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The Singles Bar: Kanye West, Jay-Z and Big Sean, "Clique"

If there's one word for the sound of Cruel Summer so fair, it's "operatic." The first three songs to leak from the upcoming G.O.O.D. Music collaboration—"Mercy," "Way Too Cold" (formerly Theraflu) and "New God Flow"—have been full of booming boasts, ominous synths, and enough disembodied voices to make up an "O Fortuna" choir.

We got  a taste of the album's third single, "Clique" earlier this week, and the full version, which dropped today, is very much of a piece with what we've heard so far: hard drops in the verses, demonic voices in the chorus, the seemingly obligatory "Swerve, swerve, swerve."

Big Sean starts us off doing his Big Sean thing. He’s half goofy class clown and half badass rapper, “killing everything” he sees. It’s a schizophrenic routine, talking about spa days and bragging “I’m the f—ng villain;” if we have any problems with Big Sean as a rapper, it’s that he’s very convincing in the first identity and unconvincing in the second.

Jay's verse is his only appearance on the album, and he makes it count. As G.O.O.D.'s self-proclaimed "drug-dealing cousin", he bounces over the synth pulses with a litany of the famous names in his own clique—Rihanna, Beyonce, LeBron—before going double-time to give a quick lesson in the traditional purchasing units of cocaine. Hova's painting well within his familiar frame here, but like a rock band noodling around their '60s hits, it's still a pleasure to see a master at work.

Kanye finishes up, with Kim Kardashian Superstar-endorsing verse we heard earlier this week. Like a lot of late-Kanye it's a parade of gloriously random references (George Tenet,Tom Cruise's divorce) mixed with some off-the-wall rhymes. One sample: "I'm way too black to burn from sun rays / So I just meditate at the home in Pompeii / About how I could build a new Rome in one day." That's a trip from race to hubris to tragedy to ambition in three lines.

The verdict? Nothing in "Clique" matches the raw swagger of "Mercy," but the single more than holds its own again "New God Flow" and "Way Too Cold."


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