Tuesday, November 09, 2010

CD REVIEW: Kid Cudi, "Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager"

(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)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


(Star Trak/Interscope) The line on NOTHING is that Pharrell Williams and N.E.R.D scrapped a finished album and simply started over. In any case, the stark militaristic cover and blatant political overtones of the album make it clear that there’s a message to be found in the music. The juxtaposition of simple party jams like “Party People” (featuring a verse from rapper T.I.) next to “The Man,” a cynical observation on how to opiate the masses, speaks volumes, as do the spacey acid-blues rants (“It’s in the Air,” “Help Me”) and bouncy, Ben Folds-styled piano-pop meditations on success (“Victory”). The dreamily melodic but too brief “Inside the Clouds” is a “hidden” track on the end of “I’ve Seen the Light” (there is full-length version worth tracking down). Somehow, the collaboration with electronic pioneers Daft Punk (the plodding “Hypnotize You”) ends up sounding like a missed opportunity. But it’s album highlight “Life As a Fish” that brings it all together into a blissfully sublime moment that invokes classic ‘60s pop acts like the Association and Classics IV. NOTHING is ample proof that N.E.R.D are fully capable of delivering music with the same quirky inventiveness that made their 2001 debut IN SEARCH OF such an instant classic.

(Originally published on Shockhound.com)