CD REVIEW Kid Cudi Represents New Wave of Hip Hop

Surprises from a Middle-Class, Suburban Hipster

Kid CuDi

Man on the Moon

Produced by Kid Cudi. Kanye West, Plain Pat

Motown / Pgd

Released September 15, 2009

I’m a big fan of hip hop. I mean real hip hop, not the buckets of factory-produced horse vomit that passes off as mainstream radio these days. In particular, the next time I hear Jason Derulo say his own name, I will strongly consider seceding from the U.S. But give me a good hip hop album, be it afrocentric, alternative, fusion, gangsta, or political, and I’ll be a happy camper for weeks. Good rappers like Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Nas, and Lupe speak from the soul, and it’s always a treat to peer introspectively into their minds. But part of the pleasure comes from the fact that I’ve got almost nothing in common with the artist. I never grew up in the projects. I don’t know what it’s like to have a gun by my side at all times, and I’ve never gone hungry from lack of money. So what can I expect in an album by a middle-class, suburban hipster from Cleveland, Ohio?

Actually, quite a lot, and more than part of it due to strong support from industry veterans Ratatat, MGMT, Plain Pat, Emile, and mentor Kanye West. KiD CuDi represents a new wave of hip hop, propelled not by ghettos, gangs and clubs, but the suburban middle class. Content changes too, focusing on the self, and the hardships of life as a whole.

Man on the Moon is KiD CuDi’s exploration into his own melancholy; the album has a lazy, droning, melodic vibe that has gradually become CuDi’s trademark. CuDi, like us, has no street cred; has never shot a man or gone broke. But he has pain and paranoia, and masks the mental scarring caused by his father’s death with hallucinogenics and bad relationships. And boy does he milk it.

First, the bad. CuDi’s singing isn’t quite up to American Idol standards, and his tiny range of mumbling semitones can get tiring. Bafflingly, CuDi is also, at best, a lackluster lyricist. One of his cleverest bits in the arguably superb song “Soundtrack 2 My Life,” “The moon will illuminate my room and soon I’m consumed by my doom,” is immediately followed by unnecessarily vulgarity: “Once upon a time nobody gave a fuck / it’s all said and done and my cock’s been sucked,” cutting the flow dead in its tracks. In some songs, the lyrics are downright stupid: “Girls that I dated, it’s ok I am not mad yo / Unless you stabbed me in the heart, no love ho / this shit is so ill.” Sorry, Scotty, but it’s just not.

But what CuDi lacks in flow he makes up for with immense creative spirit. It’s nearly impossible to pin down his style. One of the early tracks, “Up Up & Away,” is an upbeat anthem about tackling a new day and shaking off social stigmata. Immediately afterward, “Heart of a Lion” takes a darker turn, revealing a man in emotional crisis. “Please save a cudi that needs some help,” he moans. “Hyyerr” is a throwback to sexual, 70’s style Marvin Gaye stylings. It’s all never been done before, and even with all the glitches, you really feel witness to the birth of a new subgenre. KiD CuDi is just that, after all — a kid. Who knows where his limits are as an adult?