June 8th, 2023 marks the 5th anniversary of Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s self-titled collaborative album, Kids See Ghosts. Released on June 8, 2018, via Def Jam, Wicked Awesome, and G.O.O.D. Music, Kids See Ghosts was the third release from Kanye’s infamous 2018 “Wyoming Sessions.” Earlier that year, he recorded a series of 7-track albums at his ranch in Jackson Hole. Pusha T’s now-classic DAYTONA launched the campaign, followed by West’s Ye album. A week later Kids See Ghosts arrived in its entirety. Nas’s NASIR and Teyana Taylor’s KTSE preceded KSG and each of these projects was primarily produced by Kanye West, along with additional co-producers.
Kids See Ghosts contains features Pusha T, Ty Dolla $ign, and Yasiin Bey. Upon release, it was one of the most acclaimed albums from those Wyoming sessions. Although their first collaborative album, the working relationship between Kanye West and Kid Cudi created defining moments in hip-hop. Still, the two had a number of fallouts before joining forces as Kids See Ghosts. Here is a look back at the album for its anniversary.
The Result Of A Strong Chemistry
Before Kids See Ghosts came out in 2018, Kanye West and Kid Cudi had developed a close working relationship. From 2008-2013, Kid Cudi was one of the flagship artists signed to West’s G.O.O.D. Music label, releasing his first three albums on the imprint. He was also the only artist on the G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer compilation to have his own solo track. Still, Cudi left an indelible imprint on Ye’s catalog, from 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to Yeezus, and The Life Of Pablo. Of course, Ye helped introduce Kid Cudi to the world, having heavily contributed to Kid Cudi’s first two studio albums, Man On The Moon: The End Of Day and 2010’s Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. Eventually, Cudi left G.O.O.D Music in 2013.
Kanye West and Kid Cudi have clearly influenced each other and brought the best out of each other on a track, which is what made Kids See Ghosts such a successful effort. Following 2015’s Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1, the two had publicly exchanged jabs before making up. Kids See Ghosts was an artistic triumph following the lukewarm reception to Kanye’s previous album and his pro-Trump rhetoric. The reconciliation between close collaborators is also what made the album so exciting. At 7 short songs and a 24-minute runtime, the album lived up to high expectations.
An Eclectic Blend of Sounds
The song “4th Dimension” contains a sample of Shirley Ann Lee saying that “you only want two and a half minutes” or “three minutes max” for a good song. Kanye West approached every 2018 project with this idea. Kids See Ghosts still manages to deliver enough quality music to make a strong impact with a short runtime.
The album featured Kanye’s best rapping out of the five Wyoming releases, easily surpassing Ye which was widely considered a disappointment by many. However, there are many similar sonic themes across the project. “Freeee,” for example, is a sequel to “Ghost Town” and certainly outshines its predecessor with the help of Ty Dolla $ign. However, compared to Ye, Kanye’s significantly more clever and focused. Similarly, Kid Cudi also sounds just as revitalized on this project. He sounded healed and confident, especially in emotional songs like “Reborn” and “Cudi Montage.”
Kids See Ghosts is unpredictable in its sound and approach, as evidenced by the explosive “Feel The Love,” “4th Dimension,” which flips a Christmas song, and the Kurt Cobain-sampling “Cudi Montage” — immediate highlights from the project.
A Standalone Classic
Much like their previous collaborations, the two brought the best out of each other. The production of Kids See Ghosts is eclectic and layered, drawing psychedelic influences and flipping obscure samples. However, they only delivered one rare performance of their album together at Tyler, The Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw festival in 2018. Unfortunately, four years later, they fell out once again. In 2022, Kanye West took issue with Kid Cudi’s friendship with Pete Davidson, who was dating Kim Kardashian amid her divorce from Ye.
Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s supposed final collaboration was on Pusha T’s “Rock N Roll” from 2022, which was recorded prior to their disagreements. Kid Cudi specified that he and Kanye would not work together in the future. Because of that, Kids See Ghosts stands on its own as a landmark collaboration for hip-hop in the 2010s. Five years later, the album sounds fresh as ever and its quality has not been matched by albums from Kanye and Cudi since.