Is the label's debut compilation album going to make YMCMB and MMG tuck their respective summers in?
Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)
Two weeks ago, Rick Ross and his Maybach Music Group dropped MMG Presents: Self Made, Vol. 2, the sequel to last year’s release. Aside from a few gems, it was a disjointed effort. Like many hip-hop team compilations, it plays more like a collection of songs than a cohesive album.
It was the same story with the Lil Wayne-led We Are Young Money album in 2009. Even with flourishing stars Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga, it resulted in a forgettable album. Creating an project that gels thematically when you have so many voices and perspectives going at it for a full-length project is nearly impossible.
The last time it was done with significant impact was with Puff Daddy & the Family’s No Way Out in 1997, when Diddy somehow aligned Bad Boy all-stars The Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Lil’ Kim, and The Lox and whipped up a classic. But on August 7, lightning will strike again in the form of Kanye West and his G.O.O.D Music team's Cruel Summer. The answer to how West will accomplish what his peers Ross and Wayne have both failed at with their group showings can be summed up in three words: attention to detail.
Maybe it’s the fact that Kanye is a producer first. He’s a true one at that, not just a man that makes beats. The difference is that West thinks each song out to completion and then figures it into the greater good—the album. All too often, the mindset in creating a compilation album is to make a couple of hit records, like Young Money’s “Every Girl” and “Bed Rock,” and then round out the rest of the album with fillers. Kanye doesn’t do fillers.
The same way that each brick is important when building a house, every song is vital to West’s cause. He demands perfection, which means his accomplished, motley crew—easily the most diverse in hip-hop—of Kid Cudi, Pusha T, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, John Legend, and Common (with Cyhi the Prynce, Teyana Taylor, and Mr. Hudson as a second team) are being put through the ringer.
Premier artists being pushed to the limit with Kanye West functioning as both star player and coach can only be good for the music. Other crews have a Michael Jordan, but G.O.O.D. is the only squad boasting a Jordan and a Phil Jackson rolled into one. Look at how strong a record their first single, “Mercy," is thanks to each rapper realizing their full potential. Sean’s opener is hilariously witty. Pusha’s following verse is pure venom. Then Kanye’s brash bridge flawlessly sets 2 Chainz up for the grand slam. Now expect that for at least an hour with varied subject matter.
When asked about Cruel Summer by the media, Big Sean and Pusha T have been confident, but somehow clueless. They know the album will be amazing, it’s just that, even with the set nearing completion, they don’t know what’s on it. Verses are still being critiqued, edited, and beefed up. Beats, which are being handled by a who’s who of hitmakers like star rookie Hit-Boy, Mannie Fresh, and Q-Tip, are still being tweaked.
Similar to how Kanye and Jay-Z knew that even if they rapped the alphabet for an hour, their 2011 collaboration Watch the Throne would have sold records off their names alone, West surely is aware that he doesn’t have to try too hard to sell Summer. But it’s bigger than record sales. At the 2012 BET Awards last week, Kanye, on-stage accepting a trophy with Rick Ross and Birdman watching from their seats, graciously thanked Maybach Music and Young Money for upping the level of competition in the rap game. Still, come August 7, it's likely that G.O.O.D. will assert themselves as the best rap crew.
But hey, maybe a musical ass-kicking will make the next MMG and YMCMB projects that much better. One can only hope.