After repeated listens, it is impossible to tell if Kids See Ghosts, an album by Kanye West and Kid Cudi, is incredible or terrible. It is certainly more thought out than West’s eighth studio album, ye, which dropped only a week prior to the release of Kids See Ghosts.
Since 2013’s Yeezus, West has been skirting the very fine line between minimalist and unfinished. The Life of Pablo, released in 2016, often errs on the latter side, but ye sounds like it was hurriedly completed on the drive over to the release party; West mentions events on the album that had only happened weeks prior. But it is hard to say if evident planning in Kids See Ghosts makes up for the
The duo of albums comes during a tumultuous time for West, though these days, the rapper just calls that an album release. Gone are the days of schedules and a semblance of order; here are the days of ego excess.
West celebrated the album’s release with a party in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He tweeted about President Donald Trump having similar “dragon energy” to him and shared a photo of his signed “Make America Great Again” hat. The music, however, has always been good enough to eclipse West.
Leading up to the two albums, cultural commenters denounced West’s comments but rolled their eyes in frustration the way a parent might express disappointment toward their unruly teen. West slammed John Legend on Twitter with screenshots of their text messages. While these actions were erratic, it was West, and he had an album coming out.
Ye is not a disappointment per se, so much as it is a nonevent. Most of the songs feel more like West threw a beat together in his bedroom at 2 a.m. because he was having a feeling he needed to unleash.
“Yikes” feels especially like this, with his fragmented rapping about being scared of himself, and “All Mine” with its intelligible hook and proclamation that “none of us would be here without cum.” It’s up to the listener to decide if this was one in a long line of ill-advised Kanye dad jokes or a bar that could have used a rewrite.
West’s album is incredibly dark, and in many ways it is a cry for help.
The first track, “I Really Thought About Killing You” is simply that. West ruminates for four and a half minutes about premeditated murder and his own suicide. It’s a ballsy way to start an album, commercial or not, but there’s an honesty about this track that’s so grippingly sad, one can’t help but continue to listen.
This carries on through songs like “Wouldn’t Leave,” the emotional centerpiece of the album, which describes how West’s wife wouldn’t leave him, even when he said slavery was a choice to a major entertainment news outlet.
“Ghost Town,” the most complete of the album’s seven tracks, talks about the numbness involved with letting go and feeling free. When newcomer 070 Shake jumps in to sing about putting her hand on the stove to see if she still bleeds, it’s an album highlight; it is mournful, pathetic and powerful at the same time.
These themes transfer to Kids See Ghosts in “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2),” where West and Cudi boom out that they don’t feel pain anymore, and they feel free. It’s a terrifying song that becomes exhilarating halfway through, and then terrifying again. The beat is menacing and West and Cudi are just barely holding it together while somehow also being totally in control. It’s the musical equivalent of a manic
Other songs on the album, like the titular “Kids See Ghosts” and “Feel the Love,” have this same unsettling energy.
Musically, Kids See Ghosts is more interesting than ye, incorporating more of Cudi’s rock influences and a layered approach. Like ye, much of Kids See Ghosts is dedicated to mental illness. Cudi, or Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, has been through his share of ups and downs, both with depression and with his friendship
It is gratifying to see him as a sort of stabilizing presence on the album, as his voice anchors tracks like “Cudi Montage” and “Kids See Ghosts.” “Reborn,” a Cudi-led song about healing and moving on, comes as a ray of sunshine, as plucky piano chords support the rapper’s call to “keep moving forward.” His vocals sound like those of someone who has just overcome a long illness, but the weariness is authentic to the album.
It is impossible to tell where West and Cudi will go next — hopefully to continue seeking the help they need. West’s outbursts are especially common these days, but the duo of albums point to much darker thoughts than just a Twitter rant.