The third release in the Kanye West pentalogy, KIDS SEE GHOSTS serves as a wildly successful (re)union of West and Kid Cudi. The chemistry exudes throughout the album, as Cudi’s emotive howls haunt Kanye’s ghoulish production.
Operating as the climax in Kanye’s dramatic structure, KSG follows Pusha T’s Daytona energetic sultriness with an honest emotionality absent on ye, Kanye’s expositionary outset. From the moment “Feel the Love” hits, you know that this is the Cudi/Kanye chemistry you loved on the unexpectedly influential – and excellent – Man on the Moon I and II. Pusha-T’s verse ensures that the listener is hearing a continued musical creation with the release of these five albums in subsequent fashion.
Coming in at a tidy 24 minutes, the album seethes, emotes, and viscerally envelops the listener. It moves fast, but lingers. The Andre3000 (nee Benjamin)-produced “Fire” literally picks up musical threads from “Feel the Love” and flips into a Kanye verse much different than anything on ye. The words are sharper, the syllables are placed with more exactitude, and the mirroring of voice/track adds a layering more robust than the minimalist ye.
Cudi and Kanye have both expressed mental health challenges and it fuels KSG. The adopted moniker for the duo, KIDS SEE GHOSTS, is appropriate – and the music feeds off of the visualization of the name. “4th Dimension” takes the 1936 Louis Prima single “What Will Santa Claus Say,” features a haunting echo and a spine-tingling bass line that conjure both literal and mental ghosts.
“Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” once again nods to the continuity of This Kanye Project, as Kanye exudes on the the hook “I don’t feel pain anymore/ guess what baby I feel freeeee.” This harkens back to “Ghost Town” on ye as 070 Shake painfully exclaims “we’re not the kids we used to be/ I put my hand on a stove to see if i still bleed.”
“Reborn” is where we see both Cudi and Kanye at their modern best. “I’m so reborn/ keep movin’ forward” is Cudi’s hook, sung in straight-forward and melancholy fashion, leading right into Kanye’s best verse in a long time:
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
Introspective, honest, addressing his demons, cohesive and intelligent. This is the Kanye you love, and the reason why his makeshift effort on ye was such a disappointment. My gut instinct is that there is much more material of this particular nature that was scrapped after the TMZ debacle, but frankly – this verse, and Kanye’s on “Kids See Ghosts” (the track) are more indicative of Kanye doing what he can/should be doing as the King of 21st Century Music.
The title track here features Yasiin Bey (nee Mos Def), whose self-imposed exile in South Africa left a gaping hole in 21st century lyricism. Mos Def always carried gravitas to any project on which he was featured. Bey continues to do so here, with a halting iteration of “Kids See Ghosts sometimes/ spirits moving around/ just moving around (yeah that’s a king)” which hands off into a melodic Cudi verse, which parlays into more hungry, honest – there’s that word again – Kanye. Once again Kanye chooses his words carefully, “ye just going to live up to everything that sucks to you. . .to everybody that said I was better off dead” followed by
Got a Bible by my bed, oh yes, I’m very Christian
Constantly repentin’, ’cause, yes, I never listen
Don’t like bein’ questioned and don’t like bein’ less than
Any a competition in any of my professions
Again, Mr. West at his purest – religious and flawed, hyper self-aware and emotional. Cudi also orates musically what can only be described as “ghostly sounds” that serve to close out the track and evoke the name of the track, album, and duo. Brilliant.
“Cudi Montage” is a very intriguing finish to the album, and veritable transition to Nasir. Using a Kurt Cobain sample from a home recording, Kanye continues to induce spine-tingling in the listener, while figuring out a way to meld the asymmetry of the genres into a work of art.
Because KIDS SEE GHOSTS is essentially a “pop-up” art gallery of music. Kanye West fully intended for his pentalogy to be dissected, discussed, analyzed; criticized & lauded. Here, with KIDS SEE GHOSTS hiding in plain sight as the third of five releases, he gives his effort at brilliance, yet it is intentionally ephemeral. As the sum of all parts, the five albums may not hold up as a classic. But KSG certainly is excellent, and carves out a niche in Kanye’s ultimate pantheon.