Artist: Kid Cudi
Label: G.O.O.D. Music/Universal Motown
Due Out: September 15th
If you know rap at all, then you definitely know Kid Cudi. The Clevelander, who astutely attached himself with the Kanye West/Lil' Wayne hit parade, already has two hit tracks, and his first album hasn't even dropped yet. Admit it. Any event you were at from March to June involved somebody blasting "Day 'n' Nite." Yet, with all of that radio hype, and the inherent noise that always accompanies anyone boasted by either big acts, Cudi still appears to be a different type of rapper. Be it the subject matter he focuses on, the name of the album (Man on the Moon: The End of Day sounds more like a 1990s alt-rock album than hip-hop) and even the album cover, Cudi is decidedly different. But that's what makes his debut record such a unique and refreshing effort.
"In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem)" starts us off as if we're floating in space, looking out into the horizon at the endless scenery surrounding us. The strings, effects and synths create the perfect ambience for the beginning of an album sure to surprise with its depth. "Soundtrack 2 My Life" pops in immediately after, with Cudi giving us an introduction as to who he is as a rapper, and some insight to his personal life as well. He actually sings quite a bit on this album, mainly on the choruses, but nonetheless, more power to him. Not only does the singing work for the mood, but it also makes the personal insights more genuine and believable to the audience. "Simple As..." drifts more towards mainstream hip-hop, but gets held back by the interesting military drum beat, and looping samples in the background. This is a good thing. Cudi's appeal lies in his ability to toe the line expertly between alternative and mainstream appeal, and this track exemplifies that better than most. "Solo Dolo" seems to embrace a new aesthetic all its own however, as he turns in what amounts to an experimental ballad about loneliness and the struggle to acceptance. Weird, but it works.
"Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music)" is another earnest attempt at defining who Cudi is as a rapper. The need for so many such attempts at definition is debatable, but the track does well towards the overall mood of the album. Experimentation continues on "My World." An ominous piano and electronic keyboard part flits around in the back as Cudi and contributor "Billy Cravens" (it's a pen name) employ vocal effects to the slower, toned-down rapping. Next, "Day 'n' Nite" needs no introduction whatsoever. The track is the closest you'll find to a full embrace of radio hip-hop, and even at that, if you listen attently, it is more of an alternative jam (as well as a song of the year nominee). "Sky Might Fall" is another up-tempo track, yet it also reserves itself enough to prevent any real club appeal.
"Enter Galactic (Love Connection Part 1)" is a bright R&B number, set to (of course) more synths. Of all the tracks, this one may lean the closest towards a John Legend song, of the many that allude to that sound. If you recognize the style of the background beat on "Alive" immediately, it's probably no shock to you that Ratatat is a contributor. Just as we discussed Jay-Z pushing to redefine hip-hop last week, Cudi is executing to a much higher level on this week's featured album. "Cudi Zone" at first may come off at another attempt at some self-promotion, but after further evaluation, it comes off as one of the stronger songs on the record, with a distinct, catchy hip-hop beat accompanying quality rapping. From there, it's pure pop. Many are acquainted with "Make Her Say," a remix of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." The song, which leaked months ago, and hit the radio waves over the summer has been talked up for the past few months, and even the less astute can probably surmise the comical subject matter.
As the album winds down, Cudi puts several appropriate closing notes on the effort. The first of which is "Pursuit of Happiness," the third single off of the record. Featuring MGMT and Ratatat, the song has a distinct indie vibe, uncharacteristic of a hip-hop single, but appreciated just the same. The track is one of the major highlights on a collection full of them, and shows his versatility as an artist. "Hyyer" next slows it down to another R&B crawl. Though not as spacious, or as daring as most of the other songs on the album, it's a fair change-of-pace, once again showing the range Cudi possesses as an artist. We then conclude with "Up Up & Away," the triumphant pseudo-rock track. You can tell by the opening notes alone that Kid Cudi knows he's turned in an effort sure to be entered into the contest for hip-hop album of the year. Spanning from electronic music to rap to rock to pop, Man on the Moon: The End of Day is everything he could have strived for, and is a superior debut.
As I mentioned, Man on the Moon: The End of Day is one of the most impressive rap albums of 2009, and easily one of the best debuts as well. For all the hype we've heard, Cudi delivers, passing every test with flying colors. His range as an artist is already at a level most in the game for years have yet to master, so it would seem that the sky is the limit for any future release. Trust me. If you have any affinity for alternative hip-hop, mainstream rap, electronic music or literally, any music whatsoever, Cudi's album is sure to please, and impress. Similarities, though they probably won't do this release much justice, include Drake, Clipse and Common.
Best Track: "Day 'n' Nite"
[Previously on Animal Noises: New Kid Cudi, "Pursuit of Happiness" (Feat. Ratatat & MGMT]