Kids See Ghosts - Self-Titled Album Review
The world of music has always liked to fantasise about these magical collaborations that we know will never happen, something that especially seems to happen between artists caught up in rivalries. For years fans dreamed of a Michael Jackson & Prince collaboration or a Tupac & Biggie project despite their long standing feuds. And nowhere is this more relevant than when looking at the two kings of pop-rap, Kanye West and Kid Cudi, two artists with similar creative visions but seemingly divided in disagreement after Cudi left Kanye's 'G.O.O.D Music' label in 2013. Of course, this division only made fans yearn for this legendary pairing even more and just when I thought these people were mad, here we are in 2018 with Kids See Ghosts, a joint-project between Kid Cudi and Kanye West, an album that existed in fan's minds long before it was even produced. As a result, the album had an understandable amount of hype and I can safely say that for me, Kids See Ghosts did not only live up to the expectations, but surpassed them.
Kanye West and Kid Cudi are the among the pioneers of pop-rap so the joining of the two seemed so obvious to many fans. In the past, they have both featured on many of each others songs but nothing quite matches the heights that Kids See Ghosts achieves. The album combines the positive and glistening vibes from Cudi's discography with Kanye's dark and grand production. Once again Kanye proves that he is at the top of his game when it comes to creative and layered beats with songs like '4th Dimension' riding off of a 1936 Louis Prima sample in way that is bouncy, lively and reminiscent of legendary producer Madlib. Every beat on the album is sample-rich and complex, much like the production on Pusha T's Daytona, an album earlier in the year that was produced entirely by Kanye.
As is tradition for both Cudi and Kanye, Kids See Ghosts is a difficult album to pin down in terms of genre as it treads the line between Experimental, Psychedelic Hip-Hop and Rock / Grunge influences sporadically throughout the album. One of the best examples of this is the opener, 'Feel The Love', a song that I keep wrestling with whether it is the stupidest or greatest thing I've ever heard. The song opens with Cudi's echoing and haunting refrain as he proclaims 'I can still feel the love' over moody and building synths followed by a frustrated-sounding Pusha T verse that concludes with Kanye shouting ridiculous gunshot sounds over pounding and heavy snare beats. At first I thought this was just plain stupidity, and for the most part, it is. But there is something so off-the-wall and manic about this section of the song that makes it work as the song's driving and Yeezus-inspired beat becomes infectious.
he album then goes from this masterclass in Experimental Hip-Hop to a straight up Rock song in 'Freeee (Ghost Town Pt.2)'. With the driving guitars from the aggressive Mr. Chop sample, Kanye and Cudi repeatedly chant that they 'feel free' without any sign of any verses or traditional Hip-Hop sounds. While this song is an obvious continuation of Kanye's recent track 'Ghost Town' that makes use of a similar chorus it serves as a powerful message when looking at the history of both artists.
The idea of 'feeling free' was touched on briefly on Kanye's Ye in regards to his mental health. It is brought up again here on Kids See Ghosts and remains a powerful sentiment when looking at Cudi's battle with depression and other mental illnesses, an experience it seems he found common ground in with Kanye despite their feud in 2013. The latter half of Kids See Ghosts is an emotional and cathartic release for both artists as both Kanye and Cudi seem to relate in their struggles and provide each other with positive messages and ideas to get themselves out of the depressive states they were previously in, as the chorus of 'Reborn' indicates. This is not to say that Cudi and Kanye are both fine now, however this album says to me that they are both healing as the final song 'Cuid's Montage' reflects. On this song both Cudi and Kanye talk about their personal struggles as well as the pain of gang violence while repeating the message 'Lord shine your light on me, save me please'.
Both Cudi and Kanye have been deeply troubled by mental illness and have both been very vocal about it and after listening to Kids See Ghosts all week it is clear to me that this is more than just an album to them. Making music clearly helps both of them heal and overcome their pain and this collaboration, along with the messages of self-love and positivity it portrays provides a powerful insight into that healing process. The title Kids See Ghosts could refer to the fact that they both suffered the death of a parent when they were relatively young and this shared experience and pain is what makes this album so powerful and passionate. While there are ridiculous moments as is to be expected from a Kanye project, Kids See Ghosts is as experimental as it is emotional as Cudi and Kanye work through their mental health together in a short 25-minute album that serves as therapy for the two prolific artists.
Listen to the album here: