I’m always late to the Kanye party. Arguably, Mr. West is one artist for whom a lot of people would flip the idiom around: instead of “better late than never,” a lot of folks might (justifiably) say “better never than late.” Thing is, as late as I was — and continue to be — I ran into old Kanye first. And old Kanye is good Kanye. So, it’s no coincidence that I’m a big fan of KIDS SEE GHOSTS, which reminds me quite a bit of Kanye’s older work. This song is the last on the album, “Cudi Montage,” and samples that of the late Kurt Cobain, per Genius.
Old Kanye made some of the most telling music that hinted at West being a frustrated singer. I think ’Ye influenced the course of modern music with his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak. I think he did it accidentally — not because Kanye couldn’t do so deliberately. But because 808s is a seminal album that blurred the lines between MCs and singers, just so West could sing.
I mean, not all singers are hip-hop artists, and, certainly, not all hip-hop artists make good singers. Some do: Frank Ocean, André 3000, 6lack, Chance the Rapper. Don’t forget Mike Shinoda — “In The End” is a classic! But by leaning on melodies and crooning on 808s and Hearbreak, West made hip-hop more accessible to pop and vice versa. The album played with genre, switching modes frequently and seamlessly.
Kanye West’s and Kid Cudi’s collaborative album, named after the duo’s band, KIDS SEE GHOSTS, has Kanye West switching modes again. Both West and Cudi rap and sing throughout the album. They do so on “Ghost Town” as well, which predates their project. That song released just before KIDS, but it, too, has old Kanye’s prints all over it.
It’s a shame West and Cudi had a falling out, because the work the two did on KIDS shows what West can do musically with a good influence. Or when he’s not wasting time saying awful things and hanging out with awful people. KIDS SEE GHOSTS, basically, records the catharsis of two artists for posterity. All of the tracks are great, but tracks 3-6 crest and finally crash into Cudi’s montage with the force of a tidal wave.