My exercise in self-hatred continues today with my review for the second and most recent album in Scott Mescudi's catalog, the awkwardly titled Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. It was released a year after his debut, and it found our host in a much more successful position, thanks to the massive sales of Man On The Moon: The End of Day, his endorsement deals, and his acting gig on HBO.
KiD CuDi will always be a divisive figure in our chosen genre, I've decided, and that will remain true as long as he chooses to remain in our genre, which probably won't be for much longer: shortly after completing this project, he formed a rock band, 2 Be Continuum (formerly Wizard), and announced plans to essentially stop rapping without ever really saying that he would stop rapping (indeed, Man On The Moon III is apparently still in the works. Yippee!).
This is an awful lot of work from a guy who declared that he was ready to retire right before his debut ever hit store shelves. Then again, that could have easily been a publicity stunt intended for his audience to snatch up every copy of Man On The Moon: The End of Day as soon as possible, so as to help convince today's host to not give up so easily. That's how I choose to see KiD CuDi: as a cold, calculating dick who would probably be a nice guy in real life (in the way that a lot of stoners are decent-enough guys) but an asshole to actually work with.
Maybe that's just me.
Speaking of cold and calculating, Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, Mescudi's sophomore album, follows a similar five-act structure as his debut, as the audience is supposed to pretend that this project is a loosely-formed concept album that has no linear storyline but wants you to think it does, lest you believe it to be yet another random collection of songs that every other artist unleashes annually. While it hasn't sold as well as its predecessor, it has still managed to move more than four hundred thousand units, which in 2011 measurements means that Scott Mescudi has sold eighty-seven million copies.
ACT I: THE WORLD I AM RULING
1. SCOTT MESCUDI VS. THE WORLD (FEAT. CEE-LO GREEN)
I wasn't a fan of the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. I usually love anything director Edgar Wright does, and he took Bryan Lee O'Malley's original graphic novel to many glorious visual heights, but my issue was with the main character: Scott Pilgrim simply came off as a homicidal dick who abused his girlfriend and mistreated everyone in his band, all in the quest for an allegedly greener pussy pasture. I found it extremely hard to root for him when he acted like such a singularly-minded douchebag. So of course CuDi chose that story to identify with, as he oftentimes comes across as a dick who is extraordinarily difficult to root for. Even with The Voice's Cee-Lo Green in tow on hook duty, Scott fails to so anything on this opening track that makes me give even one iota of a fuck. (Side note: my dislike of the film has nothing to do with the actors involved, although, completely unrelated, I've always thought that Jason Schwartzman was the type of guy who would be an asshole in real life. Prove me wrong, Max Fischer. Still love Rushmore, though.)
I enjoyed Plain Pat and Mike Dean's funky, dusty beat at first, before I realized that it never deviates from its original four measures for the entire duration of the track, so now I'm just frustrated. CuDi delivers the same four bars over and over again, no like bearing any relation to the last, calling for a revolution that isn't ever explained. (“REVOFEV” stands for “Revolution of Evolution”, which was the original name for this sophomore project.) Maybe CuDi actually has a point, I don't know, but when listening to a song, it's impossible to hear what the artist is fucking thinking in their mind. You know, 'Ye is even more pretentious than KiD CuDi, but at least he makes interesting music most of the time. Do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200.
ACT II: A STRONGER TRIP
3. DON'T PLAY THIS SONG (FEAT. MARY J. BLIGE)
Having failed to ignite a revolution on the last track, CuDi angrily lashes out at the listener, demanding that they not listen to this song. Okay, I'm just kidding: this song is full of much more bullshit than just that. Scott attempts to justify his depression (which he still suffers from even with his endorsement money and HBO paychecks) and tells people that their advice isn't helpful in the least bit. Somehow he even roped Mary J. Blige into this bizarre opposite world, one where people who care about their loved ones stand idly by while they destroy themselves from the inside out. Actually, that last sentence is deeper than this song fucking deserves. If this is how CuDi allegedly sounds when he's not on drugs, then I would advise him to get back in touch with his dealer immediately.
4. WE AITE (WAKE YOUR MIND UP)
This isn't really a song, and it's too long to be an interlude. Just what the fuck was this supposed to be? Aside from a bathroom break, obviously.
Judging from the song titles on Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, “Marijuana” is the first of two separate odes to the sticky icky, and although it isn't all that great, this is the first song on the project where CuDi hasn't entirely annoyed me. Most of the credit for the “success” of this song goes to the beat (co-produced by CuDi), which supplies our host with a fairly interesting musical backdrop that you don't have to be high to enjoy. It still sounds as subdued and muted as all of the other beats on here thus far, but there seems to be more heart on here. CuDi's singing voice is what it is, but considering he was probably baked when he recorded this shit, I'll let the fact that he's singing to his bag of weed as though it were his lover slide.
6. MOJO SO DOPE
This is your average “we live this shit”-type rap song, the kind where the artist tries to prove to the audience that the lifestyle they represent on wax mirrors what they actually do on a day-to-day basis. (I'm not sure what CuDi is trying to prove, exactly: other than being mildly famous and having a show on HBO, his day-to-day probably lines up with what most of you two do all the time, in that he likes to smoke, drink, and fuck.) The hook on here is pretty fucking stupid, too. But here's the conflicting part of my review: I actually liked this song. Emile's instrumental sounded dark and melodic, CuDi's verses were decent enough, and that fucking stupid hook I mentioned earlier? Extremely fun to repeat out loud. Sue me.
ACT III: PARTY ON
7. ASHIN' KUSHER
This would be the other ode to Mary Jane, and not a song clearly dedicated to the new star of Two and a Half Men. This track was actually released to a single to radio: I'm not sure why, as it isn't very good. Chuck Inglish (see, I told you The Cool Kids keep popping up on the site) lends an instrumental which is a repetitive bore, and CuDi never seems to know exactly what to do with it. He resorts to typical rapper braggadocio, which isn't a crime, but there wasn't anything about this beat that would naturally lend itself to such bombast. Maybe while he's walking around zonin', CuDi should try to write a better goddamn song.
8. ERASE ME (FEAT. KANYE WEST)
After listening to “Erase Me”, CuDi's impersonation of a Weezer song from the era of The Blue Album, I'm not surprised that he's more interested in rock music than he is hip hop at the moment. Is it possible for a song to sound both technically proficient and lazy as fuck? Because that's what Scott manages to pull off on here: his flat singing voice isn't awful, but there is no actual emotion to be found in his voice, and sounding apathetic doesn't work if you're longing for a lost love. Rivers Cuomo this dude is not. Then again, Rivers Cuomo probably couldn't score a random cameo from CuDi's boss Kanye West, but given 'Ye's terrible contribution (which ends on a joke about shit), why would he even want that? Meh.
9. WILD'N CUZ I'M YOUNG
I think this might have been a single, too, which makes sense, since the ridiculous hook shares similarities to, oddly, Cali Swag District's “Teach me How To Dougie”. Beat-wise, Plain Pat and Emile's work is simple enough to sound pleasant, but you wouldn't want to play it on an endless loop or anything. Lyrically, CuDi won't ever be a beast behind the mic: the fact that he's apparently sic of hip hop and has formed a rock group instead pretty much confirms that he won't be practicing his bars anytime soon. But he doesn't sound bad on here, just disaffected. A word to the wise: there is a difference between actually expressing the pain you're in and just saying variations on the phrase, “you don't know my pain”, over and over again. True fact.
10. THE MOOD
This isn't much of a rap song, but our host does rap on it, so there's that. The beat, from Emile and No I.D., worked well for me, thanks to its claustrophobic melody and the creepy-as-fuck sampled laughter. “The Mood” is the very first time I've heard something from KiD CuDi that could potentially justify why Kanye West has so much goddamn faith in him: this track is interesting in a way that the rest of his catalog could never be. I don't want to hear an album full of “The Mood” clones, but this darker excursion into his state of mind clicks, and that's all that should matter.
ACT IV: THE TRANSFORMATION
11. MANIAC (FEAT. CAGE & ST. VINCENT)
Singer-songwriter St. Vincent earns the prize for most unexpected guest star on what is still ostensibly a hip hop album, although, for all the praise this collaboration received, she barely registers: her contribution amounts to little more than a vocal sample taken from her “The Strangers”. I was initially intrigued by underground stalwart Cage's guest appearance when I first read about this track, because the only mainstream artist (although not so much so at the time, granted) to have ever acknowledged his existence was fellow white rapper Eminem, and they fucking hated each other (back in the day, they were two white boys in a predominantly African-American culture, and there could be only one), but all of that curiosity subsided when I actually listened to the song, which isn't nearly as dark and psychopathic as either CuDi or Cage had hoped. The beat was unorthodox, yes, but that doesn't mean that it was any good. I may still watch the Shia LeBeouf-directed video whenever it actually drops, though. At least the once, anyway: they're promising a horror movie, and I like horror movies, so we'll see.
12. MR. RAGER
Oh God, this album is still on? Shit. CuDI devotes yet another track to one of his aliases (see: Man On The Moon: The End of Day's “Mr. Solo Dolo”), choosing to sing the shit out of his words over this beat, which actually sounds pretty good. Our host's vocals pair up with the instrumental pretty well, so even though the man is talking about less than nothing on here (CuDi hasn't yet mastered the concept of sounding “deep”), the song is at least entertaining enough to not immediately skip.
13. THESE WORRIES (FEAT. MARY J. BLIGE)
CuDi drags Mary J. Blige out of the box he's keeping her in to embarrass her for a second time on Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, although at least this time she seems to channel actual emotion, as opposed to telling people to not play the fucking song. It's become increasingly harder for me to listen to Scott's whining about his “worries” and proclamations of being “deep” without donning a blank sarcastic stare. Am I alone in this? Am I the only guy who sees no difference between KiD CuDi's “artistry” and his overall pretentious attitude? Anyone? Bueller?
14. THE END (FEAT. GLC, CHIP THA RIPPER, & NIKKI WRAY)
Because this song contains some actual rapping over a dope Blended Babies (gotta love that name) instrumental, I was convinced that my iPod had suddenly switched to an entirely different playlist. But no, this is actually CuDi's song, a posse cut featuring his boy Chip Tha Ripper and one of Kanye West's oldest protégées GLC, who really deserves to get more work, since he sounds phenomenal on here. Chip even sounds really good. “The End” takes its inevitable dive when Scott decides to contribute a wack-as-fuck verse, which simply proves that his rock star leanings may be a good idea if it promises to keep him the hell away from other rappers. Also, bizarro guest star
Nicole Nikki Wray (bizarro because of her connection to Ski Beatz's camp) lends a hook that sounds just fucking obnoxious. But at least the beat and the other guest stars aced this exam.
ACT V: YOU LIVE & YOU LEARN
15. ALL ALONG
I was kind of hoping that this entire experience had been a dream all along, and that I'm just somehow writing in my sleep, but no, KiD CuDi's emo horseshit on here is all to real. Seriously, motherfucker, you've lucked out: you get to write and record music for a living. You don't need to have a real job. You should fucking appreciate that shit, because all it's going to take is everyone losing interest in you, and then this will all end. You can at least sound like you're enjoying yourself a little bit.
Scott gets his Andre 3000 on over a Emile / Ken Lewis / No I.D. instrumental that I'm fairly certain would have accommodated a guest appearance from Ice Cold himself had he not flatly denied CuDi's request to work together. (That move actually makes me like Andre Benjamin even more.) The Freak Scene sample that plays throughout sounds alright at first, but it grates on your subconscious after a while, and our host's singing doesn't help matters any. Everyone wanders through life feeling invisible at some point, Cudi: most of us just don't write bullshit songs about it.
17. TRAPPED IN MY MIND
(In the singing voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons): “I am deep / Much deeper than you / Hibbert!”
THE LAST WORD: I've never wanted to shoot myself in the face after listening to an album before. And I still don't: not only would that be an indicator that I was taking music far too seriously (it's intended for entertainment purposes only, people! Entertainment!), it would also give KiD CuDi far too much credit for producing what he believes to be “art”. Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager is a joyless creation that only seems to exist because Scott Mescudi hates you and everything you stand for. Yeah, you, with the douchey hair and the smile on your face as though you're happy to be alive and shit. There is even less to like on Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager than there was on his debut, and that's saying a lot. CuDi seems to think that the hip hop audience gives a fuck about his pain, but the problem is that he's so enigmatic and myopic that he never manages to ever tell the audience exactly what it is that bothers him: this makes it extraordinarily challenging for any listener to relate. It's not the depression that bothers me: I listen to sad bastard music all the goddamn time. (Have you ever really listened to the lyrics on most New Wave songs?) But Scott's assholic tendencies detract from the overall effect presented on Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, which is otherwise a slickly-produced pop album that will never actually become popular, with a couple of tracks that sound decent enough to warrant paying closer attention. Just to the songs, though: unless KiD CuDi really wows me with his rock band, it's virtually impossible for me to picture myself still giving half a shit.