Review Summary: “I found a monster in me when I lost my cool.”
Back in May of 2009, roughly four months before the release of his critically acclaimed debut album, KiD CuDi stated that he had already grown tired of the rap game; he wasn’t lying. On Man on the Moon: the End of Day
, CuDi sounded slightly exhausted and somewhat unenthused in contrast to his two preceding mixtapes. So when he declared that he would venture into rock music, you shouldn’t have taken his word lightly. Although he hasn’t completely contracted Lil Wayne syndrome and the effort isn’t a total 180°-turn, Man on the Moon: the Legend of Mr. Rager
significantly strays from the niche that CuDi is renowned for and consequently, it’s a disappointing follow up to a great freshman effort.
If you haven’t heard this album yet, a comparison between the album art from the first and second installments serves as a sort of foreshadowing. The respective art for The End of Day
is a colorful piece of artwork, blurring the lines between Scott Mescudi’s visage and a celestial body that is, presumably, his mind. The Legend of Mr. Rager
’s artwork is like a rumpled poster; a simple photograph of CuDi gloomily sulking on a stool under a starry sky with wrinkle effects added to it. Simply put, this is an extraction from his unstable (to quote “Day ‘N’ Nite”) ‘lonely stoner’ psyche and an injection into a much more tangible – a much more haunting – dimension: reality. While The End of Day
sorted out the inner workings of CuDi’s mind, The Legend of Mr. Rager
deals with real events in Mescudi’s life. That’s not to say it’s a total abandonment of the former; even the most obtuse emcees make reference to their intrapersonal being, and Cudder is no exception, even when he’s focusing on other matters. Although specifics may or may not lose the listener in transition, CuDi uses entirely relatable songwriting to weave yet another supremely coherent album, divvyed up into five acts (The World I Am Ruling, A Stronger Trip, Party On, The Transformation, You Live & You Learn) similar to the way the last one was. Among other things, past loves, his previous cocaine addiction, his hot temper recidivism rate of assault, and suicidal ruts, are all thrown under the microscope for all to see. The Legend of Mr. Rager
is by no means a ‘sell-out’. Rather, it’s a continuation of his penchant for glum honesty and emotional conveyance tucked into a more self-depreciating vein that propelled CuDi to stardom, and that’s quite possibly the saving grace of the entire album.
Oddly enough, The Legend of Mr. Rager
sees an ill-advised sonic deviation, despite the fact that this is CuDi’s most impressive vocal outing to date. Rather than lush electronic soundscapes we get grooving, downtempo tracks with pronounced drums and tinges of dance, soul and electro-, pop and alt rock. The subsequent results are varied. Although an ages old concept, hip-hop vocalists trying to crossover into rock is an oft-failed, syncretist effort that only Run DMC and Beastie Boys were able to consistently succeed in doing. That being said, KiD CuDi has better luck with it than many of his peers. Hell, he even strikes straight gold on some tracks. “Mojo So Dope” settles into a wonderful, little Gorillaz-type sound and “Trapped In My Mind” is an enchanting blend of dance and fuzzy, subtle pop rock melodies. However, the inconsistency of the production beleaguers this album to no end. There are several fouls committed (e.g. “All Along”, “GHOST!”, “These Worries”) but “Erase Me” is the trump card. With a half-baked chorus, a subpar Kanye feature, and a generic, awful rock beat that sounds like it was made by Avril Lavigne, it’s the beginning of a rut from which CuDi never truly recuperates from. Hell, it’s bad enough to have been on Lil Wayne’s Rebirth
This album isn’t what I’d like it to be. What it should be. It should have been a paramount to his debut LP, yet it fails to even compete by a good margin. The bottom line is that The Legend of Mr. Rager
is hampered by poorly executed (and perhaps planned) aesthetic deviations. It’s a much more lyrically consistent version of GOOD Music founder Kanye West’s 2008 album, 808s and Heartbreak
: a sort-of crossover that was lyrically profound, musically hit-miss, and ultimately average. Huh, CuDi wrote for, and appeared on, that album. Weird.