Album Review: Kids See Ghosts – ‘Kids See Ghosts’

Editor's Review

Summary

Kid Cudi and Kanye West team up for the strongest of the Wyoming mini-albums yet on 'Kids See Ghosts', a psychedelic plunge into the depths of the abyss from which both artist have risen

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‘Kids See Ghosts’ is the long awaited and self-titled collaborative project from Kid Cudi and Kanye West, and is the third release in a set of five weekly albums to be produced by West in his Wyoming studios, the previous being Pusha T’s ‘Daytona’ and Kanye’s own eight studio project; ‘Ye’.

There have been expectations for a full collaborative release from the two since their friendship blossomed in 2008, which has led to both artists collaborating on each other’s solo projects. However the recent years haven’t been the smoothest for either artist; in 2016 Cudi checked in for rehab for severe depression, whilst that same year Kanye was committed to a medical centre for paranoid hallucinations. It makes sense then that ‘Kids See Ghosts’ is an album centred on themes of self-reflection and personal absolution, which when mixed the eclectic and fantastic production, makes for a fascinating and thrilling listen.

Following in line with the previous ‘Wyoming Sessions’, ‘Kids See Ghosts’ flies past at a mere 24 minutes over seven tracks, though the short running time works in the albums favour rather than feeling somewhat incomplete like ‘Ye’.  The songs on ‘Kids See Ghosts’ are colourful and bursting with flavour, and the chemistry between Cudi and Kanye is undeniable, they bounce off each other relentlessly, and their kinetic energy is apparent immediately on  “Feel The Love”.

Cudi’s opening plea echoes around some soft, padded synth chords before a short verse from guest Pusha T, which is impeded by a bombastic piece of vocal percussion from Kanye, his onomatopoeic outburst mimicking violent gun blasts, cleverly juxtaposing Cudi’s pained preach of “I can still feel the love!”. Not long after the albums listening party West tweeted that “We’re trying new ideas without the fear of not being perfect, it’s just making stuff with your friends” and it clear that neither artist here are aiming to please anyone but themselves, but instead of emerging as a vanity project, it’s the playful and introspective nature of the album that is what makes it so fresh and exciting.

Contrasting against the hysteria of ‘Feel the Love’ is the structured military march of ‘Fire’, which finds Kanye soaking up the haters “I love all your shit talkin’/You ain’t got nothin’ better to do with yourself?” whilst on the other side of the coin, Kid Cudi leads the track out with some lowly hummed lyrics referencing  his search for a relationship with God “On this road I find/These scars I left behind/ Heaven lift me up”.

The use of an eerily distorted Louis Prima sample and some witch-like cackles on ‘4th Dimension”  drives home a supernatural vibe to the track, though the lyrics of the song finds Kanye at his most braggadocious and cheeky, and the track is a high point for the camaraderie between the two, working as the “theme song” for the duos rise from the abyss, as seen in Cudi’s line that “Kids see ghosts/off the ropes”.

There are glimpses of classic rock in the whirling neo-psychedelia of ‘Freeee (Ghost Town pt2)’, which is a spiritual sequel to the track from Kanye’s ‘Ye’ project. The jubilant cries of existential freedom become warped as though Cudi and Kanye are falling through a crack in time and space, whilst Ty Dolla $ign delivers a quality guest verse. The suitably moody nocturnal click of ‘Kids See Ghosts’ mirrors the ghostly and ethereal atmosphere set by ‘4th Dimension’, and features are great guest appearance from Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and a confident set of bars from Kanye where he addresses his constant and at times debilitating drive to dominate and conquer  “any of competition in any of my professions/ so I gotta guess then/ I gotta stay the best man/ what else do you expect from, uh, Mr West man”.

‘Re-born’ is a touching highlight, where Cudi sweetly raps “I’m so reborn, I’m movin’ forward, keep movin’ forward, ain’t no stress on me lord” over a twinkling, lullaby-like melody. It’s one of the albums most open and touching moments, as it sees Kanye acknowledging his anxieties “Y’all been tellin’ jokes, that’s gon’ stress me out?/ Soon as I walk in, I’m like, “Let’s be out” whilst Cudi winds down the song with the pained mantra to “keep movin’ forward”.

‘Cudi Montage’, which features a haunting Kurt Cobain demo sample, rounds things off on a more broadly socially conscious level, with Kanye reflecting on America’s seemingly inescapable cycle of violence “Everybody wants world peace/ Till your niece got shot in the dome piece/ Then you go and buy your own piece/ Hopin’ it’ll help you find your own peace”.  Still, the track can be traced back to the central themes of the redemption, rejuvenation and release of broken spirits, accentuated by the gorgeous vocal melody “Save me, Lord,/ Shine your light on me, save me please/ stay strong”.

‘Kids See Ghosts’ is a resounding success, its use of enjoyably eclectic beats and unusual samples keeps the music fresh for multiple listens, whilst peering into the darkness of the album’s protagonists may feel intimate and at times a little exposed, but in turn makes the moments of defiant positivity found at the end of the tunnel all the more gratifying.

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