Kid Cudi is looking more and more like the Kurt Cobain of rap. Like the Nirvana frontman, the...
DJBooth Album Review
It’s a tribute to the strength of Cudi’s music that his most loyal fans will fight to the death to defend their hero – he could rap the phonebook and they’d buy it. It’s also a tribute to the strength of his music that an army of haters have sprung up, ready to trash him at every opportunity – even if he made undeniably classic music. This review isn’t for either of those groups. This review is for those the quieter majority who, like myself, inhabit the middle ground of planet Cudi. We felt the undeniable energy of Day N’ Nite and will gladly throw on Man on the Moon if the mood hits, but often find ourselves unable to hear what all the fuss is about. My fellow non-lovers, non-haters (also known as reasonable, intelligent people), will listen to Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager and find themselves underwhelmed.
A large part of Mr. Rager’s dulled impact can be simply explained by familiarity. When Cudi’s electro haze, THC-soaked style first hit our eardrums we’d never really heard anything like it before. But now, more than a year later, his voice has been broadcast (almost) as often as Gucci Mane’s, so when Mr. Rager’s lead single REVOFEV dropped, a sense of “been here, heard this” lurked beneath the song’s anthemic “whoa whoa whoa” calls and whispered spoken raps. For a song whose title suggested both revolution and evolution, it was pretty predictable, at least by Cudi standards. Early returns from MOTM2 similarly failed to catch fire. The somnambulant Wild’n Cuz I’m Young could only ironically only hold the attention of those higher than Kilimajaro, title track Mr. Rager builds and builds but never really takes off, and while Mojo So Dope creates a superbly crafted sonic backdrop, Cudi falls back into his comfort zone with a mid-tempo flow. Unlike his hero Kanye, who for better or worse re-invented himself and expanded his sound on every album, Cudi seems content to trace the blueprint he laid down on the original Man on the Moon.
Of course copying one the most innovative and creative albums of the last few years isn’t such a bad thing, and ironically some of Mr. Rager’s most exciting moments come when Cudi intersperses his avant garde sound with more established influences. For me the album’s real “oh sh*t!” moment comes on These Worries, a song that takes Cudi’s ambiently pounding template and adds….ready for this?.... Mary J. Blige. No one does pained soul better than MJB, and her presence gives the song a real sense of purpose and emotion largely absent on MOTM2. You can also add the addictively hypnotic GHOST! to that list, which finds No I.D. and Emile taking what sounds like the melody from Whitney’s Saving All My Love and transforming it entirely, with Cudi sounding a striking note of hope. Similarly opening tracks Scott Mescudi vs. The World brings in hitmakers Cee-Lo and The Smeezingtons for an entertaining jam, while current single Erase Me walks some more standard pop-rock line. On this album it feels adventurous, and Cudi deserves credit for floating out a concept album at a time when we’re drowning in a sea of packaged singles masquerading as albums. Or at least I assume it’s a concept album. Frankly I have neither the time not the weed stash to completely verify if the album’s transformative story arc holds true. Those who do will have to let me know.
I realize this review may seem overly harsh, but when you create a higher standard, you’re held to a higher standard, and Cudi became the breakthrough artist of 2009 precisely because his work was so out of the box. Of great men, great things are expected, and unfortunately so far it seems like Scott Mescudi is struggling to shoulder the enormous weight of those expectations, both personally, professionally and musically. But it’s important to remember that this is really just the beginning for Cudi. In ten years we’ll (hopefully) look back at Man on the Moon II as a transition album, the album before he really took that next step. Hopefully – lord knows no one wants to see Kid Cudi truly become the Cobain of rap.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Nov 04, 2010
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