CD giveaway, details at end of review
out September 14th
Honestly, I didn’t expect anything this fresh from Kid CuDi. Personal expectations for his debut Man On The Moon: The End Of Day were low. I wrote him off as just another blog fad, riding the electro wave to its crash with the Crookers remix of megahit ‘Day N Nite’, and overshadowed by a star-studded guest list and production on ‘Make Her Say’ without proving anything about his own artistic merit – of which I believed he had none. His flow was too awkward, too much of a pale imitation of his producer and mentor, Kanye West (and we all know by now the world only needs one Kanye West). But after giving the album a solid listen and more, the music has spoken and I’ve had a change of heart: CuDi is for real.
But before we begin, and as this is my first review on PMA, a preface. People who know me know I’m a sucker for this intangible musical quality which I like to call sincerity. What I mean by that is the music isn’t just a critic or fan pleaser but it’s clear that what the artist wanted most was to make a recording that actually carries some vestige of meaningful personal depth. A truly excellent work sounds like putting a stethoscope up to the heart and mind of its creator. Anyone who has ever labored over something that personal knows the vulnerability of putting whatever it is ‘out there.’
Well, for someone who already has two hugely popular songs with massive radio play, CuDi has put an album out there that is raw, expressing throughout his own deepest fears, especially his lifelong vulnerability to failure and loneliness. And he’s done so in an original way. First, there’s the track list. The album is split into five acts, each act transitioning with spoken word narrations by Common. They form a vague narrative about his childhood as a loner to his present-day search for identity and pressure to be great. The precise meaning of it all will be better left resolved amongst stoner circles and blunts in the coming months. Which is probably how CuDi would want it anyways, considering how often the dude raps about weed, but it’s exactly that kind of honesty about his own life I’ve come to love about the guy.
But how does it sound? Most who have been following his meteoric rise since his mixtape A Kid Named CuDi dropped last year saw it is only logical to think that Man on the Moon would be CuDi’s College Dropout. But the album is more 808s and Heartbreaks than College Dropout, a genre-bending release that exists in that musically ambiguous gray area between hip hop, R&B, pop, and electronica. Instead of taking the easy way out and depending too heavily on Kanye and his label G.O.O.D. Music’s high profile connections, CuDi shows a commitment to originality by keeping the production fresh and the guest stars low. The best beats are by little known beatsmiths Emile (‘Soundtrack’), Plain Pat (‘Simple As’), Dot Da Genius (‘Day N Nite’), and two particular phatties by Ratatat (‘Pursuit of Happiness’, ‘Alive’). Together, the album has a consistent ambient, downtempo, spacey feel that complement CuDi’s flow and persona perfectly.
But for all its freshness and innovation, I would hardly call the album a masterpiece. Fifteen tracks seems too long, with the album dipping in quality after the first act before picking up again six tracks later in the fourth, which is easily the best. Still, for all its ambition, CuDi deserves some recognition, if not a second or third listen. The way the album is put together means it’s quality is definitely enhanced by listening to it all the way through, from beginning to end. That way, even the worst, most awkward songs sound better in context.
If anything at all, the album has four or five standout tracks that make it at the very least more than worthwhile to check out. To name a few: ‘Soundtrack 2 My Life’ (CuDi at his rawest and with the best opening lines of a hip hop song I’ve heard since, well, I first heard 99 Problems), “Pursuit of Happiness” (the third single and an amazing collaboration – Ratatat owns the beat as CuDi rap-sings with backup vocals by MGMT, followed by a signature electrorock solo), and ‘Up Up & Away (The Wake and Bake Song)’, which is a hybrid of rap and rock that I’ve never heard pulled off fantastically, but I give CuDi mad respect for making it sound more than decent. Then there’s the good stuff you’ve already heard, ‘Day N Nite’ (which I am just recently being able to tolerate again after massive overkill) and ‘Make Her Say’ (the only big name collaboration).
All in all, while it’s not on the same level of game-changing debut that College Dropout was, Man on the Moon is definitely one of the most original and exciting new sounds of this year. It is definitely a promising start to CuDi’s career as a rapper, a career that is about to take off and take CuDi off his lonely moon and into the spotlight.
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Stream the entire album here, thanks to Lala. All you need is account. If you don’t have one, make sure to set one up. It only takes a second.
To enter to win a copy of Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon: The End of Day, leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, this review, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until September 17th