The Nowhere Man


Forgive Kanye West: He's been terribly distracted. There's the immersion in the fashion world: "Dinner with Anna Wintour/Racing with Anja Rubik." There's his sneaker line with Nike: "Hold up, I ain't trying to stunt, man/But the Yeezys jumped over the Jumpman." There's the still unrealised creative aspirations: "I just meditate," he raps, "about how I could build a new Rome in one day." And of course, there's the new girlfriend, Kim Kardashian: "My girl a superstar all from a home movie."

These are more than hobbies; they're preoccupations. On Cruel Summer (G.O.O.D./Def Jam), the spotty new compilation from his music label from which all of the lyrics above are drawn, West is characteristically loose, veering from rapping about depression after the death of his mother to making it plain exactly what's at the forefront of his thinking lately.

This being a crew album, with a lot of voices to acknowledge, West is often nowhere to be found. Parts of this album —Sin City, The One, Creepers—feature what's easily the laziest music on any Kanye-related project.

They stick out especially because through the spring and summer West has been releasing singles, all of which are on this album, that show him at or near his best. Cold, with its nervy synths, Mercy, is a slow-and-low thumper with idiosyncratic twists: "Talking 'bout Mary, she gone off that molly/Now the whole party is melting like Dali," West raps.

West still has a complex about being underappreciated, but he's also not one to mind the house when he's distracted. Some of the best moments on this album belong to the snarling drug-dealer-obsessed Pusha T. Big Sean stands out on Mercy. The crew's most unlikely member, the smooth Nigerian pop star D'Banj, is reduced to some formless singing on The Morning.

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