Album Review: Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager




The last time that  Kid Cudi and I tangled, I had a problem with the disconnect I found between his 2008 A Kid Named Cudi mixtape and that first LP. Now, a year or so later, and some things have changed: I still see the disconnect, but I have other things to be content with or hate. Who said life is about choosing?

Cudi himself made the transition so much easier by utterly destroying any hope that he’d ever return to that K-I-D of old. No, Mr. Solo Dolo is looking fresh to death and will continue to destroy his body with controlled substances on his path to being a rock star. It shows in tracks like “Erase Me”, where the Cudster clearly has delusions that he’s the next black rock god, with a dirty, haggard voice and arena rock licks that will make all the ladies melt in ecstasy. The most clear-cut example of the entire effort’s lyrical aim does just this: “His girl/friends/inner-self hate him, but Cudi will keep doin’ what he does.”

As it turns out, he’s not always so happy being a self-destructive braggart. A simple tune like “All Along” lets him get to new-found levels of cheesiness as he painfully whispers his doomed fate of perpetual loneliness. As far as actual emotional content with meaning goes, “Trapped In My Mind” is a celebratory number where he resigns himself to always being so cerebral and how, gee golly, it isn’t really that bad. Even “The Mood” sounds like a New Wave PSA, jamming the synth up to 11 and painting a picture of the sins of the night and how dangerously awesome they can be. It’s clear that minimalist, ambient-infused beats are his new forte, and it’s comforting as a fan to know it’s either time to get aboard or spin the mixtape til’ it breaks.

His new (not really though) direction does offer actual songs to enjoy, too. In “Maniac”, Cudi’s slowed flow finds a sweet middle ground between singing and rapping, actually attaining a level of hardness and authenticity while achieving his desired goal of electro-rock star absurdity and ethereal atmosphere. Thanks to a creepy vocal part from St. Vincent and a low-key, depressive verse from Cage, fans of Cudi the rapper can at least see what he’s trying to do as Cudi the rocker. “Mr. Rager” finds the jangly, bleep-bloop electro of Man on the Moon I and finally adds some emotionality to it, thanks to Mr. Mescudi’s decision to pair his jagged singing voice with some smooth inflections and yelps of pain.

If there is anything from that glorious mixtape that survived the most intact, it’s Cudi’s juvenile love of pot (“Ashin’ Kusher” says it all in the title). “Marijuana” is equal parts satire and love song to sticky icky. A romantic piano line gives the Kid room to flow at an inspired pace (inspired as he has shown he can be). Its angelic choir and precise 4:20 length (well done, Cudi) show a slight glimmer of hope that he isn’t totally up his own ass. “The End” is a nostalgia trip to the days when he actually was a hip-hop artist: a sensual chorus by Nicole Wray, knife-sharp Midwest slang by GLC and Chip Tha Ripper, and a banging beat akin to something ripped from the West Coast, made for leaning. “The End” works because it’s simple, understated, and highlights how the last LP’s dominating theme hurts Cudi’s musical plans for pop-rock stardom and hip-hop minimalism.

After this visit, I think it’s safe to say that Cudi is on his way to… something. It’s clear he isn’t the greatest rapper (like I had thought) and he fancies himself a true rocker (who would’ve thought?). But with a few simple and appealing beats, some well-timed cameos, a dash of humor, and a handful of semi-inventive rhymes with emotional substance, he actually made an album that flies (more or less) high.