In August of 2017, rumors started floating around that Kanye West and Kid Cudi were secretly working on a project together. No one was quite sure what to expect as everything surrounding the release had been rather tight-lipped. As I heard these murmurings, I did not get my hopes—Kanye had been temperamental (to say the least), Cudi was fairly quiet after admitting to his struggles with depression and suicidal urges and it seemed like each individual needed to work on themselves more than anything—ten months later “KIDS SEE GHOSTS” was dropped. A trippy, moody release that does not fit nicely into one subgenre, but retains its Hip-Hop/Rap identity without question. So, how does it hold up?
Honestly, this release is just OK. For the life of me, I cannot think of another record that sounds even remotely similar to it. As “Feel the Love” opens, the album’s artwork is an accurate representation of the release: eerie, yet whimsical. Slow, almost plodding at times, yet textured to add a life, a color to the instrumentation, it is like walking into a haunted house in the middle of the day. Everything is visible, yet the all-encompassing aura is suffocating, menacing and something just is not quite right. Admittedly, I greatly enjoy the atmosphere of the record. There is a tension between a dark, self-indulgent negativity and a patiently optimistic sense of hopefulness.
“Cudi Montage,” the release’s closer, perfectly exemplifies this; a sparse, ominous guitar (which happens to be a Kurt Cobain sample) opens before Cudi’s heavy, broken voice begins with a desolate pleading to God. With lines like “See ’em all strapped in an’ can’t move and I’m sinkin’ lower…’Cause I feel the world weighin’ on me heavy, tryna keep it steady,” it is clear that this is Cudi grappling with his pain. You can feel all-consuming nature of depression and suicide dripping across the entire track. Amazingly, the dark aspects seem to outweigh the hopeful elements, yet Cudi still calls out to God for help. Even as the darkness overwhelms the track, the chorus breaks through with a struggle, emotionally-drained and self-referential reminder to “stay strong” before a frenzied pleading with God, “Save me, Lord.” While it may seem cliché to some, this song manages to capture the experience of facing depression head-on. Everything around you is crashing down, the world is weighing on your shoulders, you cannot go on… but you go on—not because you have to, but because you want to. Every bar, every melody, every line in “Cudi Montage” is fought for. The beauty of the track was not caught on tape by a whim, Cudi earned it by clawing, tooth and nail, out of the emotional and mental grave and into the spotlight.
As subdued as “KIDS SEE GHOSTS” appears to be on the surface, there is so much more going on beneath it all that each listen reveals more and more about the internal struggles of the minds behind the release, and while I can honestly say the only song I truly loved was “Cudi Montage,” the rest of the tracks were also good, though not as engaging or complex. Regardless, I hope that there will be more collaboration between Kid Cudi and Kanye West in the future, if only to see how they are holding up in the future.