Kid Cudi waltzed onto the scene in 2009. Lanky in build, dressed in smudged kicks, and donning a wide-brimmed baseball cap – he appeared to be an apathetic skater with one hand in his pocket, and the other on a bag of bud. The Cleveland born emcee hit it big with “Day ‘N’ Night”, a drowsy anthem about weed perfumed solitude. The self-referential, half-mast approach of the song fit Cudi’s laid back demeanor. It wasn’t long before Man on the Moon, the album containing the successful track, became relevant in critic circles. While the hip-hop elements were the vanguard of the LP, there were some flatlining vocals, provided by Cudi himself, that were flecked across the record. Nobody really thought much of the unorthodox, decidedly unapologetic, approach to the artist’s singing – there were enough solid verses to bury the suspect warbling. Still, the warning signs were there.
On Kid Cudi’s follow up record, Man on the Moon II, the guitars and singing become oddly more prevalent. On the album’s second track, the dude goes all in with a patchwork chorus comprised of “woos” and “whoas”. But then, as a smoke screen, there were songs like “Mojo So Dope”, where Cudi’s unique flow was distracting enough to make listeners forget that the master of ceremonies was yodeling on half of the LP. The problem was that Scott Mescudi’s aesthetic was so mellow and cool, so completely honest, that it was easy to be caught up in the tailspin of where he was heading. Subconsciously, perhaps, you wanted to fire off a flare gun in panic, but you just couldn’t. Because, well, here he goes with another dope verse. But then there’s weird yelping again. But then another sweet rhyme. SO LOST.
Eventually the darkest hour, that we could have prevented, happened. After two more progressively mediocre to bad albums, Cudi released the incurious and upsetting Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, a record so awful that its only excuse could be satire. The onetime emcee released a project comprised entirely of singing. It finally happened. We lost the war, and those of us left standing walked away to fall on their own swords in protest and denial. The new sound was somewhere between Bloc Party meets King Krule. As produced by Jon Brion. Or a lobotomized Chris Walla. It’s as if the 2009 skater, we once loved, kick flipped into a trap door and took us all with him. First he was dressing like an overcast, metropolitan twenty-something. Then he started dressing like Dwayne Wade. And now he has morphed into Lenny Kravitz.
This is my personal hell.
When I approached Cinema Spartan’s music editor for guidance on this topic he seemed reticent. “Andy,” I said, opening his office door, “what the fuck happened to Kid Cudi?” He reclined back, looking inconsolably sad. “This situation is similar to watching the genre-switching demise of Liz Phair right before our eyes,” he began. “We know we liked him at one point, but everything has been wiped away in place of the bloated-double-LP-ego-convoluted-Cudi.”
He wasn’t wrong. But what now?
Seven years after his debut album, the smooth emcee with the shrug-and-sigh attitude has become a Christopher Guest mockumentary. I rather of had him collaborate with M.I.A. than become MIA. If this is rock bottom, I cant help but think he’s still making his way into the center of the earth, past all of the rubble and plates – it can only get worse. And it’s all of our fault.