Released a week after Kanye West's messy eighth album, Ye, the eponymous debut effort from Kids See Ghosts -- West and Kid Cudi's rap superduo -- became inseparable from its predecessor's narrative, both warranting that album's merit and improving upon its ideas with superior production, imagination, and listenability. Kids See Ghosts is another seven-track effort recorded alongside a handful of others during West's so-called Wyoming Sessions. Following the arrivals of Pusha T's Daytona and West's Ye, Kids See Ghosts not only emerges atop the Wyoming Sessions ranks, but also as a top release in either artist's respective catalogs. Fully-realized and lushly layered, KSG is the culmination of a long and fruitful relationship between West and Cudi, one that peaked on 2008's emo-rap progenitor 808s & Heartbreak and continued over a decade
. No time is wasted here and, even though KSG satisfies, it leaves listeners craving much more. Continuing where Ye's insular and complicated mental health therapy session left off, KSG turns the darkness and confusion around with sharp focus and a dose of optimism. In top form, West handles most of the production -- from the Gorillaz-esque stomp of "Fire" to the haunting title track -- while offering choice verses alongside guests Pusha T (the Yeezus-y "Feel the Love"), Ty Dolla $ign ("4th Dimension"), 808s' comrade Mr. Hudson ("Cudi Montage"), and Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def) ("Kids See Ghosts"). Meanwhile, Cudi handles the bulk of the vocal duties and provides a figurative shoulder on which West can lean. This support is vital for KSG's allure, as the two bounce off each other effortlessly, an alchemy produced by their shared demons and struggles. For once, Cudi sounds like the one who has it together, the apprentice supporting his former mentor.
On an album of highlights, "4th Dimension" and "Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)" are standouts, as exciting and vital as anything West produced in his early-2000s golden years. Sampling Louis Prima's swinging holiday track "What Will Santa Claus Say," the former features KSG's best flow, which, when the hard beat clicks into step with Cudi's verse, is a thrill; while the latter track builds upon the brief glimmer of hope offered on Ye's "Ghost Town" in a bold and exciting moment of triumph as West proclaims, "Nothing hurts me anymore/Guess what, baby? I am free." That energy is peppered throughout, from the mantras of "Reborn" ("I'm so reborn/I'm moving forward") to the Kurt Cobain-sampling "Cudi Montage," where the song's namesake repeats "Stay strong/Lord, shine your light on me/Save me please." Kids See Ghosts is everything Ye wasn't, delivering a worthwhile listen in spite of the extended PR disaster that preceded its release. With Cudi as the yang to West's yin, the pair inch closer to finding peace and a light in the darkness.
A1 Feel The Love
A3 4th Dimension
A4 Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)
B2 Kids See Ghosts
B3 Cudi Montage