Continuing on from the first part of the review, this second part concerns Kids See Ghosts’ self-titled album which came out in June 2018. Kids See Ghosts is a hip-hop duo compromised of recording artists Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Both of these artists have battled against depression and suicidal thoughts, among other illnesses, and as such this album deals with a lot of the emotions that come along with that.
Here is a post that Kanye re-tweeted:
“Kids See Ghosts is an album about overcoming your ghosts, your demons. Throughout the course of the album, Kanye and Cudi are pulled into a dark place, battle those demons, experience a rebirth, and then accept God into their lives to stay on the right course”
This album came out a week after ye by Kanye West as part of the Wyoming projects. I watched the livestream of the listening party for this album as well and it was wild. Kanye and Cudi looked so happy to be there. They were living in the moment and taking it all in. From the moment I heard this on the livestream, I knew it would take several listens to properly digest it all. The album art was done by Takashi Murakami, a Japanese contemporary artist who also collaborated with Kanye on his Graduation album cover and “Good Morning” music video (here is a photo of him wearing a suit inspired by the “I Love It” video by Lil Pump and Kanye, for fun: https://twitter.com/takashipom/status/1057104299824680960). The inverse kanji characters on the full version of the artwork translate to “chaos”.
Even comparing the artwork between ye and Kids See Ghosts, you can tell that you are in for a more focused and layered experience. The first song is “Feel The Love” and while I like the opening notes, the Pusha T feature at the beginning of this track is by far my least favourite part of the entire album. It just doesn’t fit for me. But then Kanye comes in screaming gun noises and the track takes off from there. This song in particular is very rhythmic as the percussion throughout really pushes and emphasizes what’s happening at the front of the mix. It is also used to build the tension and atmosphere, making the transitions smoother and more enjoyable.
The following two tracks “Fire” and “4th Dimension” feature some great production and keep the energy on the album at a high. The sample transitioning into the beat at the beginning of “4th Dimension” is classic Kanye. He shows you the sample as it is, and then just flips it on you and the beat drops right in and the song is immediately taking off.”Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)” is such a perfect follow-up to the “Ghost Town” song off the ye album by Kanye. You can just hear the line in your head – FREEEE! Kanye also throws in another “scoop” reference to his joke song called “Lift Yourself” (which actually had amazing production and it was honestly fun to listen to). Anyways, the song reinforces the idea of freedom that Kanye has been so set on recently. Kanye and Cudi push their message – you need to free your mind and defy what society tells you to do. Defy the control and constraints of society. At one point Kanye says you should even quit your job while listening to this song. I’ll keep that in mind, Ye.
In my opinion, this album has some of Kanye’s best lyrics and delivery in years. My only criticism is that his verses are too short. Every time a Kanye verse ends on this album, I am always left wishing it was twice as long. Particularly on “Reborn”, which I think is Kanye’s best verse in years:
“Very rarely do you catch me out
Y’all done “specially invited guest”‘d me out
Y’all been tellin’ jokes that’s gon’ stress me out
Soon as I walk in, I’m like, “Let’s be out”
I was off the chain, I was often drained
I was off the meds, I was called insane
What a awesome thing, engulfed in shame
I want all the rain, I want all the pain
I want all the smoke, I want all the blame
Cardio audio, let me jog your brain
Caught in the Audy Home, we was all detained
All of you Mario, it’s all a game”
It’s soooo good. Kanye is relishing in the public backlash against him. He wants to take it all on and grow because of it. He wants to take everything negative that people throw at him and respond to it with love. And that element is a huge part of this album. I have seen this album described as a return to the psychedelic movement of the 1960’s. With the trippy album cover, musical style, and lyrics, it makes sense. Kanye and Cudi are here to spread a message of love and unity. We all have problems. But we need to love each other to make things better.
The Kanye verse isn’t the only standout part of “Reborn” as Cudi’s hums are particularly on point here. The production is as good as Kanye has ever been with layers coming in and out effortlessly. The track progresses nicely between each section and Cudi even offers a nice little verse:
“I had my issues, ain’t that much I could do
Peace is somethin’ that starts with me (with me)
At times, wonder my purpose
Easy then to feel worthless
But, peace is somethin’ that starts with me (with me, with me)
Had so much on my mind, I didn’t know where to go
I’ve come a long way from them hauntin’ me
Had me feelin’ oh so low
Ain’t no stoppin’ you, no way
Oh, things ain’t like before
Ain’t no stoppin’ you, no way
I think this verse is a good summation of the album as a whole. It’s a rebirth for Kanye and Cudi. They have fought with the demons and ghosts that haunt them, eventually having put up with them for long enough they challenge them, are reborn, and accept God into their lives.
The title track on this album is very ethereal and spiritual sounding. There is a darkness to it, but behind that darkness is extreme beauty. I think the name “Kids See Ghosts” refers to the fact that kids have a more open mind and more of an imagination than adults do. And this ties into the idea of freedom that Kanye is so attached to. If everyone was childlike in their approach to creativity, the world would be a more constructive and imaginative place. Kanye throws out some art, fashion, and architecture references in his verse while also giving into his Kanye-isms (“Thought I’d be clever enough to give up while I’m ahead/ I like breakfast in bed, but I love breakfast and head”).
The song ends with Mos Def singing “That’s the king/ And what’s a crown for the clouds” which reminds me of the lyrics in “No Church in the Wild” off Watch the Throne, where Frank Ocean sings “What’s a mob to a king?/ What’s a king to a god?/ What’s a god to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?”, which seems contradictory at first but it isn’t. While “No Church in the Wild” exemplifies the illusion of power where it doesn’t exist, “Kids See Ghosts” is more so commenting on the idea that the power that one has in society is nothing compared to the power of God. This, again, ties into the idea of freedom that Kanye and Cudi are so adamant about on this album. They are trying to tell us that it IS possible to be free because the power that society holds over us is false; freedom is a state of mind, not something that is tangible.
The album closer, “Cudi Montage”, is a real doozy. It begins with this simple guitar riff with Cudi coming in with a verse, and the beat drops in soon after. It’s interesting to note the relatively low energy in this song, compared to the album opener where Kanye is literally screaming gun sounds. It’s like Kanye and Cudi have come to peace with the things that have been troubling them.
Mr. Hudson is a feature on this track, and him along with Kanye and Cudi, really deliver on the choruses and in the outro. “Lord shine your light on me, save me, please/ Stay strong”. And it repeats over and over. And it is absolutely beautiful. These vocal melodies built around the Cudi “Hmmm, whoaaa” parts hit me so hard in the feelings. The instrumentals during these sections help to keep that atmosphere of pure beauty and bliss, perfectly layered and never being more than it should be. This is probably as close to a religious experience as I will ever get.
I am so glad that Kanye and Cudi made up their differences and came together again to collaborate on this album.
Kids See Ghosts is a hell of a trip into the minds of recording artists Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Listening to this album is akin to a religious experience – an enlightenment and re-awakening. It proves to anyone that has doubted Kanye’s recent efforts that Kanye definitely still has the chops, both lyrically and in his production.
9/10 – Amazing