The kid from Cleveland that was living on the moon isn’t so young anymore. When you think of Kid Cudi, your immediate thought is of the man that made the classic Man On The Moon series with his copious amounts of sad tunes and that wildly iconic hum that can soothe the angriest of us.
Cudi created mainstream hits in just his first two albums, making him incredibly popular in basement college parties everywhere. “Pursuit of Happiness” killed in every frat house, and maybe the club (I was not 21 at this time, I don’t know)? But a lot of time has passed since Cudi created this series.
This isn’t the 25-26 year old that was making waves with relatable songs or that started working at BAPE. As time went on, Cudi’s discography grew larger, and recapturing that same magic was damn-near impossible.
From 2013-2016, Mr. Solo Dolo was creating projects that either couldn’t hold a candle to his first two or making some of the worst music of the decade. While I tend to lean a little more positively on albums like Indicud and Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, critics showed mixed reviews.
Nothing got more heat than his 2015 stinker in Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, his disastrous attempt at cosplaying Kurt Cobain. The “no more chicken sandwiches/ yes I’ll pay for the damages” line is still a head-scratcher to this day. Between the music critics and scary moments of addiction and depression, Cudi had gone through hell and back.
His cult-following and influence on the emo-rap sub-genre have always stamped his legacy in a positive light, but this would be his toughest challenge to overcome. After collaborating with Kanye West on Kids See Ghosts, that hunger and passion appeared to return, so there was hope on the rise.
Now with his third entry in the MOTM series, Cudder brought back the early 2010’s aura but added a grown-up layer. Here you find a man who has experienced life’s struggles first-hand and is ready to fight this battle head-on.
“Tequila Shots,” tells the listener about Cudder’s ongoing struggles, but being older has taught him how to fight these demons, creating this dramatic scene of him working up the strength to defeat them. “Another Day” is reminiscent of his old raging days, thanking God that he was able to see the sun one more time. The psychedelic trap that has become mainstream in 2020 helps paint a picture of what Cudi has been through numerous times.
The first half of the record is a mixed bag, however, and addressing the elephant in the room as to why is simple: there’s a lot of Travis Scott influence in here between the adlibs after every line, the beat switch on “She Knows This”, or even the random bars like on “Damaged” where he just adds “yee-haw” after rapping about hanging out in his car.
You could have sworn Travis was actually participating in these tracks even though he is nowhere to be found. Maybe it’s an ode to someone who has praised Cudi’s existence in hip-hop, but the tracks don’t go over well. We also get an attempt at New York drill that features the late Pop Smoke and Skepta and simply put, no thank you Cudi.
The second half of the album is where things start to pick up, as the 36-year-old taps into what has always made him so great. The album wasn’t the only thing that got a third version as “Solo Dolo, Pt. III” makes an appearance midway through. On the track, he talks about feeling that loneliness in the world, a familiar theme he revisits like that dark corner in hell that he describes to just grasp that surrounding that made him so great early on in his career.
That’s when Cudi is truly at his best: coming to grips with his demons that continue to haunt him. It’s almost weird to say he’s conscious of what it’s like to be in this mood, but he somewhat admits on “Sad People” that that familiarity in sadness is what he knows best.
“Yeah, baby, see I’m back in my zone, Just what I need, mama”
We get one of Cudi’s best tracks in quite some time on “The Void”, which showcases some of the best singing and passion we’ve heard from him in quite some time on a solo album. The quiet beat emphasizes the empty feeling that he continuously croons about. It’s a slow-motion image of what the album cover depicts.
The hook is hypnotizing you as you fall into the abyss that Cudi dives into. Even the collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers on “Lovin’ Me” turn out to be a good pairing; I’m not sure I’ve heard him sing better than on this track. The chemistry these two have on a song about self-love is so beautiful it almost hurts.
It’s by no means Kid Cudi’s greatest piece of work as there are some flaws that tend to arise in this album. Yet, Cudder seemed to attack all demons and feel this sort of contentment with the issues he’s dealt with.
“4 da Kidz” and “Lord I Know” bring a different tune to the Man On The Moon trilogy as he hopes kids find hope within his music while praying to a higher being that he has found happiness. It’s not that he’s conquered those issues, but he has some control over them.
Throughout the 18 tracks and 58 minutes, you see what Cudi’s highs are as well as his lows. His copy-cat routine on Travis Scott’s adlibs and New York drill definitely knocked this album down a notch. However, his singing has never sounded better as he put aside the hum that he overly relied on (though when he did bring out a hum, it sounded powerful), and above all else, he has found joy and a will to live. A clear mind goes a long way, and the veteran of emo-rap has found his path.