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THE PAIN INSIDE
KIDS SEE GHOSTS

It was delayed coming into the world, as Ye tinkered and polished till the last conceivable minute, pushing back both the highly touted Los Angeles listening party around a Valencia bonfire and the proper upload of the album itself. But in the end, Kids See Ghosts absolutely delivered on its promise to be the exciting and elevated collaboration we expected—in all its out-of-sequence glory. 

This album, the second in a five-part series of releases from the G.O.O.D. Music leader, serves to handily demonstrate that Kanye West is still unmatched as a producer. His skills as a contemporary talent aggregator—with the instinctual ability to weave together a hip-hop symphony from those collaborations—are still mind-bendingly aspirational, say nothing of the work ethic this undertaking entails. Especially considering these productions mostly took place on location in Wyoming; a kooky process he’s followed before, the last time being Hawaii. Not purely a collaboration with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts also features brief cameos from Pusha T, Yasiin Bey, Ty Dolla $ign, Anthony Hamilton and an endless parade of killer samples. 

The foundation, however, is Kanye (along with Mike Dean, Andre 3000, Da Dot Genius and others) channeling Cudi, and that remains a potent mix; one capable of inspiring wildly adventurous, inventive, transcendental no-rules beat-making and song production. The music on this album has influences of true old-school alternative—those stomping beats on the opening tracks “Feel the Love” and “Fire” are reminiscent of some late-20th century bangers from Euro-electro teams like EMF (“Unbelievable”), C.C.C.P. (“American Soviets”)—as it does traditional hip-hop, which powers the title track along with songs “4th Dimension” and the other standout, “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2).”

It’s absolutely Kid Cudi who shines the brightest here, and it seems that was Ye’s intention. The timing of Cudi’s emotional reach-out is more poignant than ever, considering the shocking losses we’ve endured in just the last week with both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, and Cudi’s ministry of sorts is powerfully administered through a deep honesty about his own life struggles with depression. His imprint on Kids See Ghosts exists through truly sobering choruses, reflecting back like meditation mantras. These songs are almost prayer-like, rooted in hope, salvation, spiritual strength and love. It’s spectacular—and the reason everyone needs to listen. Like on “Reborn,” it’s almost as if he’s reassuring himself at the same time. 

I’m so—I’m so reborn, I’m movin’ forward
Keep moving forward, keep movin’ forward
Ain’t no stress on me Lord, I’m movin’ forward
Keep moving forward, keep moving forward

Several songs on Kids See Ghosts speak to the challenges of trying to create a certain kind of freedom, one from our own self-created hell, whether that’s with other people, family, feelings, delusions...

“Stay strong… Stay strong…Save me Lord… Stay strong,” Kid Cudi sings “Cudi’s Montage,” a song built around the guitar riff of Kurt Cobain’s “Burn the Rain,” sampled from a posthumous compilation of home recordings from the ill-fated legend, whose horrible end we all know too well. That fact alone makes the usage here a sophisticated gesture, a wink to the ones who recognize the sample’s origins—that there is a tribal, visceral connection to despair. That chorus still haunts me. 

The human experience can be joyful and powerful, but it can also be crushing and dark. The messages embedded within Kids See Ghosts by both artists—since Kanye is also no stranger to the struggle, as announced on his previous work, ye—are some of the same cries currently reverberating across our entire culture right now. Its timing is uncanny, and hopefully its honest spirit will actually serve as outreach. Mental despair is real, it is on the rise, and we really need to talk about it, treat it, and—most importantly—survive it.

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