(G.O.O.D./Dream On/Universal Records) Kid Cudi is one of hip-hop’s most curious cases. Snapped up by Kanye West soon after releasing his first mixtape, Cudi’s debut album MAN ON THE MOON: THE END OF THE DAY sounded like an inspired spin-off of West’s own paradigm-pushing 808S & HEARTBREAK. All maudlin melodies, moody atmosphere and Cudi’s introspective lyrics made for a murky brew that played like Pink Floyd for indie hip-hop stoners. But it was Cudi’s real-life antics that thrust him into pop consciousness at large; from getting thrown off of Lady Gaga’s tour for punching a fan to his arrest in Manhattan over drug and disturbances charges, his bad behavior has become constant tabloid fodder. Cudi addresses all of that and more on his dense, confessional sequel MAN ON THE MOON II: THE LEGEND OF MR. RAGER. Completely opening the floodgates of his sound, this album is even more self-indulgent than his debut — but it’s also a much better record for it. Spreading 17 tracks over four “acts,” the album veers from an obvious Weezer homage (“Erase Me,” featuring Kanye West) to inspired collaborations like the aptly titled “MANIAC” featuring the distinctive guitar playing of alt-rock hero St. Vincent and a guest rap from underground rapper Cage. It’s a dark and nuanced collection that solidifies Cudi’s position as rap’s new reigning tortured soul and reluctant emo king.
(originally published on Shockhound.com)