Irish trad music, house music, and the occasional club rendition of Flo-Rida songs are all great things in their own right; but this week, I needed something that was distinctly, unabashedly, unadulteratedly American. In this dark hour, I turned to my usual “Crunk-Up Jams” iTunes playlist, but it wasn't enough—I treated myself to browsing the iTunes store.
That's when I bought Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon – The End of Day, and my cold dorm room in Northern Ireland warmed up.
I realize that Cudi's debut studio album has been in circulation since September of last year, and I confess that his Lady Gaga-sampling, chart-topping single “Make Her Say” made me skeptical of Cudi's legitimacy. Sure, it was a great anthem for a Vanderbilt tailgate, but when I heard the line, “A stripper from the south lookin' for a payday/said b**** you should do it for the love like Ray-J,” I initially dismissed Cudi with the eye roll that I usually reserve for rims-and-hoes rappers.
Turns out Cudi is not even remotely related to the rims-and-hoes rappers. There is the occasional line (as above) that is reminiscent of Snoop Dogg lines, but within the context of the entirity of Man on the Moon, it becomes clear that these rhymes are probably meant to be more ironic than serious.
By the end of 2009, Cudi had a predictable appearance on many Top Albums lists. It's unfortunate (albeit not surprising) that his radio hits have been those perhaps least representative of the album as a whole, which tackles some mature themes. Cudi's songs reflect fears of abandonment, the use of drugs to “see the universe” (“Soundtrack 2 My Life”), the residue of the frustration of being a teenage loner; generally being someone who exists very much inside his head, while he exists physically in the most public sphere possible.
With all of rappers' talk about being “raw,” it seems like Cudi is one of the few who actually achieves this (no hard feelings, T.I. and Lil Wayne). This rawness, too, is realized not through talking about glocks and slingin' weed, but by giving voice to the “so many issues that nobody can see” (“Soundtrack 2 My Life”). Cudi may not be the first to put real emotional content into rap – but it is impressive that his music has attained such commercial success, considering some of the most respectable rappers wouldn't be able to touch the pop charts with a ten foot pole.
What sets Cudi apart is that he's Everyman. His self-effacing lyrics are in sharp contrast to the “bling-bling” culture of popular hip-hop. Millions of Top 40 listeners have heard “Make Her Say” or “Day 'n' Nite,” but only a small percentage of them realize that they're listening to one sample from an album that contains not only addictive beats, but also a heartbreakingly vulnerable invitation into the mind of Cudi.
In “Soundtrack 2 My Life” he laments, “'I am happy', that's just the saddest lie”--not that we wish misery on Cudi, but we hope he stays down-to-earth enough to continue to be able to to “show the kids they ain't the only ones who up at night.” Looking forward to his next album, Man on the Moon 2: The Legend of Mr Rager, due out later this year.
Listen To: "Simple As . . ." - Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon - The End of Day