For the most part, creative partnerships are inherently volatile in nature. Based on coexistence between two strong personalities and their at-times conflicting visions, striking the balance is a plight that has left many interpersonal relationships charred. Whether it’s Lennon & McCartney, Lauryn Hill and The Fugees or Cube & Dre, their dynamics all bore scars and wounds that in some cases, will never heal.
In the case of Kid Cudi & Kanye West, there was a muddied period where errors in communication and onstage barbs made it seem as though they’d become another one of those formerly fruitful teams. Sparked after what seemed to be an amicable split from his “big brother” Kanye’s G.O.O.D Music stable, a series of crossed wires and subtle prods would soon escalate to the point where Cudder verbally eviscerated Kanye on Twitter over what he saw as disloyal behavior in September of 2016. The next day, Kanye hovered above the crowd at a Saint Pablo tour stop and unloaded his retort in his protégé’s direction:
“I am so hurt. I feel so disrespected. Kid Cudi, we are two black men in a racist world. … Don’t ever mention my name in a bad manner, none of y’all.”
A mere 6 days later, Kanye extended the olive branch to Cudi, declaring him to be “the most influential artist of the past 10 years.” An accolade that could arguably be assigned to either men, it would take a further two years until the two would lay every last remnant of ill feeling to rest on their collaborative project Kids See Ghosts. Lauded for its therapeutic honesty and sonic experimentation, the album still feels as fresh today as it did upon its release on June 8th last year. More than capable of acting as the perfect aural accompaniment for one another’s material, the anniversary of Kanye’s Wyoming spree of records seems like a fitting time to examine who’s got the bragging rights over their collected catalog.
Christian Dior Denim Flow
For any long-serving Kanye devotee, there’s no way to replicate the thrill of the unknown created by the G.O.O.D Friday series. Like clockwork, a new song would emerge every week- with the exception of the hare-brained artistic alchemy of “Runaway Love” with Justin Bieber and Raekwon arriving on a Monday- and set the internet alight. Whilst it was an immensely exciting time in hip-hop overall, one of the undeniable peaks came in the form of “Christian Dior Flow.”
Awash in the sort of sweeping grandeur that was a calling card of Ye at the time, this star-laden track has no shortage of highlights – including a typically stellar verse from Lloyd Banks. But no-one was outshining Kanye during a name-dropping spree that rivals The Game at his most boastful. Although Cudi’s declaration that other “other n****s copy, I’m the image” feels like a broader epithet for his whole career, Kanye’s advances towards a fleet of supermodels and remarks about cruising with Dicaprio epitomizes the hedonistic life that the track’s title refers to.
I’m in the car with Leo and the Benz swerve
I heard Bar was friends with Esti Ginzburg
Coco Rocha, Kate Mimosa
Alessandra Ambrosio, Anja Rubik and Olga
Kurylenko, tell her I’m very single
Abbey Lee too, I’m a freak, boo
I’m wildin’, I’m on a thousand
I wanna see Irina Shayk next to Doutzen
Whatever U Want (GOOD Music Remix)
Among all of the G.O.O.D Music alumni that have grievances against Ye, few have been as downright drawn-out than Consequence’s feelings of displacement. Unveiled at a time when things were far more harmonious, the remix of his 2010 single “Whatever U Want” was a platform to display how the disparate styles of the label’s leading lights could mesh together. Rather than long, tangential verses, each artist is given two all-too-brief windows to shine and between the pair, it’s Kid Cudi’s gravitas that allows him to stroll away with the W. Though his bars are far from overly complicated, it’s his sheer affability and celebratory tone that comes through in spades.
Okay, Mr. Moon Man, has arrived
And to them lame n***s keep the middle finger high
I’m kinda like my mind, would you mind if we fly
Not rhymin’ in metaphor, talkin ’bout G4
The precursor to Cudder’s WZRD project and Kids See Ghosts itself, this jaunty rock n’ roll number “Erase Me” long demonstrated how many lightyears stood between Ohio’s finest at the height of his powers. Released as a promotional single for Man On The Moon 2, the Jim Jonsin-helmed track aligns the two for a rumination on the hazardous relationships of the past. Even though he doesn’t have a verse in a conventional rap sense per se, it’d be disingenuous to act like Cudi isn’t the star of the show here. The enaction of his rockstar fantasies, Cudi’s versatility is not to be discounted. In fact, it’s a crucial aspect of what’s made him such an enduringly exciting artist to behold.
It’s like I’m her new nightmare, she ain’t escaping
It makes me feel a bit complete
Knowing someone you love don’t feel the same way about ya
Memories they soon delete
Make Her Say (Poke Her Face)
Upon its arrival in 2009, Kid Cudi’s major label debut Man On The Moon: The End Of Day felt less like a conventional album and more like the birth of a new superstar. Whether or not he’s ever reached those heady heights again may be up for debate, but MOTM retains its luster a decade after it first descended like a meteor from the outer reaches.
Gimmicky as it may have seemed at the time, even “Make Her Say (I Poke Her Face)” has weathered the ravages of time remarkably well. Although Kid Cudi’s every utterance on the track may ooze charisma, Ye is spitting intellectualism that might have you thinking that he persevered through that ill-fated but oft-referenced college degree. Did he write it? Who knows. But it doesn’t detract from that undeniable sense of light-hearted cool.
Getting brain in the library cause I love knowledge
When you use your medulla oblongata
And give me scoliosis until I comatoses
And do while I’m sleep, yeah a little osmosis
And that’s my commandment you ain’t gotta ask Moses
More champagne, more toasts-es
More damn planes, more coasts-es
And fuck a bus, the Benz is parked like Rosa, ohsa
Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1
Much has been made of the healing qualities of Kid Cudi’s humming, particularly the euphoric feeling it can give the listener. That said, there’s plenty who’d argue that Cudi’s exalted vocals on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1” are every bit as capable of lightening the load. Whether consigned to chorus duty or not, there’s no denying that it’s the featured artist on this TLOP favorite that takes precedence. Considering it also features one of the most widely parodied Kanye lines of all time, Cudi steals the top billing from right under Ye’s nose on this glittering production from Young Metro.
You’re The Sun In my Mornin’
Babe, Nothin’ Unwanted
Can’t Look In My Eyes
The track that would evolve into “Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now,” “Can’t Look In My Eyes” feels like being granted direct access into a studio session between Ye and Cudder. Comprised of the instrumental from Daft Punk’s “Son Of Flynn” and a snippet of Michael Jackson’s “You Rock My World”, what rests in between is a half-baked verse from Kanye whilst a pre-Satellite Flight Mescudi is firing on all cylinders. In many ways a throwback to his mixtape days, Cudi eschews the more melodic flow in favor of bars on top of bars. It pays off sublimely.
Pardon my wizard talk, but I’m elevated
No drank, no tree and I’m levitated
I got my own empire, I’m the baby
I ain’t taking care of nobody but my daughter and my mom
Places to go cause I need to build a travel log
I travel while you jake ni**as run a blog
Now run along, I got some shit that needs posting
While I’m winnin’ livin’ life, skippin’ grinnin’ on em
All hail King Wizard in the fuckin’ house
Been chill for a minute quiet as a mouse
Now I got the juice, call me Bishop when you see me round
I be showin’ love, showin’ love baby, dap and pound
Whilst KIDS SEE GHOSTS seems intended to elevate you to a higher plane of consciousness as a whole, never is this more resoundingly carried through than on “Reborn.” The sound of two newly contented men that have transcended their demons and making their way towards a brighter tomorrow, the track is an absolute joy to behold.
Focused on retaining the serenity with his lullabylike flow, Cudi does a fantastic job of bringing his journey full-circle. That said, Kanye’s starkly poignant confessional can’t be beaten. A verse that nearly rendered him in tears during their Camp Flog Gnaw headline show, Ye dispenses with his hulking ego in order to have a frank discourse with an audience that very nearly watched him completely self-destruct before our eyes.
I was off the chain, I was often drained
I was off the meds, I was called insane
What an awesome thing, engulfed in shame
I want all the rain, I want all the pain
I want all the smoke, I want all the blame
Cardio audio, let me jog your brain
Caught in the Audy Home, we was all detained
All of you Mario, it’s all a game
Free (Ghost Town Pt. 2)
In the lead-up to The Grammy’s, dispatches from the G.O.O.D Music camp revealed that KIDS SEE GHOSTS had entered “Freee (Ghost Town Pt 2) for consideration in the “Best Rock Song” category. Left in the throes of an extended period of creative stagnation, it’s a claim that makes a lot more sense than it may seem on paper. Laden with colossal drums and discordant guitar, the sequel to YE’s finest offering does certainly meet the criteria, containing more life than most of the rock efforts that emerged over 2018. As established on “Erase Me,” it’s a lane that Cudi excels in and his vocal capacity ensures that it’s the case once more.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Feelin’ I’m out of my past life
Died and came back twice
Now I’m free
Made evident by its warped reinterpretation of Louis Prima’s “What Will Santa Say” and disorienting instrumental, “4th Dimension” is among the most aptly named bangers in recent memory. Constructed by Ye, Mike Dean, and Noah Goldstein, the production would be the star of the show if it weren’t for the boisterousness of both artists’ verses. A closely run race at every turn, both Cudi and Yet are in supremely high form, though the former’s flow narrowly edges it on the final hurdle.
Sittin’, waitin’ for me slippin’, yeah, I’ll see you in hell
Tell the cougar get up off me, no, my soul ain’t for sale
All the evils in the world, they keepin’ on me for real
I really hope the Lord heard me, we all live in sin
Kids See Ghosts off the ropes, Ric Flair on your bitch
Now this the theme song, this the theme song
The put the beams on, get your, get your dream on
Verdict- Kid Cudi
Steeped in the melancholic strains of an unreleased Kurt Cobain composition, “Cudi Montage” is a touching conclusion to their first collaborative project. Cudi’s ear for melody allows him to depict the familiar feelings of helplessness in his own unmistakable style. but it’d be wrong to deny the power of one of Kanye’s most lucid and socially mindful verses of late. An indictment of the gang violence that plagues not only his native Southside but thousands of Americans around the nation, it’s a sharp detour that brings the project from internal battles to widespread problems that affect society at large.
Caught with the rifle with the long reach
Just another cycle of the lonely
All growin’ up in environment
Where doin’ crime the requirement
They send us off to prison for retirement
Hopefully Alice Johnson will inspire men
Far from a slight on his genius, Cudi’s triumph over Kanye is a testament to the fact that he has always harbored the ability to coax the best out of his protégé. Over the years, Cudi has struggled with finding his artistic voice whilst weathering the storm of his mental health issues. Yet when he teams up with Kanye, he recaptures the spirit that made Ye defer to him as the most influential artist of the decade. Now that they’re back in tandem once more, we can but hope that this renaissance continues.