Listen to This: ‘Kids See Ghosts’ and Nas’ ‘NASIR’ stunning hip-hop records
I wasn’t going to do this, but we might as well: Let’s take a deep look at two more records produced by Kanye West that have come out this month. One is a by supergroup consisting of himself and Kid Cudi called Kids See Ghosts, and the other is the triumphant return of New York City emcee Nas.
I’m not going to go into a long diatribe explaining the origins of these records, since I already did that two weeks ago when I reviewed the new records from Pusha T and Kanye West. But to put it simply, Kanye has been working on a whole bunch of music, and so far we’ve gotten four mini-records with his production all over them.
With that said, let’s get straight into it.
“Kids See Ghosts” is the self-titled debut from the group comprised of Kanye and Cudi. And despite Kanye’s lackluster performance only the week before on “ye,” “Kids See Ghosts” is incredible.
Kanye and Cudi take a hard, experimental edge to “Kids See Ghosts.” The record’s opening track, “Feel the Love,” opens ordinarily enough with another hard-hitting verse from Pusha T.
Quickly, though, the track takes a hard turn, with Kanye mimicking gun shot sound effects in a menacing, screamed voice that almost sounds like something you would hear on an experimental record from a band like Swans or Tool. Describing the effect in text makes it sound corny, but it really brings an unexpected, daring harshness that Kanye has never delved into this fully.
This experimentation sets the tone for the whole project. Mid-album cut “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” sees Kanye and Cudi soaring triumphantly above whatever issues plague their lives. Their epic, booming vocals when they shout “I am FREE” serve as a delicious counterpoint to Ty Dolla $ign’s more subdued vocals.
Kanye’s signature production styling gets amazingly weird on this record, especially on “4th Dimension” that heavily features a sampling from a 1940s Christmas song by Louis Prima. The producer’s commitment to always finding the most interesting sample possible pays off on this track, and throughout the rest of the record.
I could gush about this album all day, but we need to talk about Nas’ newest, “NASIR,” which dropped more or less by surprise last week.
Nas is as good as he ever was, and he’s notably the first artist in this string of Kanye-produced records to produce a conscious rap album. While Pusha T saw fit to brag about drug dealing and Kanye and Cudi turn to more abstract themes, Nas squarely takes on issues in America, most notably institutional racism.
As always, the hyper-lyrical emcee glides over beats that are, in this case, expertly produced by Kanye. The production is especially strong on “Cops Shot the Kid,” a hectic, nervous track that highlights the fear many people, especially African Americans, have of the police.
Later album cut “everything” is truly beautiful, featuring some powerful singing from Kanye and The-Dream. The two serve as a stirring counterpoint to Nas’ straightforward rapping style. The track builds to a stunning peak over its 7-minute run-time.
Thanks to Kanye West’s swath of albums that came out over the past month, the rapper-producer has managed to create some of the most stunning hip-hop of the past few years. Even if “ye” isn’t a classic the way the others are, three out of four sure ain’t bad.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan.