Review: Kid Cudi - Man on the Moon: End of Day

The landscape of popular rap music has changed. As reluctant as anyone may be these days to credit Kanye West with anything, his album 808s and Heartbreak has seemingly inspired a new generation of hip-hop musicians with that album’s low-key, quasi-melodical synthesized feel. The most recent protegee being Kid Cudi, hailing from Cleveland with a style of originality which should, by now, feel familiar. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, because the latest mutation of the “future-core” of rap expands on the whole idea. While Jay-z recently appointed himself as the snazzy trend-setting leader of this new school with Blueprint 3, Cudi’s envelope-pushing debut, Man on the Moon invents its own sort of stoner prog-rock sub genre.

Man on the Moon implicitly asks you from the very beginning to adorn your space-suit (or tie-die shirt) for an interstellar journey which most times sounds like a smoked out, chopped and screwed version of what 808s (which Cudi famously contributed to) could have been. Its concept is tied together as a 5 part epic narrated by Common, who is considerably (along with Andre 3000 of Outkast) one of the Godfathers of hip-hop’s newly acknowledged free spirited style. The end result is perhaps the most potent of all the experimental-and perhaps evolutionary-jabs that have been taken at the idea of what rap music is supposed to be.

Before we completely praise this thing, there are a few missteps. The opener, “In My Dreams” certainly could have used a second take. “Up and Away,” the end-of-the-album alarm clock, might be a bit more saccarhine than most listeners will be in the mood for. “Enter Galactic,” produced by Mat Friedman of ILFONICS, should just be a fun Pharrell Williams meets The Jimi Hendrix Experience club track, yet suffers from awkward wanna-be sex-god lyrics such as “I like when you talk because your voice is angelesque/aye, I want to kiss you on your space/below your naval-ette/the place that you keep meat so moist like/a towelette” Aside from that though, Man on the Moon really soars. The track following "Dreams," “Soundtrack 2 My Life” has a bubbly, hypnotic beat which plays the perfect back-drop for Cudi’s competently done sing-raps, and it’s lethargically upbeat mellowness sets a tone for the remainder of the album which doesn’t exhale until after the ultra-syrupy penultimate track, “Hyyerr,” is over.

Cudi’s lyrics, while not exactly versatile, for the most part uniquely reflect the struggle of an alienated loner who secretly knows that he has something to share with the world, and is waiting for his chance to express it. The lead single, “Day N Nite”, whose spacey thump was heard everywhere this year, to the point of being 2009’s “Hey Ya,” laments on having a cold season of being lonely and misunderstood. “My World” is the musing of an artistic geek who knows that his off-kilter vision will take him places :”None of ya’ll really cared about me/Now, guess what? I’m all you see/This will be my world/I told you so.”

Indeed, there are no guest appearances by Young Jeezy or T-Pain to extol the high-life or the thug mentality. Instead, this very impressive debut from the newest of the recent wave of space-rock hip-strappers, Kid Cudi, is a focused and personable work which is rife with themes of self-doubt and self-deprecation; yet just about every track on Moon gleams with crater-sized confidence in its ability to trip you out.

Grade: B

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