Cruel Summer almost didn’t make it out in time to actually count as a summer release, but critics who listened to the Kanye West-led mixtape seem to think it’s sort of fitting. The hot days of summer are gone, and the album is seen as anything but hot.
Ryan Pearson of The Associated Press noted that the mixtape from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music falls short in the same way many other mixtapes do: “It’s a disjointed assemblage of rhyme styles and perspectives with no overarching musical direction. In short, a mixtape.”
He added that there is nothing wrong with mixtapes in general, but Cruel Summer is particularly disposable, filled with orchestral flourishes and catchy one-liners that ultimately add up to nothing.
It’s not for lack of talent that Cruel Summer is flailing, Pearson notes. Kanye West has a knack for surrounding himself with talent, from John Legend on his very first tour to a shortlived supergroup with Jay-Z and Pharrell, and Cruel Summer is no different.
The mixtape features Hit-Boy adding throbbing rhythms to “Clique,” ”Cold” and “Higher,” all standouts. R. Kelly joins the mixtape, adding vocals to “To The World.”
But despite some bright points, Pearson said Cruel Summer is ultimately a disappointment:
There’s more repetition than you would expect for an album with only a dozen songs (including five that had been either released or leaked online during the actual summer). West again quotes a Notorious B.I.G. line about three Mikes: Tyson, Jackson, Jordan. Only this time he lumps in Michael Phelps with the above group, saying he “had to take it to another realm. Because everything around me got me underwhelmed.” Unfortunately for hip-hop fans, it’s Cruel Summer itself that underwhelms.
Vibe was similarly hard on Cruel Summer, noting that it “indulges (Kanye West’s) worst instincts.” It added that instead of the cohesion, excitement, and creativity normally seen on West’s albums, there’s instead “ridiculous grandiose arena rap like the opener ‘To The World,’ mawkish snoozers like ‘The One’ and ‘Creepers,’ a tuneless Kid Cudi solo joint.”