Revisiting Kanye’s 2018 multi-album summer takeover

Photo courtesy of Ryan Dorgan | New York Times

This week, Kanye West not only celebrated the four-year anniversary of KIDS SEE GHOSTS (June 7) — the seven-song collaborative album with his hopefully temporarily-estranged colleague Kid Cudi — but also his 45th birthday.

This was a monumental week for the man revered to be one of the greatest hip-hop artists ever. However, 2018 was when fans were in complete awe of Ye’s epic rapping and producing run bolstered by three timeless projects: Daytona, Ye and KIDS SEE GHOSTS.

The story begins in Wyoming, where Ye, his label G.O.O.D. Music and their president Pusha T hatched an idea to string together multiple seven-song albums for their artists and release them one week at a time. Wyoming was just beginning to become a safe haven and sanctuary, where Ye would seek peace, duck paparazzi and work on music without distractions.

The streak began on May 25, 2018, when Pusha T released his third studio album DAYTONA, executively produced by Ye. Giving a masterclass of grimy, sample-heavy beats for Push to insert his brash coke raps on top of, stunning cuts like “Santeria” — featuring at-the-time G.O.O.D. Music vocal prodigy 070 Shake (who we’ll get to a bit later) — “If You Know You Know” and “The Game We Play” all garnered DAYTONA album of the year nods from every corner of the game.

The next week, it was Kanye’s turn to step into the spotlight. In the midst of a media swarm surrounding his recent bipolar diagnosis and his outward, polarizing love for then 45th President Donald Trump, Kanye put together his most personal, raw and brief album to date with the quasi-self-titled ye (June 1).

With a fitting yet provocative “I hate being Bi-Polar it’s awesome” script on top of a photo he took of the beautiful Wyoming mountains for the album cover, ye left listeners excited, yet speechless, especially at the celeb-filled listening party at his Wyoming base.

Whether it be the troubling, eerie intro “I Though About Killing You,” the scandalous “All Mine,” the romantically emboldened “Wouldn’t Leave” and “No Mistakes” — directed at his then-wife Kim Kardashian — or 070 Shake’s astonishing performances on “Ghost Town” and “Violent Crimes,” ye was another bone-chilling, fan favorite album for his loyal fanbase.

But, he wasn’t done there. Using “Ghost Town” with Kid Cudi as a teaser, Kanye was back at it again the next Friday for KIDS SEE GHOSTS (June 8).

Simply put, KIDS SEE GHOSTS was phenomenal. It felt like there had never been an album constructed this uniquely or impressively in the history of hip-hop. Kanye had returned to delivering bars on songs like “Fire” and “Cudi Montage” that were equivalent to those at his peak. Cudi’s patented, infectious hums and harmonies over the psychedelic rock-rap fusion of production made the 24-minute listen feel like a journey through a wormhole.

This union between Ye and Cudi also made its way to the stage, as the duo headlined Tyler, The Creator‘s Camp Flog Gnaw festival that fall, bringing the chemistry and charisma of the album to life. KIDS SEE GHOSTS was meant to manifest into a TV series as well, as an animated short for the album — directed by longtime friend of the duo and beloved artist Takashi Murakami (who designed the KSG album cover) — was teased in 2020, but was never fully executed.

This G.O.O.D. Music run extended for two more weeks, with West executive producing albums for NasNASIR (June 15) — the sample-heavy, bold seven-song project that spurred the resurgence of one of the genre’s best lyricists ever — and Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. (June 23) — which saw the R&B icon put together some of her most quality work to date.

Additionally, Ye had planned to provide this same production stimulus for protege Chance The Rapper in a rumored album titled Good Ass Job, however this project never left the drawing board.

Ultimately, the way Kanye West and the multitude of artists that surrounded him in this era captured the attention and gaze of the entire hip-hop world is something that will never be forgotten. No matter how many people were in disagreement and were scolding his actions and proclamations, his music continued to live up to the divine standard he upholds himself to.

Whenever you discuss June 2018 in any musical context, the first name that will pop up in your mind will surely be Kanye West.

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