By Carter Maness
Is G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer a Kanye West album or not? With his lack of consistent presence and little-to-no personal promotion, that seems to be the central question that critics are asking when reviewing the eclectic posse compilation, which features adored singles like "Mercy" and "Clique," but only sports a West verse on seven of its 12 tracks. Reviews have been mixed with most noting that West did not put a full effort into the anticipated album, instead relying too much on his roster and not enough on his trustworthy instincts.
Talented But Distracted
On Cruel Summer (G.O.O.D./Def Jam), the spotty new compilation from his G.O.O.D. Music label, Mr. West is characteristically loose, veering from rapping about depression after the death of his mother to nonsense about the former C.I.A. director George Tenet’s Maybach to making it plain exactly what’s at the forefront of his thinking lately, which is often not music. – Jon Caramanica, New York Times.
One of the summer's most anticipated albums (apparently it's summer until 'Ye says it isn't), the G.O.O.D. Music posse album is a mixed bag full of vigorous singles and minute made, mailed-in verses, tied with a red ribbon by Kanye. – Erika Ramirez, Billboard.
Too Much Of A Team Player
On Cruel Summer, too many people were given too much shine too often. And with Kanye's absence on songs on which his participation was crucial, the listener was often left with nothing to go on, be it a triumphant Ye start, or a whirlwind Yeezy final verse. One has to admire the sprinkle of modesty that was his approach to constructing this album, but come Cruel Summer 2: Back in the Habit, it might be time to shed that modesty (and a few players) and reinvigorate some of that cocky bravado that he carries with him in seemingly every other walk of life. - Rembert Browne, Grantland.
It's the sense of Event, which has become as much of an art for Kanye as his music over the years, that is most blatantly missing here… A handful of guests aside, though, none of G.O.O.D. Music's personalities do much to justify their newfound prominence. If Cruel Summer is meant to be an argument for the label's other talent, it makes a weak case. -Jayson Greene, Pitchfork.
Maybe A Mixtape Instead?
Cruel Summer doesn’t feel directly connected to Kanye’s life in any real way (Kim K asides aside). BTW, what was the cruelest part of Ye’s summer? Refereeing Beyonce and KK backstage at Made in America? Giving Big Sean a post-show Mean Joe Greene/Coca-Cola pep talk? I mean, if Kanye ain’t bringing the mostest drama, musically or otherwise, then his movement seems off-message. But, honestly, quibbling like this feels pretty chintzy. This is a glorified summer mixtape, natch. - Charles Aaron, Spin.
An hourlong presentation of West’s musical line, Cruel Summer is a sonic runway show (West describes it as “a ghetto opera”) on which his taste in rappers is on full display, and for the most part they're spitting poison. – Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times.