Kid Cudi just makes you want to sway. This is what I was reminded of the first time I listened to Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. Scott Mescudi’s second full-length LP has seventeen tracks presented in five ‘acts,’ and features as many unexpected artists as his last epic, Man on the Moon: The End of Day. But Cudi isn’t completely back to his old ways — there’s a lot of new stuff on the table.
This mesmerizing album is much deeper than his first one, delving into his real life rather than his dreams and nightmares. His intoxicating vocals go back and forth between minor chords and slow rap lyrics, and the deliberate genre confusion doesn’t stop there. His tracks include a bewitching combination of warped guitars, dizzying synths, and unsettling samples. Its mashup production style is similar to that of fellow rapper B.o.B’s last album, although much less mainstream-sounding. While some critics complain of Cudi’s inconsistency, this is the exact quality that makes the album so alluring. Who ever said consistency was material for a great album? Experimentalism and innovation are what drive this one. And it works. Music culture is changing, and this is the direction it’s moving in.
The Legend of Mr. Rager haunts; it follows you around after your first listen. Even the songs that are not immediately fantastic are permeating. Understated tracks like “Mojo So Dope” will have you humming, “yup, we live it, live it” as you walk home from class. But the album is most absorbing with lyrics like “I know I’m meant to be alone” in “All Along,” one of the album’s most enchanting songs. It is in expressions like this that Kid Cudi shapes his ‘rock opera’-like saga. Even if the lyrics aren’t masterfully crafted, Cudi’s feelings are profoundly expressed. He focuses more on feelings this time than catchy singles. This is obvious in the lack of upbeat tracks, and the surplus of slow, ebb-and-flow melodies. It seems like a good representation of the times — a community of herb-loving hipsters can revel in their ‘aloneness.’ His frequent references to depression, sleep disorders and drug abuse reflect our increasing openness to such societal issues. It is also refreshing to hear an artist express his drug and alcohol abuse honestly and painfully, rather than trying to glorify his experiences.
Similar to his last album, many of the collaborations are surprisingly effective. Indie singer-songwriter St. Vincent and underground rapper Cage are included in the track “MANIAC.” For familiar listeners, both artists’ styles are recognizably intermingled with Cudi’s. The song manages to accomplish a chilling yet relaxing atmosphere. Another successful collaboration is the more R&B themed track, “The End,” where Chip Tha Ripper is once again a satisfying addition to Cudi’s album. Other featured artists include Cee Lo Green, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, GLC, and Nicole Wray.
Overall, the album is an entrancing combination of old and new that consumes you from the start. I expect to be swaying to Cudi for a while yet. While Scott Mescudi may not be considered the most accomplished rap lyricist, he’s certainly one of the most ground-breaking.
Listen to a track from Man on the Moon II: \”All Along\”