Kid Cudi – Ashin' Kusher
I've been meaning to write an article since the inception of Those Who Dig about artists who create atmospheres. And I'm not talking about "atmospheric" music like Sigur Ros or Godspeed. I'm talking about artists whose music or specific album creates a world unto itself with a tangible environment, relatable personas, and emotional grounding. I know you know what I'm talking about. Those albums that you throw on and you're instantly immersed in the world the artist is creating, totally at the mercy of the music. The first two examples that come to mind are Vampire Weekend (which always transports me to Cape Cod with popped collars and yachts) and the Clipse album Hell Hath No Fury (which creates a ghetto, drug-slinging world around me even though I'm white and from the suburbs). For this to happen the album doesn't have to be legendary, it just has to click on every level. The soundscapes are consistent, the lyrical messages are potent, the flow is smooth.
I realize that when this happens to you, objectivity is thrown out the window and the music becomes nearly critic-proof. Such is the case with Kid Cudi. Man On The Moon: The End of the Day immersed me in a world that amplified some of what I was already feeling at the time. I recognize the fact that Cudi isn't exactly an eloquent lyricist but the emotional rawness of that album really clicked with me. The End of the Day helped me through some shit, and for that I'll be eternally grateful to the Cudder.
I keep hearing how Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager is less dark than The End of the Day, which is the exact opposite of the impression I get. The soundscapes of Mr. Rager are often haunting and dense, and Cudi's rhymes are rarely less depressing. It's pretty ambitious to, ya know, take on the entire world in your opening track, but Cudi does it with "Scott Mescudi vs. the World". It sets the tone for the album with Cee-lo's high pitched, ghostly vocals and various disturbing synthesizer flourishes.
"Don't Play This Song" is one of the more epic productions on the album. It's all pounding bass, low synths, and drum fills but it comes together with Mary J. Blige's beautiful voice like it's trying to shed it's shell and evolve into an orchestrated pop song. Cudder's not breaking new ground with rhymes about drugs, but it never feels like that's all it's about, does it? Well, unless you're talking about "Marijuana", and then yea, that's definitely all it's about. On top of a catchy piano line and handclaps, Cudi romances the green bud at double speed (which always makes his rapping seem more impressive).
The most radio-ready song is probably "Ashin' Kusher". It's got more funk than you expect from Cudi and it's not weighed down by an emotional anchor. "The Mood" delivers what it promises. It feels like a clear-your-head walk on a moonless night. It's a good set up for my favorite track on Mr. Rager, "Maniac". St. Vincent's sample is well placed and Cudi plays up his slow, slurred singing style to haunt you with a tale of the dark passenger inside your head.
Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager seems to be slowly reaching for a hold to pull itself out of the abyss over it's last three tracks. While "All Along", "Ghost!", and "Trapped in My Mind" are by no means optimistic, the beats get bouncier and the rhymes stop swirling in total self-doubt. "You see I'm trapped in my mind/and I know it's crazy/hey, it's not that bad at all" sings Cudi on the final track. Maybe there's a glimmer of hope for everyone's favorite lonely stoner after all – or maybe it's just acceptance.