For a guy known to be cantankerous, Kanye West plays awfully well with others: He was an excellent tag-team partner for Jay-Z on Watch the Throne, and his 2010 instant classic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy featured key contributions from the likes of Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and Bon Iver. He appears on seven of the 12 tracks on this much-buzzed first compilation for his G.O.O.D. Music label, though he dominates the proceedings even when he’s silent. Cruel Summer is a posse album struck in West’s image, full of the same idiosyncratic bombast that has fueled his biggest hits. He’s a benevolent host, letting each squad member show off his skills: Pusha T flexes his storytelling muscles, Kid Cudi gets a surrealist solo run on the humming ”Creepers,” and Big Sean tosses in some of his infectious brio. West’s generosity is rewarded when he steps away: The Yeezy-free group effort ”Sin City” is a crazy-dramatic piece of vice-and-religion robot rock, and ”The Morning” lets Raekwon and Common go ham over a hypnotic keyboard loop broken up by what sounds like a rasta drinking song.
Of course, he still saves the album’s biggest moment for himself. On ”The One,” he rides a martial piano roll and ups Jay-Z’s ”N—-s in Paris” brag, equating himself with even more alpha Michaels: ”Tyson, Jackson, Jordan, Michael Phelps.” If that sounds too audacious, it’s not; this is his party, and the man knows how to get the best from his guest list. A-