Kid Cudi uses vices as inspiration in new album and blends genres

Martin Chang
November 17, 2010
Filed under Reviews

With “The Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Ranger,” Kid Cudi has created a musical work of unique power. He uses the genre of hip-hop to explore the dark side of the human psyche with spectacular results.

I have always found electronic music to have a strange, otherworldly, dark quality to it. I have spent many nights listening to various techno albums, such as “Human After All” by Daft Punk, feeling a release of dark energy. It is a therapeutic process that I must do every once in a while. Yet these albums never quite had the power I knew was possible. This power is realized on “The Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.”

This starts with the songwriting, rapping and singing talents of Kid Cudi. He explores his deep feelings of pain and mental anguish and how he uses sex and drugs to escape from it. On other songs he writes of a “journey,” a “journey” into the dark spaces in his head. He writes of these feelings with brutal honesty. He shows his dark side, warts and all. It makes for a compelling listen and takes his songs to a higher place.

The way he raps and sings these words takes the listener into these feelings. You can hear him spit out his pain at times, and other times he sings of it sweetly.

Sometimes it combines these two vocal styles into something unique. These varying vocal styles allow the album’s theme to never get too dull.

The album is at times soft and quiet, and other times hard and crushing. This is all possible because of Cudi’s talent behind the microphone.

These songs could easily fall down under the weight of their ambition.

Inner pain is a hard thing to put across in any genre, let alone hip-hop.

The music that accompanies Cudi’s vocal talent never makes a misstep. Each song is a well-crafted piece that serves Cudi’s themes.

On “Marijuana,” a song that Cudi explores the bliss he experiences after smoking the drug, a minimal approach is wisely used. The smoothly sung song is augmented by simple drum and bass patterns, and choir sounding voices. These elements never clutter up the power of the vocal melodies.

On the other, lighter songs on the album, songs like the beautifully sung ballad “All Along,” the same careful sense of composition is used. This sense of focus on Cudi’s vocals continues throughout the album, even on the more instrumental heavy songs.

On the heavier, darker songs the driving bass lines and distorted sound loops give the songs an almost extreme heart in your throat feeling.

Other elements such as slowed down voices and distorted laughing turn the darkest moments into compelling electronic sound collages.

These are the moments in which you feel the dark side of Cudi most powerfully.

These moments are the moments that give me that therapeutic release.

The album is made of more then these two extremes. On songs like “Mr. Ranger” the instrumental quality of the darker songs is used, yet Cudi sings in a melodic way that gives the song a softer edge.

On songs such “Don’t Play This Song” and “These Worries,” which features Mary J. Blige, they take a more traditional approach to hip-hop. Yet the way Blige’s voice combines with Cudi delivery and subject make it unique. All the more regular songs still have something great because of the music and Cudi’s songwriting.

“Erase Me,” the lead single off the album, does not fit the album thematically, but it is one of the most memorable moments on the album.

It is a rock-rap hybrid about a toxic relationship. The song is outrageously catchy and Cudi gives a great rock ‘n’ roll performance. It has great arena rock feel with its thumping drums. It is a song that will stick into many listeners’ heads.

As someone who is not a huge fan of hip-hop, I never thought I could connect with a rapper. It usually is with rock performers such as Kurt Cobain. But just by the quality of his music, I feel a connection.

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