"Kids See Ghosts" Inspired Me to Get the Help I Needed
In the following essay from a guest author, rapper Kontos peels back the layers behind Kanye West and Kid Cudi's collaborative album, "Kids See Ghosts" The views in this article do not nessesarily reflect those of the editor.
When Kanye West promised us that we’d be getting 5 albums this summer, I wasn’t too sure what to think. I was excited, but I also had a bad taste in my mouth. Yeezy hadn’t been the type to be too consistent with deadlines. Mind you, he didn’t just promise us 5 albums, all produced entirely by himself. I was skeptical and couldn’t believe it. I didn’t agree with his recent stance and politics. Creatively, however, I still found myself being intrigued. Not because I thought that any of that was entertaining or worthwhile, rather because it was Kanye being Kanye on a level we had never seen before. He really was and has become the villain of all villains.
Kids See Ghosts is the epitome of Kanye being Kanye. While I don’t agree with anything Ye has had to say as of late, I can still acknowledge that when Kanye feels the world is against him, he is musically at his best. He feels he has something to prove. Unfortunately, that also means he’s going to be messy, chaotic and far from perfect. These traits have been the foundation and driving force to Kanye’s success. While all of this is going on, I’m peeling all of this back and realising how transparent Kanye is being regarding his mental health as of late.
Of course, this isn’t just a solo album. The question always knocked on our doors with a leading, “What if. What if Kid Cudi and Kanye West made a collab album?" Songs like "Heartless", "Gorgeous", and "Welcome to Heartbreak" lit the spark. Whether it was Cudi being credited as a songwriter or genuinely being featured, we had an abundance of examples and expectations to pull from. Kanye would bring Cudi into his world and try to bring the best out of him.
What is their universe...?
Kanye and Cudi can make you feel an abundance of emotions all at once.
Kids See Ghosts is a project that has Kanye West diving into Kid Cudi’s universe for the first time. Kanye is wearing his producer hat at the highest level imaginable, making sure that he is as selfless as possible and asking himself, “What does this artist need for me to bring the best out of them? What is their universe and what does it mean when it’s translated into sound?”
The album opens with a track titled, “Feel the Love,” featuring Pusha T on the opening verse. It is extremely cold. Those keys on the instrumental taking on a life of their own are the highlight of the album for me. They just show up and back away as they please. "Feel the Love" sounds like you’re in a car with the roof blowing off. You can stay in the car and hope that the roof stays on, only there’s bullets being fired your way and you need to fire back like a boss. Much like the ye album, these are little brush strokes. But when those strokes are brushing, they’re shining nice and bright. It also shows us that by using onomatopoeia, Kanye and Cudi can make you feel an abundance of emotions all at once. This reminds me of 808s more than ever. Ye sounding like a machine gun is pleasing to the ear. It’s daring, jarring, yet ultimately fascinating all at the same time.
A common theme I have noticed in the ye album and Kids See Ghosts is the feeling of empowerment and transparency. We haven’t experienced that since the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy era. It’s a grown up cry for help while also being a re-assuring warm blanket, assuring you that your growth is pain, but your pain is your growth. Any time I listen to this album, I think about one of the last tour stops of the Saint Pablo tour. Kanye and Cudi met each other on stage and hugged it out. That picture sticks with me. Every song on this album reminds me of that picture, two friends never leaving each other when it’s all said and done. It truly is art imitating life in its purest form.
This album sounds like something that was made directly after the Watch the Throne sessions. It’s as if Kanye time travelled to 2011 and never let up. As if he never made a Cruel Summer compilation and just kept going. Which makes you think: Things happen for a reason.
This is the most evolved Cudi and Kanye have sounded in years. “Fire” is guilty of being just that. This has both the sound and feeling like an onslaught of mosh pits and fire breathing dragons. This song is what some heroin would sound like if it could talk. Imagine Kid Cudi’s Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven album, but far more streamlined and accessible. This Kanye throwing himself into Cudi’s universe. You could argue that every song on here is a representative puzzle piece of Kid Cudi’s career. Every sound he has ever used is used on this album.
Kanye and Cudi’s sense for melody are as obvious as day and night (no pun intended). Kanye uttering five simple words of - “I love your shit talking” is a sense of belonging and goosebumps that you’d be hard pressed to ignore. It’s melodic. It’s messy. It’s 4am outside the club, thinking of your next move because the night isn’t over. Cudi offers the same sense of direction and emotion at the end and pleading, “Heaven, lift me up.” Its 2018, and both artists are still hyper sensitive to their gift of melody and showmanship.
“I don’t feel pain, anymore. Guess what, baby? I feel freeeeee!!!”
If somebody ever asks you to show them the hip hop equivalent to an acid trip, just show them, “Freeee (Ghost Town Part 2)” by Kids See Ghosts. This is the sequel to "Ghost Town" off of the ye album. Both parts were originally supposed to be on the ye album, with the Chicago rapper opting to put it on his solo project at the last minute. This is more than just hip-hop. This is psychedelic, stadium, steroid infused rock 'n' roll. With Ty Dolla $ign making an appearance, it paints the full picture. This track is freedom in its purest form.
The titular, “Kids See Ghosts” has a surprise feature in Mos Def. Unexpected is the understatement of the century. But it works and it works well. It’s an underwater apocalypse, feeling as though you are trapped in your own personal submarine. You can scream for help in that submarine, but nobody is going to hear you. "Kids See Ghosts", but the ghosts are finally here. As I write this, I’m realising just how important this song is as it leads into “Reborn.”
"Reborn" and "Cudi Montage" are pivotal moments to this album’s success. The track, “Kids See Ghosts” feels like the worst part of your mushroom trip. The confrontation and the darkness. Accepting that you have the ego you think you know and growing from it. The last two songs are the refreshing part of your trip. You are filled with joy, hope and possibilities, as if you have been packed with a fresh pair of double A batteries. It was made this way on purpose. "Reborn" feels like you’re ascending into the heavens after a long fought war with your own soul. Alongside "Cudi Montage", it is the warm blankets and re-assurance that all of us could use.
Kanye and Cudi have been a part of my life for a very long time. I was in the passenger seat holding the Late Registration CD in my hand. I remember listening to Graduation at summer camp and debating if “Drunk N Hot Girls” was the worst Kanye song of all time. I was questioning my identity and being a self-conscious teenager when we got 808s and the Man on the Moon series. Those albums were there for me. MBDTF gave me the kick in the ass I needed, and Yeezus was there for me when I got my heart broken during prom season.
This piece may seem to bare an unintentional bias. But it would be a detriment to my authenticity if I were to sit here and lie. Acting like I didn’t grow up with these two artists in my life. Every step of the way, they have been there for me. This became apparent to me when I went to the hospital this past week and finally got a proper diagnosis for Major Depression and Anxiety. Yes, maybe I did that on my own. Maybe I found that courage deep within. But truthfully, had it not been for Kanye admitting he is bipolar on these last two albums, and Cudi’s bouts with suicidal thoughts and depression throughout the Man on the Moon series. I would have never believed in myself. I really believe in music being made at the right time. I needed this. Every time Cudi or Kanye drop something, the timing is always right. It always contains the message that I need to hear, not the message I want to hear.
Our heroes are flawed and our heroes are human beings. But sometimes, human beings have to take their cape off, too. Self-care comes first. We all have holes on our Superhero cape, one way or another. But the first step is admitting that they exist.