In a year full of highly anticipated “come-back” albums via the return of Frank Ocean, Ab-Soul, & Charles Hamilton, the release of Kid Cudi’s next entry to the rap ecosphere holds a particular interest for several reasons. Long considered the “Lord of the sad and lonely,” Kid Cudi’s star potential has been focused on delivering substantially heartfelt and honest content garnering him one of the more loyal cult followings in this generation of hip-hop. Scott Mescudi’s first A Kid Named Cudi mixtape and the following Andy Kaufman inspired Man on The Moon series influenced the creations of newcomers and seasoned veterans from Raury and Travis Scott to Drake and Kanye West. With that being said, Kid Cudi’s more explorative ventures WZRD, Satellite Flight, and Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven did not have the success nor the polish of his earlier work. Only Indicud seemed to come close to delivering the “old Cudi.”
Enter, the new Cudi…
He sounds a lot like the Scott we knew, but more mature, a bit more patient with himself, and more confident affirmations of self discovery and understanding are expressed on Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin’. With this being the first album in which Kid Cudi reunited with former collaborator Plain Pat amongst other producers such as Pharrell Williams and Mike Dean, we are treated with an album that achieves the level of studio execution that surpasses all of his prior work. The magic equation of an artist that truly knows themselves well enough to excel over soundscapes from pop industry heavy-weights while not compromising their personal message is what we have when listening to anthems of self perseverance, such as the Andre Benjamin assisted “By Design” in which the two emphasize the importance of the process towards growth. It speaks to the idea that everything is by plan and design, reassuring listeners that even the worst circumstances are opportunities for growth and development.
There was much controversy surrounding Kid Cudi and his tweets directed at Drake, Kanye West, and any other “fake industry artists” that have been accused of having ghostwriters. Kid Cudi exclaimed that he “hadn’t even bust a nut yet” in reference to his body of released work. It seemed like Scott was fed up with the content that fills the air and the lack of recognition for his contributions to the hip-hop landscape. Those tweets, along with the responses from Kanye West and Drake, additional commentary from Big Sean and Lupe Fiasco created hype around what Kid Cudi would actually do. Kanye even went so far as to admit Kid Cudi is his pick for one of the most influential artists of our time.
The influence continues on the new album, however, this time around Cudi brings along Travis Scott and Willow Smith for a couple of unexpected collaborations on “Baptized in Fire” and “Rose Golden.” The two records find Cudi and company bridging the gap between the relatable struggles of maintaining individuality and finding happiness in pre-programmed, overly medicated society.
Scott Mescudi’s story is more than that of a troubled artist making songs filled with loneliness and angst. Upon completing the new album and settling all release logistics, Cudi announced that he was checking into rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts. The news was met with some skepticism but sparked a greater conversation surrounding mental health and how it’s especially stigmatized within the black community. After listening to this album, it really sounds like he put everything that he had left and persevered through a tough road towards expressing what he’s learned in order to leave something truly valuable and helpful to the youth before checking in to take care of himself. On “Swim In The Light”, we are reminded that you have to meet your hardships head on and wade through them to reach the joy you seek as Cudder belts in his signature mumbling style “you can try to numb the pain but it will never go away”.
The selflessness displayed in his music has become more prevalent in recent memory because more of our stars have traded in whips and chains for peace and sanity, J. Cole, Chance The Rapper, Mick Jenkins, etc. Even Drake claimed to be selling cars and jewelry that he’s now realizing he doesn’t need.
There are albums that just seek to show you a good time, then there are albums in which the album creation was a process of healing and those lessons carry on to the listener. If you need a soundtrack for self reflection, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ will have you basking in the light of self-realization for a hearty 19 tracks.
Stream the album below and get your copy via iTunes.