When I first heard the now ubiquitous “Day n Nite” I was pretty much sold from the opening synth hook. It was moody and heady with a gorgeous stoner beat. A gem in the generic world of towards-the-mainstream hip hop. Several mixtapes and remixes of “Day n Nite” followed, and then Cudi worked with Kanye on a few tracks for his inspired but ultimately failed “808 & Heartbreaks”, which helped further push him into the popular conscious. And now on the cusp of fall, Kid Cudi has dropped his much anticipated debut, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” — an ambitious collection of nu-skoool hip-hop jams and pop anthems.
And I be digging it.
Like Kanye, Kid Cudi may not be the greatest rapper out there. Like Kanye, he may use the same word twice for a rhyme: “And I tried to piece the puzzle of the universe / Split an eighth of shrooms just so I could see the universe”, but Cudi lacks the soul-crushing egoism that has hindered Kanye from making the album he really wants to, and I’m afraid now it may be too late for him. So in steps young upshoot Cudi from the Cleve, and Kanye knows a star when he hears one. So he hitches his manicured nails in there, and brings Common with, knowing that they will be the ones riding Cudi’s coat tails in order to stay in the hip inner circle of an ever changing scene. From a business POV, West and Common are smart muthafuckas, but also, from a hip-hop POV, Common and West have the rep and the cred. So it’s a win-win for all three artists. Common does a smooth job narrating between tracks, but I gotta say, the song the two vets rap on “Make Her Say”, sounds out of place on an album of far out jams…
In a way, “Man on the Moon’s” musical aesthetic seems much closer to Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” than Kanye’s “808 & Heartbreaks”.
Still, Kid Cudi has never sounded more honest and fresh as he does on this album. “Soundtrack 2 My Life” is an emotional and personal song about Cudi’s life thus far, and it’s highly effective as both an awesome cut and a moving vignette of the young rapper. Other highlights are “Sky Might Fall”, a slow, synthed-out jam, where Cudi continues to reveal his vocal chops. “Alive” is also quite memorable with Ratatat’s signature production and Cudi’s chorus hook: “Everytime the moon shines, I become alive!” “CuDi Zone” is also a hit, with it’s punctuated strings, deep synth line, and another hooky chorus. Cudi does an excellent job with the rap/sing dynamic, and guess what folks: 100% vocoder free! To be sure, his “I’m a loner-stoner weirdo plagued with nightmares” vibe does get a bit trite, but hey, he’s young still…
Closing off the album is a second collab with Ratatat and the help of MGMT called “Pursuit of Happiness”, which is just screaming for remixes, followed by the amazing stoner jam “Hyyerr” featuring fellow Cleveland rapper Chip Tha Ripper, that sounds like an old Outkast/Goodie Mob track. So smoove. I dig this track so much, I kind of wish it was the last song of the album, but instead, “Man on the Moon” ends with the poppy, send you off on a high note, “Up Up & Away”, which is still a fine closer.
The album has emotion, dope production, good lyrics, some great guests, and a solid flow. My friend Jeff has dubbed it the “hip-pop” album of the year, which I think is fitting. Could it still stand to lose a couple tracks? Maybe. And I’m scratching my head at the omission of the actual song “Man on the Moon” from his “A Kid Named Cudi” mixtape, but overall, ding ding ding, yes folks we have a mafuckin winner whether you wanna believe it or not. This is definitely a “fall” album, so check it out before them leaves turn yellow. Peace.
Edit: CUDi makes the cut on my BEST OF 2009 LIST.