If you dip your toe into the hot tub of hip-hop even occasionally, odds are you have heard a few new Kanye tracks making their way through the airwaves. You may not know, however, that G.O.O.D Music record-label founder Kanye West has been releasing a new song every week, and plans to continue to do so all the way through Christmas, under the umbrella of “G.O.O.D. Fridays.” Depending on your count, he has released 11 to 12 tracks thus far—some well-crafted songs, others disjointed rush jobs—to showcase his G.O.O.D Music-signed artists and a few friends. Let’s dig deeper, shall we?
If nothing else, on these approximately 12 tracks West certainly shows off his production chops: from “So Appalled” (which happens to be West’s self-proclaimed favorite of the bunch), an eerie, strings-driven track that features Jay-Z and RZA of Wu-Tang fame among others; to “Good Friday,” an excited, playful, more old-school West beat featuring piano that hearkens back to his “Dropout” days and that spotlights a Kid Cudi hook; to “Runaway Love,” an extremely absurd mash-up of Wu-Tang’s “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F— Wit” and Justin Beiber’s “Runaway Love.”
The songs are at their best when West’s featured guests—believe me, there are a lot of them—seem rejuvenated by the beats and bypass the sexist, recycled material seen too often in these Friday tracks. Among the shining stars are the aforementioned “So Appalled” and “Good Friday,” featuring Pusha T, Common and Big Sean et. al (my favorite), as well as “Monster,” featuring Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z while sampling Bon Iver for the chorus and the tight, concise “Don’t Stop!,” a track of the supergroup Child Rebel Soldier (West, Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell Williams). These tracks shine because the emcees featured go beyond the played-out rap lines about “bitches” and “drugs” perfected by Jay-Z through the years and now adopted by Drake and Lil’ Wayne, among others.
Perhaps the best verse of any of the songs, Minaj explodes on “Monster” to show her wittiest, most schizophrenic rhyming to date. She varies her delivery and flow, throws in some absurd voices, gets angry then funny—it’s all here for your listening pleasure. Mos Def provides G.O.O.D Fridays with its most lyrically dense verse on the underwhelming track “Lord Lord Lord.” “Cool ruler standing still sweating through the shade/He knew those lights only grew bright to fame/Dead wrong pageantry, lottery and games,” Mos spits over some atmospheric production by West. Is it political, is it cultural, is it nonsensical? Whatever it is, as per usual, Mos leaves the other rappers in thought-provoking shame. Cyhi the Prynce and Pusha T also provide solid efforts when featured.
There is a lot to love in these tracks, but there are some things even hip-hop savior West cannot get away with. “Runaway Love,” is distracted by the whining of Beiber, and as much as Raekwon tries to save the song, not even his gangster rhymes can overcome the flop of West’s overzealousness. On “Take One for the Team,” West attempts to jump on the dubstep bandwagon, and while interesting for a minute or two, the song is ruinous. Easily the most sexist song of the bunch, the rhymes are stale, the song is two minutes too long, and Keri Hilson seems out of place. Great songs like the “Power” remix and “So Appalled” are almost ruined by Swizz Beatz, who needs to quit hip-hop. Seriously.
Special mention must go out to “The Joy,” produced by legend Pete Rock to great effect.
Download all the G.O.O.D. Friday tracks at kanyewest.com/#good_fridays