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The Lowdown: Kanye West and Kid Cudi convene as the super duo Kids See Ghosts on their 23-minute album of the same name. The first collaborative album from the pair, Kids See Ghosts is an exploration of instability. Kanye suggests he has transcended mental illness in the ways that it typically debilitates mortal men. By leaning into persistent mania, it has allegedly become advantageous to his creative output and self-perception instead of making quick work of his sanity. Detailing his own illness and delving into the price of fame on “Reborn”, Kanye openly embraces a bipolar diagnosis. He declares himself immune to the societal stigma it carries and subsequently empowered (by that declaration) to unlock his best self.
The Good: The rappers’ artistic partnership imbues Kanye with a noticeable vigor, lyrical presence, and effectiveness – even in the realm of minimalist, brooding bedroom raps – that suggest conscience, lucidity, and active, critical thought. Statements that find balance within spacious arrangements and evoke a higher power through prismatic synthesizer chords and the interplay of staid percussive statements that mimic the beat of the heart.
The Bad: Kanye’s exploration of his own mental health generally fails to draw blood as effectively as it excuses the unhinged sociopolitical commentary and other erratic behavior that has left his fans caught somewhere between splitting into factions and flat-out jumping ship as of late.
The Verdict: Though likely unintended, Kid Cudi is the savior of Kids See Ghosts. Not just for his impact on the aesthetic of the final product, but his ability to entice Kanye to show up. The beats and rhymes on Kids See Ghosts are signs of life from a man whose increasingly polarizing statements had all but left him for dead in the eyes of those once taken by his ability to flip a soul sample or execute a cheeky rap track. The controlled chaos of the record is proof that somewhere beneath all of the public outbursts and musical misfires, Kanye West – not the old Kanye – but the actual man and his heart are still somewhere in the mix planning to raise the bar and occasionally executing to near flawless result.
Essential Tracks: “Feel the Love”, “4th Dimension”, and “Reborn”