Kid Cudi- Man on the Moon: The End of Day Album Preview
I’ve got to be honest – when I first set foot into the listening session for Kid Cudi’s long awaited debut Man on the Moon: The End of Day, I was completely skeptical. Cudi, who wowed me once with “Day N Nite” then wowed me twice with the Crookers Remix, but only gave me half of my download’s worth with “Sky Might Fall” and “Make Her Say” had something to prove to me. That was until the album was played in its entirety and the pieces fell perfectly into the puzzle. It’s been a while since music had a Byronic hero, but if Kid Cudi plays his cards (and chords) right, he could very well be that dude for Hipster-Hop.
The listening event took place in NY’s swanky-dank Griffin on Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District. Every known blogger was in attendance, along with handfuls of journos and random label figures who gladly partook in the complementary Ciroc. Jay-Z was rumored to be attending (yeah right) to announce Kid Cudi’s surprise attendance (yeah right again). The event was set to take place from 7-9pm, but didn’t really commence until close to 8 and we were still out by 9:20. Weird, considering an album that felt like the soundtrack to an epic film, really only took about an hour of our time.
Universal/Motown’s Sylvia Rhone said a few words at the beginning and the end of the listening, calling Cudi “seminal”, comparing him to Jimi Hendrix (what?), and then detailing the fight they had to sign him. Is he the best they ever had? (take that, Drake!)
So, the music. Well, before going into a thorough play by play, I can’t overemphasize this: this is not a rapper’s album. By Hip-Hop’s 30-yr-old standards, this may not even be a Hip-Hop album. It is, however, a collection of melodies and strong basslines that haven’t been this electronically cohesive since the Trip-Hop era. Anyway, on with the show…
Man On the Moon: The End of Day is laid out like a play, complete with five Acts. The narrator between Acts is none other than Common, who describes Cudi in this grand, Shakespearean way. If we’re really carrying this theatrical theme, then Kid Cudi is either Hamlet or Othello, a dark brooding figure that longs to love and longs to live, but finds comfort in solitude. We’ve heard this story before, with 808’s to match a certain someone’s heartbreaks. Cudi’s approach feels more natural though, as if he wasn’t submerged into the artsy loner’s world by way of manufacturing. Cudi sounds like he was born there. One thing is for certain – this entire album brings up the strong question of Which weirdo came first: the Cudi or the Ye?
Act 1: The End of Day
1. In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem) – This was quite the orchestral entrance into Man On the Moon: The End of Day. With splashes of ambient sounds, mixed with trippy glazed beats, this song serves as the opening elixir into the mind of the Moon Man. A spoken word by Common sets the stage for Act 1. “This is the story of a man who not only believed in himself, but in his dreams too” Common says. While this song is supposed to serve as the “I can’t believe I’m here!” moment, Cudi’s tone is still somewhat wrapped in paranoia.
2. Soundtrack 2 My Life – The opening line is “I got 99 problems, and they all bitches.” Nuff said. It’s the purging of Cudi’s emotions on paper, where hidden feelings come to light backed by intricately placed nodding beats. As early as this song I was like “Wait a minute, this sounds like a better 808s and Heartbreaks!” Chicken or the egg, my friend. Chicken or the egg.
3. Simple As… – The mantra “A-B-C” is hugged by heavy drums that erupt into this tribal symphony. Cudi has successfully mastered the art of Sing-Rap. And why? Because it’s apparent that he can do both quite well. This is a combination that not too many can successfully pull off (unless their name is Lauryn Hill). Common arrives just in time to toot the horns for Act Two.
Act 2: The Rise of the Night Terror
4. Solo Dolo (nightmare) – I’m not entirely sure why some songs on this album were designated as “nightmares”. Most of this album sounds like a heap of nightmareshness (not a word, I know) if you ask me. This song is a dark and creepy entry into Cudi’s world of paranoia. It sounds like a spooky version of “Day N Nite” through Cudi’s dealings with loneliness set to the backdrop of nighttime.
5. Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music) – This could categorically be considered a House record, and Cudi rides the beat like a champ. This is one of those rare instances where stellar production doesn’t carry the lyrics. Rather, the lyrics accompany the stellar production. If you’re looking for Cudi to be tugging on your heartstrings with his tales of sadness think again. That’s all there, but in this case you come for the music and eventually stay for the words.
6. My World f. Billy Cravens – Let me just say that I’d love this song much more if Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars would’ve been on this track instead of Wes Craven’s pluralized nephew. This one is an audio-biography, where Cudi laments on being the artsy clownish figure to hide his darkness. “As I grew to be a teen, I disguised myself,” he says, once again hiding the real him.
Act 3: Taking a Trip
7. Day N Nite (nightmare) – What better way to celebrate the “trip” chapter than with this classic gem? I say classic because this song is old enough by now to be one. Still, it belongs here and is much more understandable now within the grand scheme of the album. Paranoia? Check. Loneliness? Check. Nighttime? Check. The end gets chopped and screwed, which is kind of odd but kind of cool at the same time.
8. Sky Might Fall – This song we’ve heard before, but previously Cudi rhyming in Kanye’s cadence made me roll my eyes. Now I wonder, was Kanye rhyming like Cudi? Anyway, Ye co-wrote this one, where Cudi is aware of the threat of no tomorrow but living for today. “Sky might fall, but I’m not worried at all,” he says. The end flows into a series of jittery yet harmonizing “I keep on runnin’s”. You say you’re sick of runnin, Cudi? Now you know how Ye feels!
9. Enter Galactic (Love Connection Part 1) – I loved this song. It sounded like London Beat to me. A full-bodied dance track, reminiscent of the ‘90s MTV Party to Go Era, but to be taken more seriously.
Act 4: Stuck
10. Alive (nightmare) f. RATATAT – Cudi’s rap on this track sounds nothing like him. The RATATAT production on this is pretty sexy and synthy, where Cudi slides through the beat with confidence, but still seems to ponder “do they really like me?”
11. Cudi Zone – This one is very synth-heavy and despite the fact that Kanye didn’t produce it, his fingerprints are all over it. This one sounded like the ‘80s, Men at Work even, plus a pocketful of 808s and Cudi lyrically on point.
12. Make Her Say f. Kanye West and Common – The Lady Gaga “Poker Face” sample sounds as if she was part of the track the way M.I.A. was on “S.L.U.” While this song has already been played ad nauseam thanks to the internets, it still sounds better within the context of the whole album.
13. Pursuit of Happiness (nightmare) f. MGMT & RATATAT – This song was a vortex that sucked almost everyone in the room into it. Starting out with mildly distorted feedback that dissipates into an airy and bubbly trip, the song is not without Cudi’s mind numbing lyrics about death and the what-ifs.
Act 5: A New Beginning
14. Hyerr f. Chip the Ripper – This one had a smooth southern drawl to it, sounding like an Outkast song on sleeping pills. While Cudi isn’t promoting ambient-laced dreams he’s sounding, dare I say, sexy. It could also be that this song reminded me of Andre3000 and well, you know…
15. Up Up & Away – A punchy way to end his play. Electric guitars that give way to thumping drums, where each instrument is introduced in order. It’s the culmination of Cudi’s life set to music, similar to the end of the Glow In the Dark Tour, carrying the same tone of acceptance with the life you’ve been given. This song was the best possible End of the Day that the Man on the Moon could have offered.
After previewing Man on the Moon: The End of Day, I realize that Kid Cudi and Kanye West should probably have the same therapist. Despite being the internet’s smedium hero, Kid Cudi crafted a work that’s meant to be held in your hands – like a worn piece of vinyl, complete with DJ scratches. Cudi does an excellent job of not letting the production dictate his mood entirely, which creates a contrast between sound and feeling that will one day be known as that signature Kid Cudi style. Epic, obscure, and introspective, Kid Cudi did everything he was supposed to, securing his spot as the new tortured genius.