Tuesday, November 16, 2010

KiD CuDi – Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (2010) – Review

Kid Cudi’s music is all about ambiance. He has a distinctive sound – elements of multiple genres’ darkest places combined to create a depressive self-reflexive yet fun style. Often, the tone and mood of his songs are what makes them work so well – the lyrics really could be anything – it is more about how he raps or sings his words and how they mix with the backing samples and beats that makes his sound so unique and interesting. But, the lyrics fit too, adding another layer. Kid Cudi’s music is specific to its intended audience, yet has enough commercial appeal to branch out. For those that love his sound, his new album will not disappoint.

Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager builds upon Kid Cudi’s first effort taking it to a darker place. The lyrical and sonic content of the album is rife with tales of excess and depression. The pressures of being a star weigh heavily on his mind and only encourage his destructive behaviors. While Man on the Moon: End of Day had some up moments (thinking of Enter Galactic and Up Up & Away), this album is bogged down under its own style and atmosphere – and yet, the album works quite well. Kid Cudi is monotone for most of the album; often his voice is secondary to the overall sonic experience, as if just another part to the track and not the focus as with most artists.

However, despite the album having a very particular and intended sound throughout, there are parts that do differ enough to signify the changing of the narrative. Kid Cudi has designed his album to not merely be a collection of his newest tracks, like most contemporary hip hop artists; rather his album does tell a story with clear changes in tone, but still within the overall style of the whole piece.  It starts off a bit with the illusion of fame and then cascades into the realities. From there the music moves onto a blended reality of the up of always being in (or apart of) a party and the down of being discounted, only to plunge into complete disarray. It ends with a realization: the pain and torment of life is a product often of our own creation and thus giving way for the healing process.

The production on the album is fantastic (from Emile, Plain Pat, Dot da Genius, Chuck Inglish, Jim Jonsin, Anthony Kilhoffer, and Blended Babies). Emile and Plain Pat craft the album’s best music and their work perfectly matches Kid Cudi’s vocal and stylistic strengths. The album also features guest appearances from Cee-Lo Green, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Cage, St. Vincent, GLC, Chip tha Ripper, and Nicole Wray. Cee-Lo Green, Mary J. Blige and Kanye West do provide memorable work, but really Kid Cudi is the star and the album would be just as good with no featured artists.

The best parts of the album (aka my favorite songs) are: Scott Mescudi vs. the World (featuring Cee-Lo Green), We Aite (Wake Your Mind Up), Marijuana, Erase Me (featuring Kanye West), and All Along. The first song serves a perfect introduction to the album, narrative and Kid Cudi as your narrator – enhanced by Cee-Lo’s great hook. We Aite and Maijuana show off the album’s outstanding production. Erase Me (the album’s only single) certainly seems to have the most commercial appeal being a pop anthem of sorts. All Along is maybe the saddest moment on the album and Kid Cudi’s singing style, lyrics and beat mix perfectly creating an emotional crescendo.

Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager is a good and fitting follow-up to Kid Cudi’s first album, expands on his distinctive style and reminds everyone that he is one of the best new artists around. 4/5

Available for digital download and on CD at Amazon.com

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