Kids See Ghosts is a mantra, it details the crushing lows and soaring highs of the lifestyles of two of hip-hop’s most well-loved and respected artists; describing the emotions that make them feel down, and the things they do or even take to pick themselves back up again. It’s a challenging listen, but I feel like it is an essential one for the stigma of mental health to take another positive step towards being broken.
Kanye West is on an absolute tear this summer, producing albums for Pusha T, Teyana Taylor and Nas while also releasing two of his own; one of which is a collaborative effort with Kid Cudi and is intriguingly named Kids See Ghosts. That’s the album we will be looking at here in this review and straight from the offset you can tell that this one is going to be a surreal experience.
Kanye and Cudi have been on quite the rollercoaster ride throughout their musical careers, whether that involve each other or going their separate ways; and all of the suffering and hardship they have felt from their long stints in the music industry is felt on this album. Both are becoming staple role models for breaking stigmas surrounding mental health problems and how you can talk about these problems with the world.
Cudi was admitted to a rehab centre for substance abuse and suicidal tendencies in mid-to-late 2016 after a troubled couple of years which he attempted to document in some skin crawling music, particularly 2015’s Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven which is widely acknowledged as one of the worst albums of recent times. He has bounced back heroically in recent times, with his 2016 album Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin giving fans a taste of ‘the old Cudi’ while also addressing his personal demons in a much more poignant way.
Kanye has been suffering for quite some time, it is speculated that ever since he lost his mother in 2007 that Ye has been fighting a personal battle with his own mental state, hence the drastic switches in styles in his music (going from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to Yeezus to The Life Of Pablo as an example). He was finally admitted to rehab in 2017 after he cut a 30 minute rant during a live show about everything, politics, Jay Z, radio play, the lot. He ended up getting hooked on Opioids and had liposuction after anxiety about his weight and appearance, but Ye is no longer scared of telling us how he feels.
As for this album, you get the feeling that both are telling us exactly how it felt to be in that low place, with Kids See Ghosts surely being another way of describing the impact of the drugs they both took, as well as the paranoia they both suffered from. There are moments of real destruction on this from both parties, whether it be from Kanye highlighting his turbulent journey of coming off his anti-depressant medication, or from Cudi reflecting on his darkest thoughts and how he rose from the ashes to choose life in the most pressing of times.
The album’s opener, Feel The Love with Pusha T is a bizarre one but there’s something about it which seems red hot. Perhaps it is Pusha’s fire verse or maybe Cudi’s loud hook, maybe it’s Mike Dean’s insane production, or perhaps the hilarious gunshot ad-libs from Kanye, who sounds full-on Yeezus on this. Either way I love it and I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why.
Despite threatening to go very strange throughout this thing after his antics on the opener, Kanye puls it together and delivers some fantastic bars and verses on this thing, particularly on Reborn and Cudi Montage, the latter of which he uses to platform his thoughts about violence in black neighbourhoods.
Kid Cudi brings us himself on this album, that’s all we can ask of him really these days and he offers some real highlight moments, his hums on Feel The Love are as heavenly as ever, as is his chorus which celebrates his new life mindset of moving forward positively, lovely stuff.
Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2) is literally that, a follow-up to the song on Kanye’s album ye which came out a week earlier. It has the same message of feeling free within yourself and not conforming to authority, they finally feel freedom after transcending the constant criticism written and uttered about the two of them.
As is always the case with an album that Kanye West is involved in, the samples are a thing of beauty. His previous work with Mike Dean was always going to suggest that we would have some leftfield sounds and that is certainly what we got. He samples Kurt Cobain on Cudi Montage, which now appears to be paying homage with its title to the posthumous Nirvana release Montage of Heck.
Perhaps my favourite beat on the album comes on Fire, the keys sound spooky and supernatural and Cudi channels that vibe perfectly with his vocal delivery, almost whispering his hook at times. Once Kanye jumps onto it the whole attitude of the track changes despite limited changes to the instrumental, that’s just the persona that Ye can apply to a song and that’s why he is one of the greatest of all time.
Kanye and Cudi delivered a troubling but important listen here, breaking stigmas galore and embracing their rise from the ashes of addiction and depression. It is moments like these where you come to truly appreciate your favourite artists for what they are, the character and personality they put into their music is what we love most about them; and nobody does that quite like these two. It is a bit of a struggle first time round, but the more you listen to it the more you get it, and the songs really start to make sense. The album isn’t perfect, but it’s excellent nonetheless.