A Tale Of Two Ghosts: The Value Of Listening To 'Kids See Ghosts' Out Of Order
Hip-hop critics and fans alike have had time to dwell on what will arguably be the biggest release of 2018 — Kanye West and Kid Cudi‘s Kids See Ghosts. The pair fused their creative energies for a long overdue project that explores their own individual struggle with mental health across seven songs.
A crucial moment for hip-hop, the release didn’t come without a slight hiccup, one that would inevitably cause confusion with how the album and its themes were supposed to be digested. Ultimately, listeners were presented with an unexpected, second listening experience.
Released in Kanye fashion, Kids See Ghosts was unveiled in the late hours of the night during a listening party in Los Angeles (those not present at the event were able to watch it through the WAV app). The album was then released Friday morning on TIDAL before making its way to Spotify and other streaming services. In what should have been a smooth release, a noticeable error caught the attention of listeners — the tracklisting was in an incorrect sequence. GOOD Music and Def Jam issued a statement on the sequencing, calling it a “technical error” and offering the correct tracklist for the album.
With Kanye and Cudi using only seven songs to speak on themes such as perseverance and redemption, one can assume that sequencing is an integral component of how the album is supposed to be consumed. Still, listening to both the correct and incorrect album tracklists provided two enjoyable — but slightly different — experiences.
“4th Dimension” and its incorrect placement felt heavy as an opener in comparison to Ye and Cudi’s official selection, “Feel The Love.” The latter is a boastful introduction kicked off by Pusha T before the unsettling gun-like sounds of Kanye let loose in what comes off as a mocking of what people interpret his mental status to be. Atop all of this is Cudi declaring “I can still feel the love” until it practically becomes a mantra. It makes sense as to why “4th Dimension” is actually in the middle of the project and comes after “Fire.” Paired with “Kids See Ghosts” on the incorrect tracklist, the former track is a haunting welcoming into the mind of Cudi, who touches on being tired of running in conquest of inner peace. Lyrics like “Such a lost boy, caught up in the darkest I had / What’s the cost, boy? Losin’ everything that I had” are only emphasized in the following Cudi lines from Kids See Ghosts:
“I’m guessin’ I’m just sick of runnin’ / All this time searchin’ hard for somethin’ / I can hear the angels comin’.”
But there’s more of a balance with “4th Dimension” coming after “Fire,” with Cudi declaring he’s “On a mission livin'” in the latter.
“Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2),” a standout from the album, is the only song that is placed the same on both tracklists, serving as the fourth track. That it’s the mid-point on both sequences is significant because it’s arguably the album’s most triumphant moment. Hearing Kanye and Cudi jubilantly declare “I don’t feel pain anymore / Guess what, babe? / I feel free” above charging drums sets up both the correct and incorrect tracklists for what comes next — “Reborn” and “Feel The Love,” respectively. “Freeee” and “Reborn” make a better pairing though, the former emphasizing the latter’s theme of redemption.
Unlike the correct tracklist, the incorrect one finds “Reborn” — and not “Cudi Montage” — at the end of the album. The mistake provides a new perspective when digesting Kids See Ghosts as a whole. The almost six-minute-long “Reborn” finds the pair speaking on their personal mental health and comfort in dealing with those issues, with Cudi proudly declaring “Ain’t no stress on me Lord, I’m movin’ forward.” This is a contrast from “Cudi Montage” where the artist is pleading for guidance from God: “Lord shine your light on me, save me, please, Stay strong.”
The track is also accompanied by a sample of Kurt Cobain‘s song “Burn The Rain,” which is from the 2015 documentary film Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. There’s small doubt that the sampling of Cobain, who had a history of mental illness, wasn’t done purely for musical reasons. Kanye and Cudi relate to Cobain’s depression, suicidal thoughts, and mental battles that he endured as the frontman of the iconic grunge group Nirvana. While “Reborn” and “Cudi Montage” are noticeably different, they construct explicit emotions and thoughts that are needed for any astounding album closer.
A mistake that could have been crucial if physical copies were immediately available, this error was enlightening. It presents the same story but along two paths that offer a varied listening experience. Kids See Ghosts‘ track error mishap was a blessing in disguise.
Travis Grier is a freelance writer based in Baltimore who has written for Def Pen and Karen Civil. He can be found on Twitter at @yoyotrav.