Thousands of years ago, anonymous Greek philosophers (probably named Hippopotamuscrates and Galifinakludies) invented a line of thinking that has withstood the test of time: art imitates life. But the reverse adage is undeniably true, considering all the jackasses you see everyday imitating the screwball antics of the jackasses on the TV show. Or, the filthy-rich-plastic-bodied housewives you see in real life imitating the ones on the reality shows. And the list goes on. But even though they made a lot of lengthy, complicated plays, consequentially causing poor English majors like myself mental havoc when attempting to write ten page essays hours before the due date (no Galifiankludies), those ancient Greeks were on to something with their original theory, because magic occurs when art imitates life. When I first heard Kid Cudi, I didn’t know what to think. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that I was at Burning Man ’08, and in the general spirit of things, I didn’t have a clear thought in my head the entire week. I’m under the impression however that the confusion stemmed more from my past notions of what constituted hip-hop than my lack of sobriety at the time. Growing up during the shiny suit/bling-bling era, it was shocking to hear music so graspable and personally relevant. Through an arduous process of honest self-analysis, I came to the harsh conclusion that the day-to-day activities of an artist like Jay-Z did not quite align with my own. Alas, Beyonce was not awaiting me at a 10 billion square feet mansion I called home, my 99 problems always seemed to consist of bitches, and furthermore, if I were to name my daughter Blue Ivy, instead of being met with approval, my decision would be looked at as the byproduct of a severely demented, crack-infested mind. The rappers I listened to, posing difficult questions like “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley” were exacerbated when I realized that my own triangular dilemma instead revolved around a nightly Ramen Noodle crisis: Beef, Shrimp, or Chicken flavored?
With A Kid Named Cudi, the mixtape that introduced him to the world and simultaneously secured a record deal with Kanye in the process, Cudi ventured out into unexplored stratospheres, rapping frankly about personal problems, battles with depression, and of course, his fondness for the G.O.O.D. smoke. Once he offered his music to the world, the man on the moon was embraced by thousands of martians. Ranging from weirdos to jocks to outcasts (no, not the duo) music connoisseurs the galaxy over felt that Cudi’s candid tunes deeply resonated with their own lives. Providing a refreshing take on hip-hop, Cudi established a legion of loyal man-on-the-mooners, who throughout the day ‘n’ nite, slipped into white Nikes and smoked spliffs in an eager attempt to free their minds in search of, to free their minds in search of, to free their minds in search of…
With the arrival of Cudi’s debut album, Man On The Moon: The End Of Day the world was blessed with one of the finest records of our time. Narrated by Common, Cudi relayed the story of his personal life and the personal demons that halted him in his infinite pursuit of happiness. Because rappers aren’t really supposed to express anything resembling emotion, many dismissed Cudi’s album with the “emo” label, a mistaken stigma that has unfortunately followed him the entirety of his career. Regardless, the soundtrack 2 Cudi’s life sounded akin to the soundtracks of many others, and soon a loyal fanbase was born. Even heavyweights like Snoop and Jay enlisted his help on their own respective projects. Soon Cudi had achieved gold plaque status in addition to international fame, but as he will tell you, everything that shine ain’t always gold.
In June of 2010, reports surfaced that Cudi had been arrested at his New York home for the possession of narcotics…mainly cocaine. In his frank approach to things, Cudi spoke openly about his addiction to Coke when interviewed by Complex Magazine: “I started doing cocaine to get through interviews, ’cause people wanted to know a lot about my personal life and I wasn’t prepared for a 60 Minutes interview every time. Doing bumps I was able to get through the day, but then I would smoke weed to calm me down–it was the only way I could get through the day without people noticing I was doing it… never thought it was a problem, but I was definitely high-fiving death a couple of times.” Cudi later informed his fans via Allhiphop.com that “I know niggas die when they 27. I’m 26 now, but I promise I’ll live til I’m old as shit.”
As I rambled on about earlier, art imitates life, so with his second installment of the MOTM series, Cudi took his listeners to even darker corners of his brain, making his debut album sound like a party record by way of contrast. Because misery loves company, the album was a success with critics and on the billboard charts, featuring classic Cudi gems like “Mojo So Dope,” “Ashin’ Kusher,” and “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young.” However, experimental expenditures like “REVOFEV” and “MANIAC” resulted in a few fans hopping off the Cudi band wagon. Most of the criticism stemmed from claims that Cudi’s sonic variations from his previous material were far too great to stomach.
In the video for “Erase Me,” the second single for Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager, Cudi plays guitar on stage all the while donned as a faux-Jimi Hendrix character. While at the time it seemed like a purely creative choice to compliment the theme of the song, in actuality the video was a foreshadowing of things to come. Thus, the seeds of Cudi’s WZRD project were planted. In 2011, Cudi informed the public that he was finished with hip-hop, and was in the process of mastering the guitar in an effort to remold himself into an alternative rock artist, a la Thom Yorke with a gold chain. Collaborating with long-time producer friend D. Dot Da Genius, Cudi unleashed his WZRD album on the world. While the album is heavily slept on, with quality tunes like “Brake,” “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” and Cudi’s ode to his ex-model-wife/baby mama, “Teleport 2 Me (Jamie),” most fans were united in their wish that Cudi would return back to the music more reminiscent of his days as the legend of the rager. Instead, Cudi has given the world a brilliant combination of the two with his latest offering, Indicud.
On June 5, 2012, Cudi tweeted: “My new album is entitled Indicud, it will be my version of The Chronic 2001, some songs i’ll produce, others i’ll feat &/or play songwriter.” Retweeted over 6,000 times, the man remained true to his word, producing every song on the album. While most rappers fail in their quest to produce their own songs, Indicud is a persuasive indication that Cudi has skills in the beat-making department. The instrumentation on the album is truly complimentary to his style, and no other song better reflects this than the first official single off the album, “Just What I Am.” Featuring fellow Cleveland native/long-time member of Cudi’s clique, King Chip, the song is 100% party anthem material (yet, somehow, inexplicably absent from Top 40 radio), while still containing the confessional aura that is Cudi’s custom: “Had to ball for therapy/My shrink don’t think that helps at all/Whatever, that man ain’t wearing these leather pants/I diagnose my damn self/These damn pills ain’t working fam.” But in spite of his apparent struggles, Cudi appears a man more content with his life this time around, as Indicud bares little resemblance to his previous solo effort in terms of mental anxiety. On “Immortal,” an energetic Cudi narrates his journey toward serenity and hyer self-esteem, sampling MGMT’s “Congratulations” for a penetrating beat overflowing with electricity. Songs like “King Wizard” and “Mad Solar” exhibit an artist extremely comfortable in his lane, comfortable with his idiosyncrasies, and comfortably numb to his haters.
“New York City Rage Fest” is an instrumental that is more in the vein of the late-great J. Dilla’s Donuts than the styling of the Doctor. And while there is nothing similar to the infamous “Pause 4 Porno,” preceding many of the album cuts are famous film quotes from some of Cudi’s favorite movies, a sampling-style most identifiable with the group nobody wants to fuck with, The Wu Tang Clan. On that note, one of the highlights of the album is the guitar-heavy, “Unfuckwittable.” Playing more like Slash than the novice guitarist we heard on WZRD, Cudi wastes no time in establishing himself as the next producer juggernaut in the making. It’s difficult to describe the instant appeal of the song in words, but the biggest homage I can pay it is that it is impossible for one to hear it without feeling simply unfuckwittable. Mike should seriously consider playing the song during the player introductions for The Charlottle Bobcats.
And while there are no hooks by Future, or beat-the-pussy-up-like-_____ raps from Lil Wayne, Indicud is laced with more than a few noteworthy appearances. Arguably, the most surprising is that of RZA, the original mr. unfuckwittable. I say arguable, because although Too $hort holds down a pretty awesome yet unexpected guest spot on Cudi’s extremely catchy summer romp, “Girls,” in the history of time I cannot recall ever hearing RZA flow freely on a song he didn’t produce, co-produce, or simply act as a featured artist. But always the one to break trends, “Beez” features the sole voice of legendary-producer/terrible-rapper RZA. While the song is better than expected given the calamitous odds stacked against it, other Indicud visits are more deserving of praise, such as “Brothers,” featuring A$AP Rocky and King Chip, and “Red Eye,” featuring the L.A. based indie rock group Haim. Yet, in possibly the biggest letdown of the century, rivaling only the stillborn fight between Mayweather and Pacquaio, the long-hyped “Solo Dolo Pt. 2” featuring Kendrick Lamar, is by far the shittiest song on the entire record. Aside from the opening ten seconds, the song bears little resemblance to the original classic in terms of quality or sound.
Overlooking the savage treachery of “Solo Dolo Pt. 2,” and a few slightly mediocre tracks (“Burn Baby Burn”, “Cold Blooded”) Indicud is a monster of a record, and a perfect complimentary piece to the albums that have proceeded it. It’s clear that Cudi has evolved, and with his recent bittersweet departure from the G.O.O.D. Music camp, one would expect that only the sky, or rather the moon, is the limit for the levels at which future projects will reach. Reviews of Indicud have been mostly positive, making the words Cudi spoke in his January interview with Complex magazine all the more prophetic: “It feels right. But now I’m just kinda going with the flow and that’s kinda how Indicud came out. I didn’t go in making an album, I just went in trying to learn how to make beats.. and I made “Just What I Am”. And it was just like ‘OK, dope record’, but I didn’t have the confidence to do an album yet. But then, like other jams came out, like “Unfuckwittable” and “Young Lady” and then it was just like ‘Whoa, I could do an album here’. With just three songs, I felt like ‘Okay, this is something that I could execute’. And I put it out there that I was gonna do the album with only just three songs man; but I work better under pressure.”