Kid Cudi’s new album cover really says it all. It features Cudi alone in a room, clad in his signature skinny suit and slumped forlornly in a wooden chair, head down, with a painting of the starry galaxy behind him, pondering his status as the most messed-up of all hip-hop stars today. This is quite possibly one of the most emo hip-hop covers in recent memory. But all these obvious metaphors for his inner turmoil raise the question: Is Scott Mescudi really this screwed up, or is the “lonely stoner” just frontin’?
Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
Cudi’s first album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day had the classic martyr potential of Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak to be a one-off outlet of emotional despair as Cudi lamented his father’s death, his obsession with pot and his plaguing nightmares. After the popularity of his debut, you’d think Cudi would buck up a little, revel in his success and then continue to churn out sub-par pop anthems about getting high to maintain his newfound ghetto-fabulous lifestyle. Instead, Cudi comes out with Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. On the album, he delves even further into his psychological pain, twisted soul and depression. It would appear Kid Cudi is not fronting.
It should come as no surprise that the opening track is titled “Scott Mescudi vs. The World.” Where Cudi goes, narcissism does not stray far behind. Though he still clings to the minimalist spaceship atmosphere that he perfected in the first Man on the Moon, this time around it is undoubtedly darker and not nearly as chock full of sunny radio hits.
The first note of “These Worries” isn’t a musical one, but rather the swooshing sound of a joint being inhaled. Not surprising considering Cudi’s ongoing love affair with weed (he even has a track simply titled “Marijuana” that clocks in at exactly 4:20, showing true pothead dedication). “These Worries” gets some much-needed punch served up in the form of Mary J. Blige’s guest vocals. Cudi describes his angst simply but straightforwardly as Blige takes it away: “These worries are heavy / They rest on my shoulders / My pride it won’t let me / Fall victim no more.”
Single “Erase Me” is Cudi’s attempt at some alt-rock/pop crossover. With a cheesy ’80s drumbeat and chugging guitars leading off the song, Cudi sounds about as close to hip hop here as Lil Wayne was on Rebirth. But unlike Weezy’s ill-fated attempt at a rock album, “Erase Me” is actually listenable. Though the lyrics are forgettable (“I keep on running, keep on running / and nothing works/ I can’t get away from you”), Cudi strikes the perfect self-aware hipster chord with Kanye West’s trite guest verse and a chorus that will take up residency in your brain for days.
All signs on Man on the Moon II point to Kid Cudi’s mental deterioration. Kanye’s young protégé is holding his own now, but he isn’t handling fame all that gracefully. Yes, he has the requisite cocky pretension of any Kanye disciple, but lately Cudi’s rep has been tarnished due to his recent arrest, onstage tussles with fans and his ongoing trend of showing up to his performances drunk and totally strung out.
On Man on the Moon II, Cudi jumps from reveling in his fame to chasing women to contemplating suicide to realizing that even though he’s trapped in his own troubled mind, “Hey, it’s not that bad at all!” Cudi’s emotional issues (and weed) are the epicenter of every song. Sure, “Mr. Rager” and “GHOST!” are the two of the best tracks Kid Cudi has ever produced, but by the end of this despondent hipster-hop album we are left worriedly wondering: Will this guy just get a shrink already?