Grounding Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon 2: The Legend of Mr. Rager”
Mackenzie Hendrickson | Friday, November 5, 2010
Despite what the artistically inclined will tell you, there is such a thing as attempting too much. From the time his mix tape “A Kid Named Cudi” propelled his voice from underground obscurity to immediate cultural relevance, Scott Mescudi has been trying to turn hip-hop head over foot.
Mixing elements of hallucinatory experimentalism, indie rock-isms and dark-intentioned electronica, Cudi has been pushing the boundaries of style and tradition in order to remain relevant in the post-Kanye era when jerseys and baggy pants have been shelved in favor of v-necks and skinny jeans.
All these good kid hip-hoppers are starting to get confusing. Kid Cudi fulfills the role of the indie-stoner within this new school of Kanye Apostles. Drake (the boarding school Lil Wayne), B.o.B (the radio friendly and artistically disinterested golden boy) and Lupe Fiasco (the cultish and idiosyncratic nerd) all operate, rather conservatively, within commercial grounds permitted under Kanye West’s revolution of the hip-hop standard. None seem to be after Kanye’s crown, though such aspirations would be laughable if existent.
Cudi remains the only one willing to create his own revolution and operate beyond the commercially viable availabilities of college rap indie clichés. His second album is just as far-reaching as his first, and in many ways, just as flawed. The album shines, however. Though one might be tempted to address the album as some sort of precursor to Kanye’s upcoming release, the album actually exists within its own level of creativity and rejection of musical norms.
Though considerably more approachable than his freshman work, “Man on the Moon 2” is just as dark. His lifestyle and guest appearances in other artists’ work always seem to contradict the reality of Cudi’s dark nature. At some points in the album, one can’t help but feel that the existential gloom and estrangement is somewhat self-indulgent if not forced. Cudi never seems to realize that a little more optimism would not only sell more, but would most likely create more artistic cohesion.
The high points of the record shine brighter than most hip-hop tracks over the last couple of years. “Ashin’ Kusher” subtlety grabs your attention, with Cudi mastering his ability to construct a dynamic track with his vocals alone. “Erase Me” stands tall as the catchiest track despite an embarrassingly off-style appearance by Kanye West. In fact, most guest spots are points of weakness. This is Cudi’s world. Find your own dream.
The low points aren’t as detestable as on his first and, for the most part, fit within the dark sound and theme of the album. Overall, the record plays well from beginning to end. And no, narcotics are not necessary despite what many Cudi fans claim on a consistent basis. Listeners looking for musical truth under the influence would be better suited checking out some early Animal Collective albums.
Having considered the ups and downs of the album as it is, it wouldn’t hurt to take time for a few if-only’s. Imagine Cudi’s artistic potential utilized without “splitting an eight of shrooms” or collaborating with Ratatat. Cudi’s efforts at changing the status quo are well appreciated but Mescudi harbors a misconception common among artists desperate for innovation: He doesn’t need to try as hard as he thinks he does to be inventive. Originality flows from him naturally and a little more effort toward the radio and away from psychotic exploration would improve his image among most listeners while simultaneously unaffecting his image in the art world.
Ultimately, not only Cudi fans have learned to love his dark side, but also any mildly interested indie dabbler will enjoy this album. Cudi’s work tastes like wine: Time will improve it greatly.
Now, however, Cudi still stands a lone silhouette on the horizon of musical innovation. He may not be headed in the perfect direction, but he doesn’t fear the future.