We all have bad days, but it seems like Kid Cudi is happiest when he wallows in the muck and mire of his public life. There’s the substance possession charge he caught during the summer, the cocaine he admittedly sniffed to get through interviews, and the spat with estranged friend Wale, who referenced Cudi’s altercation with a fan during a freestyle. The Cleveland native brushed it off as a “simple ass rhyme” and Wale quipped on Twitter about Cudi’s addiction to “liquid cocaine.” At one point this year, the brash space cadet seemed destined for the brick wall that so many free-wheeling artists have crashed into. But somehow — perhaps through his own atonement or through the help of close friends — Cudi avoided that familiar obstruction and battled his dependences.
Maybe that’s why Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager sounds like the audible diary of a man struggling against unbreakable addictions, while also embracing the perks of celebrity: wealth, popping bottles and shrugging off peons. While his chosen topics don’t blaze a new trail, Cudi’s messages are delivered in ways that keep his problems all his own, spinning a peculiar web of angst, nonchalance and self-loathing.
Not surprisingly, the second chapter of Cudi’s Man On The Moon series is much darker than its predecessor, driven most likely by his aforementioned setbacks over the past year. While Cudi’s debut certainly had moments of dark reflection and somber meditation, songs like “Make Her Say” and “Up Up & Away” helped provide an overall optimism not captured on this record. It’s also tough to discern Cudi’s rationale, since
Man On The Moon II could be an attempt to exorcise personal demons and transition to healthier times. At certain points though, the album seems schizophrenic, as his “rager” side sounds content in a muddled existence, unwilling to ascend from the abyss. With that caveat, the impenitent “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young” sounds like the perfect excuse for his behavior. “You live and you learn/Doing bumps in the day, keep blunts to burn,” Cudi drones over a sparse, outer space groove.
If imitation is flattery, then fellow Cleveland act Bone Thugs-N-Harmony would be proud of the piano-laced “Marijuana,” which finds the artist using its vocal rhythm to articulate a love for the “greeny green.” But through all the addictions and somber temperament, it’s apparent that Cudi does not want help, if “Don’t Play This Song”, is any indication. Here, Cudi and Mary J. Blige (whose personal battles have also been publicized) shrug off and nudge potential caregivers. “People think they’re really being
helpful/By telling me ‘Please be careful,’ yeah right,” they sing on the moody, synthy track. Ironically, Cudi still takes time to uplift on the groggy “Revofev,” a scant nursery rhyme best suited for an R-rated Sesame Street. “Let go, life does get tough/No need to stress, hold you back too much,” he sings. Cudi needs to take his own advice, as Man On The Moon II ultimately folds under the weight of its own depression. In music, the best artists bare their souls and shed light into unknown realities. WithCudi, however, the wounds might still be too deep, since he bemoans his way throughthe impressive soundtrack and lacks the essence needed to make this project resonate.Life has its ups and downs, but there’s no need to implode.