Kanye West’s critical success is his own enemy; the peerless consistency of his catalog shifts a listener’s expectations into stratospheric territory the second his name is mentioned. So while the rapper’s G.O.O.D Music posse debut, Cruel Summer, can and will largely be viewed — and judged — as a West venture, it’s his compatriots inability to measure up to his self-imposed standard that leaves it feeling light and unfulfilling. Pusha T (“New God Flow”) and 2 Chainz (“The One”), as well as guests including Raekwon, R. Kelly and Ghostface Killah, shine, but simultaneously highlight the less-than-impressive impact of G.O.O.D members including Cyhi the Prince, Kid Cudi and Common.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t excel — particularly in its assortment of supreme beats, courtesy of a slew of knob-turning top dogs including Watch The Throne standout Hit Boy. On “Clique,” his minimal beat sets the lavish table at which Hov joins West and protegé Big Sean for the album’s most flavorful cut. Earlier, Warp Records’ Hudson Mohawke assists on the Kells-featuring opener “To the World,” during which West repurposes Rick Ross’s “Hold Me Back” and chants the genius political mantra “Mitt Romney, Don’t pay no tax.” There are occasional gems here. But undoubtedly no West-ian gold.