miss song, depending on your liking, but I felt that it was out of place.

11. Bliss – An R&B song with Teyana Taylor and John Legend, while the former does a great job in illuminating the track with her voice, the latter fails to match her and is completely outshined in singing expertise. Also, the track feels a little empty without a verse from any of the G.O.O.D. rappers and feels like a drag; boring. A forgettable track if you like R&B and a complete throwaway track if you are desiring hip-hop.

12. I Don’t Like (Remix) – If you thought “Cold” or “Bliss” were the most out of place songs on the album, “IDL (Remix)” will change your opinion. The inclusion of this song makes no sense whatsoever, as not only is this song not a G.O.O.D. Music song or even an affiliate’s song, it’s a REMIX to a mediocre song with a hot beat. Admitting the production bangs, there is nothing else worth noting on the song as all artists drop mediocre to below par verses, with Jadakiss being the most disappointing (surprisingly). Closing the album with “I Don’t Like”, listeners are left questioning Kanye West’s focus and dedication in providing a thoroughly best effort as he possibly could.

Overall, the album is filled with some phenomenal and some forgettable production; some fantastic and some appalling lyrics; and some hit and miss songs. A few songs seem out of place, and the album starts to fall apart towards the end. The rapping seems lethargic at times and the songs lack emotion; something which comes naturally to Kanye West. Another highly disappointing aspect of “Cruel Summer” is that it failed to showcase real talent of the G.O.O.D. artists. If it weren’t for the outstanding singing and some compositions, the album would have been a complete mess. A majority of artists failed to embrace us such as Yasiin Bey, Q-Tip, Consequence, Mr. Hudson, and Common. Could they not have dropped the album closer and “Cold” for songs involving these artists? “Cruel Summer“, an album of only 12 tracks, out of which almost half were already heard, is underachieving with the talent available on the camp and is largely disposable.

Production- 7.5/10
Lyrics- 6/10
Songs- 5/10
Overall- 6/10.

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Album Review by Jaffar for Defsounds.com