Jimmy Speaks: Kid Cudi’s The Man on the Moon

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Kid CuDi’s solo album, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” is a middle finger to conventionality. It’s an F you from the kids who were wearing tight jeans and colorful sneakers long before it was cool. It’s a triumph for anyone who ever felt weird or ostracized for being different. In short, if you don’t like alternative hip-hop then this album isn’t for you.

Calling this album hip-hop might even be a stretch. If it is hip-hop, it lies on the fringe somewhere with “The Love Below” and a bunch of MF Doom albums. As an artist, Cudi usually goes back and forth between singing and rapping, a lot of times on the same song. The problem is he’s not particularly stellar at either. That said, how does a man who isn’t great at singing or rapping put out a good album where he’s primarily singing and rapping.

He pulls it off really by being unconventional. Those who have been following Cudi since his critically acclaimed mixtape “a KiD Named CuDi” know that not giving a damn is what he’s all about. He’s weird, he’s different, his music is unusual; he knows. I suppose many of his strongest followers may feel the same way about themselves.

The album is essentially a journey inside the mind of “Mr. Solo Dolo.” It’s split up into five acts and is narrated by Common. Definitely weird.

The first act is “The End of Day.” It starts off with “In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem),” a sleepy intro that will leave you waiting for it to begin through its entirety. The track ends with Common essentially telling us what the album is about: it’s a condensed story of CuDi’s life, beginning with the death of his father.

What makes this album enjoyable is the fact that he talks about real life emotions: fear, vulnerability, love, hatred, being shy, being scared, being hurt, appeals to God, etc. This album isn’t filled with a lot of contrived features and songs designed to appeal to the masses; its just him doing him. There aren’t many people doing that now, which will make this album a breath of fresh air for many.

It really begins with “Soundtrack 2 My Life,” a song that places us in his mind presumably in his early adolescent years – struggling with missing his late father, dealing with girls and other issues that he probably never talked about when he was younger. Despite the uptempo beat, it’s a pretty dark song (he starts the 3rd verse off with ‘I was close to goin trying some coke, and a happy ending would be slitting my throat.’)

“Simple As…” is next, produced by Plain Pat. The beat is pretty tough, but the content is pretty empty. Besides the line “why big bro took all the hot bitches, dear God me too I like the hot bitches,” there isn’t much here. It has a beat/hook combo that’s catchy enough to get stuck in your head. The last few seconds is Common introducing us to the second act, “The Rise of the Night Terrors.”

The second act must be about when he discovered drugs, as it starts off with “Solo Dolo.” This is a track that leaked a few weeks before the album and was destroyed in a lot of the message boards. Without the context of the album, I can definitely see why people think this song sucks. Inside the album it makes sense; it’s a dark, weird song to open up the darkest part of the album. On this song Cudder sings for 2 verses then drops what seems like a stream-of-consciousness verse at the end of the song.

This is where he gets into trouble. Sometimes it seems like he just gets high and says whatever comes to his mind. That song would’ve been a lot better without a random verse that had nothing to do with the rest of the song.

“Heart of a Lion (Kid CuDi Theme Music)” is next, and it definitely has an anthem feel to it. It’s CuDi at his best – hot beat, good hook and brutally honest rhymes about his life and his emotional state. “My World” is more of the same. He talks about becoming a loner, being weird and artsy, struggling to get women, dead end jobs and pursuing his music career.

The third act of the album, “Taking a Trip,” starts with “Day N Nite.” This song seems to make an appearance on everything CuDi has put out so far. He took a page out of Lupe Fiasco’s book with this one. Similar to Lupe’s “Superstar,” this song’s dark lyrics are hidden behind a catchy beat and a sing-song hook.

Kanye laced him with “Sky Might Fall,” although CuDi didn’t do much with this one. Like “Simple As …” its not a bad song, it just doesn’t add to the story. Those two songs might have been better as mixtape tracks.

“Enter Galactic (Love Connection Pt. 1)” is a swing and miss. I guess he had to have a love song, but considering the tone and style of the album, it sounds like something that was left on the cutting floor of “The Love Below.” It ends with another appearance by Common, leading us into Act IV “Stuck.”

This act is where it sounds like CuDi’s look is starting to turn and the album starts to shed its dark tone. “Alive” is a nice change of pace track, though it doesn’t really stand out. If you’re not determined to listen to the album all the way through you’ll probably skip it. “Cudi Zone,” is in the same category.

“Make Her Say,” is a hot song, but it has no place on the album. There isn’t anything on it that sounds like it in terms of production, lyrics or tone. I suppose it’s on here to help sales.

“Pursuit of Happiness,” is his third single and features the band MGMT. It kind of brings the album down a little bit, in terms of pace and energy.

“Hyyerr” starts of Act V “A New Beginning.” This is the part of the story where CuDi gets on I assume. As for the song, it has one of those Midwest stoner anthem vibes, perfect for a Midwestern stoner song. The beat would’ve been perfect for Twista or Crucial Conflict, but Cudi and Chip Tha Ripper do a decent enough job.

“Up, Up & Away” finishes off the album. This is an essential CuDi track – I’m good, I’m living life and I could care less what anyone has to say about it. A great way to end the album (Common closes off the track with another short monologue).

This album flies in the face of what rap/hip-hop has become in the past few years. In one corner, you have rappers who seem to be living vicariously through their own lyrics – lots of money, jewelry, women, cars, drugs, drug money, weapons of mass destruction, etc. In the other corner are those who think every bar and every lyric should either change the world or be so complex that it takes three people from Mensa to interpret.

Where does this album fall? In the middle? In the stands somewhere? I don’t even think it’s in the same arena. The only album this can really be compared to is “The Love Below,” in the sense that it’s a really weird concept album. However, CuDi doesn’t have the lyrical or musical ability of Andre 3000, which keeps this album from reaching classic status.

That isn’t to say that I don’t think this album is good. I think this album has a high replay value, especially for those who are tired of the monotony of hip-hop. For most of the album, CuDi sticks to what he does well and the production is solid from top to bottom. In fact, my only real complaint about the album is the songs that lack depth of perspective.

In recent years, some of the better albums to come out have actually been mixtapes. 2009 is no different, as “Man on the Moon” fails to knock “So Far Gone” out of first place heading into the fall. Still, this album should be near the top. Don’t pick this up if you’re looking to be wowed lyrically or you want some help with your “swag.” However, if you enjoy music, especially those artist who are willing to explore even the boundaries of their own abilities, this is a must have.