Yeezy Season: GOOD Fridays 2018 Review


“Everybody feel a way about K but at least y’all feel something!” 

— Kanye West, “Bring Me Down

After a lengthy hiatus from public spotlight, Kanye West announced himself to the world in the only way he knew possible: with mass controversy. Amidst a perfect tweet-storm of cryptic self-help messages, endorsements of “free thought,” and declarations of “dragon energy,” West also announced a slate of five new albums for the summer — all produced by him. In short: GOOD Fridays were back.

Look at him. Can’t tell him NOTHIN!

How did they turn out? Check out my reviews below!

DAYTONA — Pusha-T, May 25

“This is for my bodybuildin’ clients movin’ weight
Just add water, stir it like a shake” 

— Pusha-T, “The Games We Play

Three years after his promotion to President of GOOD Music, Pusha-T (with a dash now, apparently) has finally released the follow-up to his sophomore album, King Push — Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude.

While it’s missing the JAY-Z-assisted “Drug Dealers Anonymous,” DAYTONA still feels super raw. Kanye brings it back to basics with throwback soul samples and heavy-hitting drums that perfectly complement Pusha’s gritty voice and slick metaphors. It feels like his own version of The Blueprint.

Push goes off on several tracks, from the introductory “If You Know You Know”, to the soulful, bass-heavy “Come Back Baby,” and the Odd Future-esque “What Would Meek Do?” (featuring Kanye). “I’m top five, and all of ’em Dylan!” he declares on the latter, referencing the Chappelle’s Show parody of Making the Band’s Dylan Dili. Cuts like “Hard Piano” (featuring Rick Ross) and “Santeria” sound like they would be great on the soundtrack of Narcos (or even Medellin. If only!), while “The Games We Play” still gets me through many a workout.

“Infrared” closes the album, reminding people that he still has beef with Birdman, Lil Wayne, and Drake. (At least, he did at the time of the album’s release). Prior to claiming victory with “The Story of Adidon,” Pusha offered this sharp critique of hip-hop’s favorite crooning Scorpio:

The lyric pennin’ equal the Trumps winnin’
The bigger question is how the Russians did it
It was written like Nas, but it came from Quentin
At the mercy of a game where the codes is missin’
When the CEO’s blinded by the glow it’s different
Believe in myself and the Coles and Kendricks
Let the sock puppets play in their roles and gimmicks

More than fifteen years after “Grindin’,” Pusha-T is still tearing up the streets with his vicious bars, making music in the vein of The Godfather, Scarface, and other gangster movies.

Rating: 4.5/5

ye — Kanye West, June 1

“…time is extremely valuable
And I prefer to waste it…” 

— Kanye West, “All Mine

This is one of the more anticipated releases of the bunch. It is also probably the most disjointed. Kanye literally re-made this album after his TMZ interview, they snapped the album art en route to the release party, and Mike Dean finished mastering it just before it hit streaming services. The result? A half-assed, semi-experimental Kanye album that still beats most of what you’ll hear this year.

What makes ye work isn’t so much its wordplay as its emotional arc. He begins with confessing his suicidal, homicidal thoughts (“I Thought About Killing You”), and takes listeners on a journey through his marital frustrations (“All Mine,” “No Mistakes, “Wouldn’t Leave”) and battles with mental health issues (“Yikes”). However, he hasn’t lost his penchant for current event-inspired one-liners — whether they be clever or cringey. “Russell Simmons wanna pray for me, too!” he exclaims on “Yikes.” “Imma pray for him ’cause he got #MeToo’d.” Similarly, on “All Mine,” he raps,

If I pull up with a Kerry Washington
That’s gon’ be an enormous scandal
I could have Naomi Campbell
And still might want me a Stormy Daniels

The shining gem of this project, however, is “Ghost Town,” which sounds like it was switched off of KIDS SEE GHOSTS at the last minute. “I’ve been trying/To make you love me,” Kid Cudi moans in his best Royal Jesters cover. “But everything I try/Just takes you further from me.” Meanwhile, New Jersey singer-rapper 070 Shake reminds us how effortless self-harm can be for people battling depression (“I put my hand on a stove, to see if I still bleed…and nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free”).

ye may not be Kanye’s best album, but it is certainly his best in years, and his most vulnerable and honest in a decade.

Rating: 3.5/5

KIDS SEE GHOSTS — KIDS SEE GHOSTS (Kanye West & Kid Cudi), June 8

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“…I’m so reborn, I’m movin’ forward
Keep movin’ forward, keep movin’ forward” 

— Kid Cudi, “Reborn

What’s frustrating for me about this album is that it sounds like what I originally expected from ye. Barring a single track, KIDS SEE GHOSTS sees Kanye rapping much better than on his own solo effort, while Cudi seems to be in top form, crooning and rapping as effortlessly as he was a decade ago.

“I can still feel the love,” Cudi sings in “Feel The Love,” the opening track. Pusha-T raps the solitary verse of the song while Kanye vocalizes gunshots. “4th Dimension” sees Cudi and Kanye rapping over a Louis Prima sample. The former cleverly discusses his struggles with addiction while the latter mixes some genuine cleverness with a cringey line about accidental anal sex.

“Reborn,” likely the strongest track of the project, is a dive into both artists’ struggles with mental health and addiction over a piano and drum beat. “Ain’t no stress on me Lord,” Cudi sings triumphantly. “I’m movin’ forward.” Meanwhile, Kanye gets vulnerable after mostly bragging for the previous songs on the project.

“I was off the chain, I was often drained,” West raps, likely about his 2016 nervous breakdown. “I was off the meds, I was called insane.” He seems more genuine than coy while working with Cudi, making for a compelling project from start to finish (except for “Freeee,” which is trash and should not be considered a sequel to “Ghost Town” whatsoever). “Kids See Ghosts” is a cool collab with Yasiin Bey, and “Cudi Montage” is a good throwback track.

KIDS SEE GHOSTS is an emotional roller coaster, but in a good way—making it more worthwhile than its immediate predecessor.

Rating: 4/5

NASIR — Nas, June 15

“If I had everything, everything
I could change anything
If I changed anything, I mean anything
I would change everything…” 

— Kanye West, “everything”

Listen. We’ve been hearing that this album was done since Chance The Rapper was only Grammy-nominated. Hell, it was a song on our 2016 year-end list! ‘Ye even promised Obama that he’d work on this project.

Fast forward two years and, lo and behold, Nas’ album is officially done. While I’m unsure how it relates to the seven deadly sinsNASIR is a conflicting addition to his discography. Not only does he seem at the end of his “intellectual” rope. He seems bored, like Lupe Fiasco after Lasers.

Not For Radio” is a cinematic introduction worthy of a superhero movie. In idiosyncratic fashion, Nas rejects the Willie Lynch theory, and I think “instant classic”! And then he asserts that J. Edgar Hoover and John Hanson were Black. He also claims that Fox News was started by “a Black guy”. And I’m left clutching my forehead as 070 Shake and Diddy try to egg him on by proclaiming that “they’re scared of us”.

Nah, they’re laughing at you like Bill Maher to Thugnificent in The Boondocks.

“Cops Shot The Kid” sees Nas and Kanye — who seems to have left “the sunken place” — rapping about police brutality over a sample of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.” “Tell me who do we call to report crime,” West says, “when 911 doin’ the driveby?” It’s weird to see “KellyAnne Kanye” with a more impactful verse on the subject than the Queensbridge MC, someone who’s long been heralded as a voice of the streets.

The sample on “White Label” goes hard. “Bonjour” is a chill track to listen to. “Adam and Eve” and “Simple Things” sound like classic Nas. But the beats really carry these tracks, ultimately distracting from the rapper’s performance (probably by design). The real star of this album seems to be Kanye West, who is once again in top form with production.

The most beautiful song on the album is “everything,” a collaboration with Kanye and The-Dream that sounds like it was meant for ye, yet feels at home on NASIR nonetheless. “You’ve never been the same as anyone else,” sings The-Dream. “Don’t think the same as everyone else,” Kanye says.

Nas — facing domestic abuse allegations from ex-wife, Kelis — takes aim at the media and “culture vultures”:

When the media slings mud, we use it to build huts
Irrefutable facts, merciful, beautiful black
Beloved brother, you fail to embarrass him, harassin’ him
To my life, your life pales in comparison
So go write whatever blog, messiness is not ever the god
Do what’s necessary, I’m never worried
Listen vultures, I’ve been shackled by Western culture
You convinced most of my people to live off emotion

With Nas’ best beat selection since his debut, NASIR could have been a solid contender for album of the year. It is full of the nuggets of wisdom and Black empowerment that has come to define the rapper’s career. Unfortunately, a combination of his frustrating contradictions and a surprise (though, similarly lackluster) album from “The Carters” kept this album in the background.

Nas, listen: you let Obama down, fam. But, if you get J. Cole to produce “Let Barack Down” as a single, and get Obama on the track, all might be forgotten.

Rating: 3/5

K.T.S.E. — Teyana Taylor, June 22

“It be the ones who say they ride for you
It be the ones, the ones you love, them too
It be the ones who swear they real, not true
It be them ones, It be them ones” 

— Teyana Taylor, “Rose In Harlem”

Let’s get one thing clear: Teyana Taylor will always be a star. Just look at the “Fade” video, and you’ll know she was born for this. Despite her natural talent, she has long been the black sheep of the GOOD Music crew. She was signed back in 2012, dropped her debut album two years later, and has been largely in the background until this past weekend.

K.T.S.E. (an acronym for “Keep That Same Energy”) is a short, but strong sophomore showing for the Harlem native. In true R&B fashion, the project leans heavily on the themes of sex (“Hurry”), love (“No Manners”), and relationships (“Gonna Love Me”, “Never Would Have Made It”). She sings of trust issues (“Issues/Hold On”), a ménage à trois (“3Way”), and a sexual freedom dance track that would make Janelle Monae proud (“WTP”).

“Rose In Harlem” is the clear standout track, as Taylor rides a Stylistics sample with a fantastic flow. “Been through more than a lil’ bit,” she sings. “But I ain’t callin’ no names out/No, no free promotion.” The horns, drums, and snares perfectly complement her vocals as she warns, “Don’t get caught up, young girl.”

With a great voice, the ability to perfectly mesh rap and R&B, and a producer to match her talents, K.T.S.E. is a great sophomore album for this certified superstar.

Rating: 4.5/5

Kanye West may not be the most eloquent at times. He may be crass, self-aggrandizing, and anti-intellectual. That being said, these projects prove that, despite the media firestorm, he is still one of the most skilled producers in American music today. But don’t just take my word for it. Take a listen to all 36 tracks below!

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