Never in a million years or across a million parallel universes did I imagine this being what it is. I expected everything from “Erase Me” the album to “All of The Lights” the ep, but not a single time did my mind even approach “KIDS SEE GHOSTS.” Every song on this album is unique and constantly morphing in terms of style and genre; they’re distinct from anything either artist has ever made. Yet, it still manages to root itself in the artist’s strengths and past aesthetics. It’s the fusion of Yeezus and A Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven if those two albums had been as great as they should have been. Where ye was an intimate look into the mental state of Kanye West, Kids See Ghosts is a tour through the Inferno, an exploration of the chaos lurking behind the eyes of both rappers.
This chaos runs throughout the entire album, established primarily on a sonic level and secondarily on a lyrical one. “Feel the Love” exhibits this strategy from the beginning. While there’s something unsettling about Cudi’s echoing “I CAN STILL FEEL THE LOVE,” the true eeriness arises from the relative silence and its disruption by pitched down synths. It only escalates after a menacing guest verse from Pusha T, as the percussion comes in at full force. It’s like a tsunami after only seeing calm waters. But it goes further. You realize that one of sounds is actually Kanye West making guttural sounds and implementing it into the percussion. You later realize that there’s a whole passage of melodic grunting and banging drums. You are listening to Kanye West yell-grunt. The melody and vocal corrections are strong regardless. It sounds like the soundtrack to a car crash. And it’s amazing.
It’s so amazing because it is experimental but also because it is the best of both artists. Kanye’s verse on “Reborn,” like Cudi’s on “4th Dimension,” show the use of past powers in a hectic present. Kanye’s lyricism is reminiscent of his earlier work, but it is also different in expressing thoughts he’s only recently tapped into on ye. This revitalization of both artist’s style doesn’t just occur on an individual level. Rather, the teamwork on this album seems like more refined and matured versions of older collaborations. “Fire” sounds like a balanced, aggressive improvement on “Erase Me,” as there’s some similarity in the percussion and Kanye’s delivery. However, it’s so much more. The sound is much fuller. The drums march instead of beating uncoordinatedly and, most of all, it’s all rich and defined. The quality is so high that everything, from Cudi’s pitch correction on his hums to the samples, serves a purpose and is indispensable to the records character.
Looking to samples, they are not something that can go undiscussed with this record. “4th Dimension” is the logic behind this statement. The song borrows from a Christmas commercial, making a child friendly jingle into an ominous chant. Furthermore, the sampled laughter before Cudi’s verse is one of the creepiest moments on the record and it adds to the gloominess of his verse. The cackles rain down in a way that further assert this idea that we’re in a separate space between heaven and hell where we jump eloquently from the redemption of “Reborn” to the suffering of “Cudi Montage.”
The fact is, this album is the maximalist successor to Kanye’s recent album ye. It does everything and it does it well. If “Reborn” was not everything you wanted from the pair, then you never wanted anything at all. I must say, what a time to be alive.