It’s odd that two artists best known for taking creative risks would settle for treading familiar territory on their first official collaboration in years, but that’s exactly what Kanye West and Kid Cudi have done with Kids See Ghosts. That may not be a bad thing; by playing it relatively safe creatively, they can return to form and tiptoe around certain recent missteps that both have made in the not-so-distant past.
In Kanye’s case, his seven track solo album, Ye, was marred by half-hearted stabs at addressing the controversy he generated with his comments about slavery and Donald Trump and “free thinking.” That album was creatively unadventurous as well, but traded in a lot of its goodwill by sloppily grafting disparate pieces together at the 11th hour. It doesn’t help that it tried to buy some back by basically bribing cultural influencers that are Kanye’s last truly diehard supporters when he flew them out to Jackson Hole for the listening party. For what it’s worth, the listening party for their latest streamed from a far less remote location, but experienced far more technical hiccups, breaking the WAV app before more than a single song played.
For Kid Cudi, Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin’, itself a sort of musical mea culpa for Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven was criticized for being overlong and repetitive. After patching things up with his GOOD Music mentor, Cudi clearly brought his influence to some of Ye‘s better tracks, but Kids See Ghosts represented, if nothing else, an opportunity to put himself in the driver’s seat for a full project, bringing his unique brand of not-quite-surface introspection to the forefront, hopefully sublimating some of the more abrasive aspects of their previous works — the parts Kanye himself brought, for the most part.