Friday, November 12, 2010

Rhymes: KiD CuDi - Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager

Originally published in the BG News:

I have a strange love-hate relationship with KiD CuDi.

It started back in 2008, when I first heard him on Kanye West’s “808s & Heartbreak.” Shortly after that I checked out his mixtape, “A KiD Named CuDi,” which was a decent mixtape, and songs like “Day ‘n Night” and “The Prayer” became a staple among my friends and me.

Add the fact that CuDi was from Cleveland’s poorly represented hip hop scene, I was on board to be a KiD CuDi fan.

Fast forward to September 2009, his long-awaited debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day was finally released. Initially, I was blown away by the album’s original sound, and having features from Ratatat, MGMT, and narration by Common didn’t hurt either.

But upon further listening to the album, I discovered what a truly terrible rapper KiD CuDi is.

His rapping ability is slightly above Soulja Boy and Wacka Flocka’s and probably just below Gucci Mane. His rhyme schemes are as simple as they can get, as he often rhymes a word with the same word. And multi-syllable rhymes are nowhere to be found.

But still after all of that, I still found the first “Man on the Moon” to be one of the most interesting albums in 2009. Which begs the question: Can a rap album succeed with bad lyrics?

Now CuDi is back with his sophomore effort, “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.” The sequel stays true to its predecessor, and sticks to the formula that made “Man on the Moon” so interesting: a dark, somber soundscape, superb production mostly handled by Emile, a well-orchestrated album that has a loose narrative, and brilliantly crafted hooks.

And right from the first bar on the album’s opener, “Scott Mescudi vs. The World” it’s clear CuDi’s rapping ability has not improved since his last album.

“Mr. Rager” is significantly darker than “End of Day,” and CuDi opens up a lot about his personal strife, most notably his cocaine habit. On “Don’t Play This Song,” he raps: “I'm humble and I treat normal girls like models reckless and young, am I my mom's calling, thank god she hit decline I'm numb faced while I'm thinking about suicide”

The dark and eerie, “The Mood” very well could fit into a horror film, and flows seamlessly into the album’s best track, “MANIAC,” which features indie rocker, St. Vincent and underground rap veteran, Cage. The unlikely collaboration works over the fast-paced production which samples St. Vincent’s “The Strangers” with hard kick drums and guitar, and Cage delivers hands down the best verse on the album.

KiD CuDi has a specific style and lane, when he stays in it, he makes really good music, but when he strays from his lane, it can be disastrous. For example, the lush piano-driven, “Marijuana” is stellar. But on the more stripped-down songs such as the Chuck Inglish (of The Cool Kids) laced “Ashin’ Kusher” and “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young” bring CuDi’s poor rapping to the forefront.

Even with a few duds, “Man on the Moon II” is for the most part consistent and cohesive throughout. With the exception of CuDi’s most recent hit, the 80s inspired, Jim Jonsin-produced “Erase Me” which serves the same role as “Make Her Say” did on his first record: the poppy, radio song that doesn’t fit in the dark theme of the album.

Overall “The Legend of Mr. Rager” is an anomaly. Hip hop has always been a lyric-driven genre, but CuDi has found success in making good hip hop music with pretty bad lyrics.

While I still don’t consider myself a fan of KiD CuDi, and I really wasn’t heartbroken that I missed his concert at Anderson Arena. But I do have a lot of respect for what he does. There are few artists out today that produce such personal and uncompromising music, and have that much commercial success.

BRL Rating: 7 out of 10 Beets

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