A “classic” debut album in Hip Hop has become somewhat of a myth in this day and age. Rather than treating their first project as a cohesive body of work, we’ve witnessed countless artists who merely throw together a collection of tracks that yield only short-term results. With that said, behind a “lonely stoner,” laid back persona, it’s evident that Kid Cudi has no intentions to follow this same mold. Dividing his debut album, Man On The Moon (The End Of Day), into five acts, Cudi looks to create a themed-story of the man behind the shaded glasses.
Following the somber intro “In My Dreams,” which seemingly acts as an awakening to Cudi’s journey, “Soundtrack 2 My Life” lays out his trials and tribulations thus far. From his father’s death, to experimentation with drugs, it’s clear that Kid Cudi’s apparent rise to fame hasn’t been without pain and loss of direction. Playing off the beat, Cudi raps bluntly, “‘I am happy,’ that’s just the saddest lie.” Despite his insecurities, Cudi makes it clear that it’s his time to shine. “Heart Of A Lion” exhibits this well, as he rhymes about his spiritual strength throughout previous endeavors. Similar sentiments are met on “My World,” though the landscape is gloomier than triumphant.
As a man who isn’t afraid to take risks, Cudi’s collaboration with electronic duo Ratatat and Indie Rock’s MGMT for “Pursuit of Happiness” captures the album’s most transcendent moment. Over an eclectic collage of sound, Kid Cudi provides listeners with a record that can only be described as an anthem, supported by a carefree chorus and a raw but melodic guitar break. Then, mixing intergalactic aspirations with heart pounding drums on “Cudi Zone,” the Cleveland-native approaches the track with unheralded confidence, which adds to his powerful performance. Emile’s production here is near flawless, and it’s safe to say that he has become 2009’s most underrated producer.
The albums inspirational tone is slightly contrasted with a few darker moments, such as “Solo Dolo.” Weaving in and out of the trance-like vibe of the record, Cudi desperately cries out, “Why must it feel so wrong when I try and do right, do right? / Soaring through paradise when I’m closing my eyes / I’m, Mr. Solo Dolo.” As haunting strings come in during the second verse, it turns into a titillating nightmarish scene. With that said, the record loses a bit of steam at the bridge verse, where Cudi’s abstract lyrics translate into a myriad of quirky thoughts. The club-anthem “Day N Nite,” by comparison, is moderate in sound, with a subtle backdrop supporting the words of the lonely stoner. His metaphorical depth on “Sky Might Fall” is pleasing to say the least. However, the record suffers from an overbearing beat from Kanye West.
A few records on Man On The Moon don’t flow thoroughly, which detracts from the albums overall landscape. Take for instance “Make Her Say,” a track that sounds like a bet between Cudi, Kanye, and Common [click to read] to see who could rap their worst verse in just 16 bars. Sure, they get in a few witty lines (Common: “But they say, you be on that conscious tip / Get your hair right and get up on this conscious dick”), but the whole piece undoubtedly lacks replay value over a repetitious ‘Ye beat. Then there’s “Hyyerr,” featuring fellow Cleveland emcee Chip Tha Ripper. Driven by a hazy mixture of swaying strings and a southern drawl-like bassline, this track would sound superb on any other project but here. With that said, it should be mentioned that Cudi’s verbal attention to detail on this song is something that shouldn’t be overlooked; using his voice as an instrument, he treats every single syllable in his verse as part of a syncopated pattern that’s met with skilled precision.
As Kid Cudi’s profile has grown over the past year and a half, it was still uncertain as to what kind of role he would play; rapper, singer, experimental artist, producer? With Man On The Moon, it’s clear he’s all that he said he was. Sure, his lyrics may sometimes sound self-indulgent, and he definitely isn’t out to become the greatest rapper of our time, but his knack for creating records that are relatable, organic, and melodically sound is something few artists can claim. Accept no imitations; Kid Cudi is the real deal.