Where PM Dawn’s soft spoken routine was shunned to no end in the early ’90s, recent times have given rise to a subculture allowing today’s generation to comfortably identify with artists straying from rap’s hyper-masculinity and chauvinism. A primary example of this burgeoning alternative perspective has been Kid Cudi, (Drake and projects like Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak to boot) as he has offered his innermost turmoil to the world despite the openness leaving his art subject to harsh backlash. WZRD is Cudi’s third release, a creative offering fusing his standard sensitivity and introspection with the Rock production stylings of frequent collaborator Dot Da Genius.
Kid Cudi’s latest exhibition simultaneously forges a new path and remains true to the spirit of his music’s foundation. While WZRD is technically a departure from his Man On The Moon series, its familiarity comes in the form of Scott Mescudi following the direction his heart and soul guide him. Dot Da Genius (responsible for Cudi’s breakout hit “Day n Nite”) is the perfect foil for his angst, with musicianship reflective of studying Classic Rock and learning multiple instruments. Throughout the project, heavy guitars (reminiscent of Green Day, Foo Fighters and Nirvana) accentuate Cudi’s nearly ambient and hypnotic voice, its topical polarity ranging from contentment to vulnerability in celebrating success and exorcising his demons. Where “High Off Life” alludes to triumphantly overcoming a well documented drug addiction and “Upper Room” finds him in a serene space, “Love Hard” and “Efflictim” detail his struggles with matters of the heart. Despite the artist sporadically bordering on a cocksure vanity and a few glaringly ill-advised ideas such as “Dr. Pill” (which personifies therapeutic medication), his musical explorations make for an interesting journey overall.
WZRD’s strengths are rooted in Kid Cudi’s vocal tone, one that is gripping and melodic despite his quite limited singing ability. While some could consider the gumption of Cudi’s aesthetic on this album a byproduct of self-absorbed pretense, he appears to organically gravitate to earnest experimentation. His gift and curse is the courage that expands his creative boundaries, making way for personal subject matter that perpetually risks rendering listeners uncomfortable. For the time being, the ever rising sensation will likely continue hurdling disapproval of his sincerity and adventurous nature, as he has never aimed to reach one-dimensional mainstream Hip Hop listeners who are predisposed to shirking emotion.