In a Reader Review from over a year ago, I expressed my indifference toward Scott Mescudi, a musician and actor who goes by the stage name KiD CuDi. In a very short period of time, this Cleveland, Ohio-born artist has gained a lot of critical respect in our chosen genre: his mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi, even earned him a place in Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music collective, a group of artists with varying degrees of skill who all benefit from their position under the wing of one of the hottest producer-slash-rappers in the industry.
The reason I could give a fuck about CuDi's success lied in his musical output, which for some reason I believed to consist solely of songs on which he whined about how his good fortune is holding him back and how he wishes his life was the way it was before, back when he was poor and getting fired from all of his day jobs thanks to his need to write rhymes and the marijuana habit that plays an important role in his life. The title of his debut on Universal Motown, Man On The Moon: The End of Day, didn't help me think otherwise, and the fact that he broke his tracklisting up into five separate parts only proved that the man might have been taking this much more seriously than he should.
So I avoided the project like the virus I believed it to be back in 2009, lest I end up like Gwyneth Paltrow in Contagion. But a funny think happened since Man On The Moon: The End of Day dropped: CuDi's life just kept getting better. Scott ended up selling over five hundred thousand units of his debut, and it earned multiple Grammy nominations, which proves that someone in the industry was either paying attention or that they looked at hos KiD CuDi formatted his stage name and thought he was "cool", "edgy", and "hip". Mescudi also scored a plum role in the HBO series How To Make It In America. Finally, as his career was jump-started by his work behind the scenes on Kanye's 808's & Heartbreak, it makes sense that he also played a huge role in the creation of Yeezy's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
That last sentence is the reason why I decided that now would be a good time to look up CuDi's discography. (Well, not entirely: one of the tracks on the actual album is what really convinced me. I'll let you know which one it was when we get to it.) So I'm warning you too right now: today's post will be for Man On The Moon: The End of Day, and in two days, I'm running a write-up for the sequel, so if you're still on the fence about Scott Mescudi, hopefully my writings will help you decide whether he's worth the effort. And if you flat-out hate the guy, maybe the comments section will at least be kind of funny.
ACT I: THE END OF DAY
1. IN MY DREAMS (CUDDER ANTHEM)
The first track on any album is supposed to give the listener an idea of what they're about to subject themselves to. CuDi uses this idea as an excuse to warble some shit about how his dreams are awesome and how the verse he sings on here is “perfect” (it isn't). The final minute is taken up by Common, who narrates the project, turning Man on the Moon: The End of Day into one of those dreaded hip hop concept albums. Emile's music actually sounded alright, as introductory songs go, but Scott is already taking this project far more seriously than something entitled Man on the Moon: The End of Day should be. This doesn't bode well for me.
2. SOUNDTRACK 2 MY LIFE
Two tracks in, you realize that Scott isn't very interested in how hip hop songs sound today: he's too busy trying to craft his own hybrid to pay attention to anybody else. With the help of producers Emile and No I.D., he laces this beat with the first actual rhymes of Man on the Moon: The End of Day, but they ring hollow, as he is asking the audience for some understanding, telling us that he has “issues that nobody can see” and then only really listing one likely cause (the passing of his father) before quickly turning to his never-ending supply of “pussy and Cali weed”. The problem is that, at this point, CuDi hasn't yet earned the trust of the listener: I certainly didn't give a fuck that he has “issues”, nor will most of you two. It doesn't help that KiD CuDi has somehow earned a fair amount of success in his short career, selling tons of records, earning critical acclaim, and landing a starring role on an HBO show. Still feeling sorry for him, folks? Maybe if he stops sounding like a guy who is doing his best impersonation of Drake as a stoner, we'll talk.
3. SIMPLE AS...
Mescudi switches gears and delivers a track that is actually pretty fucking good. The Plain Pat-slash-No I.D. instrumental is as simple as the title helpfully indicates, but it helps alleviate the pain that occurs when the vocal samples (taken from OMD's “ABC (Auto-Industry)”) that repeat the phrases “A,B,C” and “1,2,3” start to annoy the shit out of you. CuDi delivers two quick verses that show the same level of promise that 'Ye must have heard when he signed the motherfucker: electing not to gaze into his navel for once, Scott sticks with his stoner braggadocio act, and it works. Having Common come in at the end to help further the story of Man on the Moon: The End of Day along kind of fucks everything up, but you can always skip to the next track when you get to the final twenty seconds.
ACT II: RISE OF THE NIGHT TERRORS
4. SOLO DOLO (NIGHTMARE)
Act II kicks off with a creepy Emile composition, with Scott providing vocals that fail to sound nightmarish (during the chorus, he actually sounds to me like Puff Daddy whenever he tries to sing, so that adds to the unintentional hilarity therein). This isn't a rap song, so it can't be rated as one, nor is it a straight R&B track. Mescudi seems to be more focused on creating entirely new genres of music than he is filling said new genres with representative tracks that can hold up to the test of time. Emile's beat is unnerving, and I mean that as a compliment, but Mr. Solo Dolo does it no favors. Moving on...
5. HEART OF A LION (KID CUDI THEME MUSIC)
Somehow Scott Mescudi is a big enough artist to warrant both an “anthem” (the first song on the album) and his own “theme music” (this track). I'm hoping he has the balls to include a “reprise” on here, too. This song was merely alright, nothing to write home about (nor was there much to write about on a blog such as this one, hence all of this filler), but I found the way the hook, after getting all of that “heart of a lion” crap out of the way, devolved into a high school debate, with the left and right speakers shouting their “No!”s and “Yeah!”s back and forth, kind of amusing, in a “this is getting in the way of my musical enjoyment”-kind of way.
6. MY WORLD (FEAT. BILLY CRAVENS)
CuDi lays out his plans for world domination on a song that was actually pretty good, although guest star Billy Cravens isn't given much to do except for sing the same hook over and over again with no deviation to speak of. Although he has come up pretty quickly in the rap game, Scott did actually have to work hard early on, recording at night while getting fired from his multiple day jobs. (He says that he “damn near hated all of” his bosses, a sentiment that may help him find his fanbase, much like Kanye's stories of stealing money from the cash register at The Gap on his “Spaceship” did.) The topic has been done to death before, but it is nice to see that Mescudi has an endgame in mind.
ACT III: TAKING A TRIP
7. DAY N NITE (NIGHTMARE)
CuDi's breakthrough single kicks off Act III, and it sounds just as slight as I remember: Mescudi rhymes (in the third person, for that added sprinkle of pretension) as a “lonely stoner” who is searching for his salvation. Or something. This song became a hit not because of its minimalist brilliance (The Dot da Genius beat is alright, but CuDi's performance is meh at best) and not because it had been in circulation for seemingly years before the hip hop audience finally found it (as it was also featured on the A Kid Named Cudi mixtape). No, “Day N Nite” became a sizable hit because the Crookers remix of the song took over the clubs. It turns out that CuDi's barely-there rhymes are a perfect fit for the dance club environment, where all of the drinking and drug use causes your ability to recall most lyrics to malfunction, but you can shout along to what are essentially chants dressed up as bars. My local Top 40 radio station even added the Crookers remix (which has a much bigger sound than the album version) into its regular rotation, referring to it simply as “Day N Nite” and not as a remix off any sort. That's all anybody needs to know about this track's popularity: even radio deejays thought the remix was the real product.
8. SKY MIGHT FALL
Working on a KiD CuDi album must be a cathartic release for most producers, as they are able to get lost within their creative whims, secure in the knowledge that CuDi might just follow them every step of the way. At least, I'm fairly sure that's how Kanye West (credited as co-producer on here, alongside Jeff Bhasker and CuDi himself) feels: I highly doubt Consequence was as open to this type of musical meandering before he loudly defected. Anyway, those tendencies don't work in CuDi's favor on “Sky Might Fall”: the lo-fi beat sounds excellent, but he loses the plot, brushing off any potential catastrophe with a dismissive “but I'm not worried”, which stays in line with his “lonely stoner” persona, but what the audience wants to hear is an artist who gives at least a little bit of a fuck, and reacts accordingly. Sigh.
9. ENTER GALACTIC (LOVE CONNECTION PART I)
Probably one of the worst love raps I've had the displeasure of coming across during my tenure on the blog. Matt Firedman (of ILLFONICS) provides a instrumental that aims squarely for the clubs, but CuDi's lines are so ridiculously insincere that he sounds like he's secretly plotting to murder you, just so he can collect the life insurance money and run away with his mistress. From a story perspective, it's good to see that Scott isn't unhappy one hundred percent of the time and that he's still willing to put himself out there and risk getting hurt in the hope that he finds his true love. (Common basically says as much during his narration at the end.) But from a musical standpoint, this shit sucks.
ACT IV: STUCK
10. ALIVE (NIGHTMARE) (FEAT. RATATAT)
As if we needed any more hints, CuDi pairs up with electronic duo Ratatat in an attempt to prove that Man on the Moon: The End of Day isn't your typical rap album: instead, it's an album that happens to feature some rapping. The music (provided by the guests) is repetitive, but it fits into the project's sound rather nicely, so the reason “Alive” is D.O.A. is due solely to Mescudi, whose selection of style over substance turns this into what he thinks a song should sound like instead of actually expressing a single unfiltered emotion. There's nothing genuine about “Alive”, and now that I think about it, that same criticism could be lobbed at most of the songs on Man on the Moon: The End of Day. Which is just sad.
11. CUDI ZONE
I couldn't get into this track, either. CuDi sticks with straight spitting, which suits the Emile beat just fine, but his chorus is so fucking cheesy that it's nearly impossible to ever like this song. One wishes that Mescudi would stop taking things so goddamn seriously and embrace the fact that he gets to do something as inherently ridiculous as recording music (and acting) for a living, and adjust his worldview accordingly: had he had a bit more fun with this shit, it might have actually been enjoyable.
12. MAKE HER SAY (FEAT. KANYE WEST & COMMON)
The now-infamous track that repurposes a sample from a piano-heavy mix of Lady Gaga's “Pokerface”, turning it into an ode to getting your dick sucked. I once commented on my Twitter that KiD CuDi doesn't come across as an especially gifted performer: he sounds like every other fucking rapper ever, with lines such as “Fuck them other n----s 'cuz you down for her bitches / And fuck them other bitches 'cuz you down for some stickin'”, and my critique seems even more spot-on today. Kanye sounds as repulsive as ever while he talks about getting laid, but at least he's trying to be funny, and Common's appearance (with an actual verse) is so out of place that the listener can't help but smirk audibly. I realize that the original “Pokerface” is, by Gaga's own admission, all about sex, but “Make Her Say” somehow makes the exact same subject matter sound clinical and joyless. Thanks for that, Scott.
13. PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (NIGHTMARE) (FEAT. MGMT & RATATAT)
“Pursuit of Happiness” is what ultimately convinced me to give Man on the Moon: The End of Day an actual chance (a decision I'm currently regretting, but that's neither here nor there): I caught the video on MTV (of all places) and thought, “Oh yeah, MGMT was supposed to be on that album, right?” (I was also curious as to why Drake was prominently featured in the clip when he has nothing to do with the song itself, it turns out.) This song, which is about as depressing as I imagine an actual scheduled pursuit of “happiness” would be, slows the momentum of the project down quite a bit, but the contrast works, as you feel for the “lonely stoner” and his issue with night terrors, rooting for him all the way. Thankfully, this song still worked for me within the context of Man on the Moon: The End of Day.
ACT V: A NEW BEGINNING
14. HYYERR (FEAT. CHIP THA RIPPER)
Man on the Moon: The End of Day appears to end its program with two separate odes to the stickiest of the icky. First up is the spellchecker's nightmare “Hyyerr”, a collaboration with his friend Chip Tha Ripper that manages to make both men sound generic as fuck over a poppy Crada soundscape that wouldn't sound out of place on radio playlists today. Have you ever heard rappers brag about smoking weed and had it annoy you so much that you shout at your speakers or your iPod, “Get a fucking job!"? You will after you listen to “Hyerr”, and I guarantee you that neither one of these motherfuckers will heed your well-intentioned advice.
15. UP, UP, AND AWAY (THE WAKE AND BAKE SONG)
The other weed song, also the final track of the evening, doesn't even pretend to be a rap song: CuDi finally gives in to his emo tendencies and writes yet another stoner anthem, albeit one with a much better shot at being played on college radio. I appreciate the fact that the man obviously has no interest in the cookie-cutter model of today's hip hop, but it would be nice if his shit stood out for something other than sounding fucking mediocre. This album hasn't impressed me in the least bit: all it has accomplished is making me once again question 'Ye's taste in music.
There is a deluxe version of Man on the Moon: The End of Day that includes three additional tracks, all of which were lifted directly from the A Kid Named Cudi mixtape. As I don't have that particular version, my write-up ends here.
THE LAST WORD: O-kay. Man on the Moon: The End of Day sounds just as I expected. Scott Mescudi certainly isn't much of a rapper: his skills are amateur hour at best, with his few clever bars and unique metaphors overshadowed by a delivery that betrays the absolute boredom he is feeling while presenting them. This would be just fine, mind you, if he hadn't originally classified himself as a rapper (his metamorphosis into an emo hipster douchebag came later on, mind you). So what listeners are forced to hear (well, maybe forced is the wrong word, as you could just as easily choose to ignore this shit) are some pretty decent instrumentals served with a side of pretension, an attitude which KiD CuDi has not yet earned the right to display. Man on the Moon: The End of Day has at least two bangers, which aren't essentially listening but are enjoyable nonetheless, but in order to get to them, you have to wade through some utter bullshit (narrated by Common, for fuck's sake). It's safe to say that I wasn't a fan of Man on the Moon: The End of Day. Comparisons to Kanye West's 808's & Heartbreak are inaccurate and haphazard at best: the Auto-Tune somehow allowed 'Ye to emote, while CuDi is trapped within his own
depression limitations regardless of what kind of musical accompaniment he has. Pass.
SOMETHING ELSE TO TRY INSTEAD: “Memories” (David Guetta featuring KiD CuDi)
Back when Guetta's One Love was released in 2009, I dismissed this tune, but circumstance has caused me to revisit it (okay, that sounds too dramatic: it simply popped up one day when I was listening to Sirius XM), and I now love the shit out of it. Scott's minimalist approach to songwriting actually works beautifully on here, as this near-perfect marriage of performer and electronic dance beats has proven. I wholeheartedly support the idea that KiD CuDi abandon this rap shit in favor of recording club hits exclusively: as the “Day N Nite” Crookers remix has proven, he'll have no problem captivating an audience that is already intoxicated and high out of their fucking minds. And that is meant to be a compliment.