After a string of delays that made its title become unfortunately literal for hip-hop fans, Cruel Summer, the new Kanye West-produced compilation featuring some of the best and brightest in contemporary hip-hop, is finally out. (Listen to the single "Clique" below.) The 12-track album, which highlights more than a dozen artists signed to West's G.O.O.D. Music label, is a veritable who's-who of rappers, featuring Jay-Z, Big Sean, Ghostface Killah, Pusha-T, and West himself. Though the frustratingly delayed album leaked online last week, Tuesday marks its official release, and critics are now weighing in on the polarizing artist's latest musical brainchild. Does Cruel Summer live up to the hype?
Cruel Summer is an impressive showcase: Given the talented West's involvement, it's no surprise that Cruel Summer is a "generally successful album," says Carl Willott at Idolator. Its strongest songs — "Clique," "Mercy," and "New God Flow" — are each contenders for "best rap song of the year." But perhaps the most impressive thing is seeing West get out of the way and let other stars shine. Maybe it's a sign that the notoriously egotistical West has learned how to get "the most out of the talent he assembled" when he started G.O.O.D. Music.
"Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer: Album review"
Cruel Summer is a big disappointment: This is an "uncharacteristically disposable" album for West and his collaborators, says Jayson Greene at Pitchfork. A "day late/dollar short feeling persists throughout," and many of the songs are "cluttered with unnecessary effects." And in spite of Cruel Summer's numerous delays, the album still feels undercooked; after the early singles give way to the album's later tracks, it "seems like even the artists involved have left the room." Really, "if Cruel Summer is meant to be an argument for the label's other talent, it makes a weak case."
"Review: G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer"
Cruel Summer is good — but we've heard it all before: West has always placed extra value on the "wow-factor" of a new album, so it's surprising that Cruel Summer "provides few 'new' moments," says Rob Markman at MTV.com. Five of Cruel Summer's 12 songs, including attention-grabbing singles like "Mercy" and "Clique," were released early, which means that almost half of the new album feels like old news right out of the gate. It's not that "the songs we've gotten beforehand aren't great" — but it does rob fans of the "discovery moments that they usually look to Kanye for."
"G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer: Was Kanye-helmed album worth the wait?"
Consensus: Cruel Summer isn't a total letdown, but it's nowhere close to Kanye West's best work — and the rest of G.O.O.D. Music's talent fails to shine through.