Westworld: ‘Ghosts’ is Kanye at his absolute wackiest

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Braden Hajer, Copy Editor & Columnist

TL;DR

“Kids See Ghosts” is surreal in the best way possible. The instrumentals, the vocals, the production… Everything about this album is bonkers. It all combines to create some unmatched moments in the Kanye West discography and is generally an unforgettable, irreplaceable experience. However, it’s held back by two tracks that are merely fine, something that cannot be ignored on a 23-minute project. 

Rating: A

Favorite Tracks: “Feel The Love,” “Kids See Ghosts”

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At one point in my “ye” review I mentioned how repeated usage could have desensitized people to the descriptor “beautiful,” and how its impact needed to be reinforced for the upcoming pack of songs. The same disclaimer applies to “Kids See Ghosts,” but with the word “wacky.” I doubt a single review has passed without calling something “wacky” or “strange,” but I cannot emphasize this enough: nothing Kanye West has ever done has come anywhere near this album on the wack-scale. This applies to the vast majority of the tracks, so to not repeat myself constantly, just know that every song is significantly wild.

“Kids See Ghosts” is a 2018 collaboration between Kanye West and Kid Cudi, as well as another experiment with the mini-album format. In that regard, I find it to be just as successful as “ye.” It’s equally flabbergasting how much content is packed into 23 minutes. The production is also just as stellar, if more avant-garde, than that featured on “ye,” West’s solo project released just one week earlier.

I think my broad thoughts on this album can be summed up in one anecdote. When my friend first listened to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” back in late March, he messaged me the next day saying “it was insane. Really good real ascension sh*t.” I don’t know that I could describe “Kids See Ghosts’” general strengths in a better way.

“Feel The Love” is a showstopping opening track. The music bed, for as minimalist as it is, has a strange level of nuance to it. Kid Cudi’s chorus is, plainly put, “really ascension sh*t.” It pierces my soul in an indescribable way as it reverberates through the cosmos. It’s immediately followed by a killer verse from Pusha-T.

But really, nothing compares to what’s probably my favorite Kanye West moment of all time: Kanye’s gun onomatopoeia. It just comes completely out of nowhere and sweeps me off my feet every single time I hear it. It’s passionate, absurd, loud and just generally completely ballistic… and yet it’s somehow extremely catchy? I have no idea, but I absolutely adore every second of it. This is somehow probably the catchiest song on the entire album, an unbelievable feat considering how surreal its melodic lines are.

It’s followed by “Fire,” another fantastic track. The instrumentation absolutely slaps, complete with a gorgeous melancholic flute line, abrasive and borderline pitchless guitar chords, simple percussion and glued together with some iconic Kid Cudi humming, an edition that has universally improved every track its ever been featured on.

I love how Kanye’s taunts at the start of the song blend seamlessly into his actual verse, creating a swell of energy as the track continues. Kid Cudi’s chorus is simple but phenomenally catchy. The track ends with a few more guitar chords that are, once again, nearly impossible to dissect, a quality that is exclusively to their benefit.

“4th Dimension” is the point at which I can no longer avoid the usage of the words. This track is simply bizarre in the best way possible. Yes, the sample is insane, coming from a song entitled “What Will Santa Claus Say” yet reversed to surreal and downright-phantasmagorical effect. Yes, Kanye’s verse is equally disgusting and amazing. Yes, the percussion is hand-crafted to perfection. But to focus on any of that would be criminal when we could talk about the demonic baby laughing. Just… WHAT? It happens once in an interlude and is then never touched upon ever again.  It’s fundamentally unsettling and horrifying but I cannot help but love it. This right here is, without a doubt, the most bizarre and nonsensical production choice Kanye West has ever made, and I support it wholeheartedly. Even if you think otherwise, you must admit: Kanye West is no coward.

Then “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” happens. I don’t know that I can really describe this song, but I do know that I find it incredible. I suppose the one thing I can really comment on are Ty Dolla $ign’s beautiful, lush vocal harmonies in the refrain of the track. After such an intense and mind-bending rest of the song, to be contrasted by such soaring and deep chords and moments of complete silence is an unforgettable, shattering experience.

“Reborn” is the tamest track on the album. Kid Cudi’s chorus is, like, 75% of this five minute song, so at the very least it is quite catchy. As you can probably tell, though, I find this track to be just a bit too repetitive. Cut it down 30 seconds and you’ve got me, but to have such a long-winded, simple chorus repeat over and over again is a lot to listen to. There’s no off-the-wall production to counterbalance this, either. The instrumental, while perfectly suitable, is kept in the background for most of the track. It’s a fine song but there’s nothing here that really “wows” me.

Unlike the title track, “Kids See Ghosts.” Now here’s an instrumental. The contrast between the pounding bass, piercing mallet ostinato and ethereal, ghostly chords is unbelievable. I cannot stress enough how incredible the synth production, arrangement and composition is in this song. They’re tender, subtle, intricate… Really just mind-blowing. The vocals are soft, the melodies catchy yet haunting. 

And on top of all of this, Kanye West drops the hottest verse of the album and a top-tier verse even considering his entire discography. One of my personal favorite moments is: “I like breakfast in bed, but I love breakfast and head/for anybody who said that I was better off dead/Told ’em, ‘Don’t ever believe nothin’ that you ever read’/Got a Bible by my bed, oh yes, I’m very Christian/Constantly repentin’ cause yes, I never listen.”

The fact that this song was made by human beings is baffling to some extent. How do you even come up with a composition like this? It’s wild, and I’m here for every second of it.

“Cudi Montage” is a fine ending, though I don’t have much to say. The music is, once again, certainly ethereal and intricate, but to a lesser degree than many of the earlier tracks. Most of the vocal lines and melodies are perfectly fine but generally unimpressive. West’s verse on gang violence tearing apart America definitely hits hard and is the standout moment of the track. As with many of the instrumentals, it’s difficult to quantify all of the fascinating madness unfolding before my ears, but I’ve tried my best in this review.

“Kids See Ghosts” is a fully unique musical experience. I don’t know that any other musical duo on planet Earth could ever create such an engaging, wild collection of seven tracks. I love the vast majority of this album, but “Reborn” and “Cudi Montage” are just a bit too slow for me considering the structure of the rest of the project. Ultimately,  I highly recommend it if you want to melt all of your brain cells.

And with that said, there’s only one more album to cover. You know it, I know it. Be sure to join me next time for the finale to Westworld with “Jesus Is King.” Don’t forget to tell us how you feel about this one on social media. You can find me on Twitter @bhajerCT or @centraltimes. Use the hashtag #KanyeWestworld to comment.

“Happy listening.”

Audio and video clips contain explicit content and are property of Universal Music Group, 2018.