23 November 2010

Kid Cudi, Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (2010): Album Review

So, one might consider myself a Kid Cudi fan. Fan being a slight understatement. I have 127 various Cudder songs, remixes, and random mash-ups floating about my iTunes library. I paid $150 for a ticket to a sold-out show of his in New York City this past January. Kid Cudi tunes take up 6 slots in my “Top 25 Most Played Songs” playlist on iTunes; and in the 2 weeks I’ve owned his new album, I’ve listened to it over 25 times all the way through. In short, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager is the best album to hit shelves since…well, Man on the Moon: The End of Day last year. It is a work of artistic brilliance that may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but one would be foolish not to at least give it a listen.

The record begins with my favorite song, “Scott Mescudi vs. the World,” which is already the 6th most played song on my computer. With a catchy hook by Cee Lo Green (of the catchy “F*** You” fame), “Scott Mescudi” sets the psychedelic yet dark mood for the album. Next up is the Plain Pat-produced “RevofEv” which is the most played song on my computer, thanks to an early introduction to it this past summer. The stomping yet laidback anthem begs the question, “Where will you be for the revolution?” and carries on this same defiant spirit into the gloomy Mary J. Blige collaboration, “Don’t Play This Song.” “Marijuana”—which is conveniently 4 minutes and 20 seconds long—is a mellow love letter to that “pretty green bud” which Cudder is so very fond of. He goes on to expertly sample Danish group The Choir of Young Believers with “Mojo So Dope,” and soon segues into one of my favorite plays-on-words, “Ashin’ Kusher.” I think this is one of his most clever songs lyrically, with bits like “I don’t really worry bout a n**** tryna judge/who are you, Judy?” It’s also a breath of fresh air to have such a jovial tune on such a bleak record—about bud, no less. “Erase Me” is a complete 360 from what the Moon Man usually does, and serves as the lead single of the album. Sampling Duran Duran, he ventures into the old school of Hendrix-esque rock, while still maintaining that devious wit we’ve come to love so much about him. And hey…there’s a Kanye cameo. It doesn’t get much better than that. Another highlight of the album is “Maniac,” which Cudder plans to release as the next single from the album, and is currently collaborating on a musical film for it directed by film star Shia LaBeouf. The tune samples American songwriter St. Vincent, and follows him as he sits in the dark corners of his room and mind—stoned out of his skull, pretty much. I think the most depressing song of the album is “All Along,” which Cudi has opted not to discuss since it’s a very personal song for him. With the chorus wailing out “All along, all along/I guess I’m meant to be alone/Out there on my own,” I think it captures feelings we all possess at times—I know at least for me personally it’s the most poignant song of the album, and I really respect Cudder for putting himself out there like that. I wasn’t a big fan of “Ghost!” when I first heard it—with its almost Middle Eastern sitar-plucking sound, and slightly off-key vocals—but it’s kind of growing on me. Supposedly, it’s the new sound of Mr. Solo Dolo, and his next album will feature songs very similar to it, so I guess I’ll have to learn to embrace it. Finally, he concludes his journey with “Trapped In My Mind,” which laments exactly what the title states—“I feel like I’m stuck in rewind/Tho I’m looking forward/Damn I wish I knew what went wrong.” But truth is, Cudi really isn’t asking listeners to feel sorry for him; he’s at home in his mind where his darkest dreams and fantasies all become reality. “It’s a gift and a curse/since my birth/I’m in a prison/Oh I’m happy right where I’m at.” The Lonely Stoner is right where we left him, with a blunt and lighter in hand. And truthfully, we wouldn’t want him anywhere else.

Kid Cudi has proved once again that he is one of the most versatile and gifted musicians of our time. He in no way suffered the dreaded “sophomore slump,” but rather built upon his previous album—growing as an artist, and creating an ultimately better album. Although The End of Day may feature a few more upbeat, catchy tunes, The Legend of Mr. Rager is definitely a more personal side of Cudi that allows us to delve further into his psyche. And through this exploration, we as listeners are further able to examine our own selves. I can listen to Kid Cudi at any time of the day, in any sort of mood, at any point in my life, and always gain something valuable from the experience. And that, my far and few readers, is the mark of a true artist. All hail, Mr. Rager.

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