Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kid Cudi: Man On The Moon; Kid Cudi at the GQ Gentlemen's Ball (2009)

Everything about Kid Cudi- from the way he dresses in tight fitting clothing, to the name he chose for his debut album, Man on the Moon, to the rhythm of his House infused beats- gives off the impression that he is an individual of the first order. The artist has built his fame around his image as an outcast, as he raps and sings mostly about his tribulations in the alienating and apathetic world in which he lives, which offers a fresh perspective on the contemporary Hip-hop horizon. Yet, after begetting two Billboard “Hot 100” chart-topping hits and collaborating with the likes of Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne, and Kanye, Kid Cudi has established himself as a respected contemporary musical force, beloved by millions worldwide (Billboard). Subsequently, quite a large social clique has accepted him: fans of mainstream music.; Kid Cudi has millions demanding his unique sound (2010)

After Kanye West was propelled to pop-culture ubiquity off of the unique lyrics of songs like “Jesus Walks,” which dealt with faith in a time where rap was about material possessions, his style degenerated and he became known more for his ego than his originality, thanks to tunes like “Stronger,” meaning that most of the time, regardless of his efforts to be "different," Kanye comes out looking like an ass. Kid Cudi seems to be heading down a similar path as his originality as a genuine force in his music has already been brought into question thanks to the release of “Make Her Say,” which fits the stereotype of what the modern rapper ought to be: materialistic, egotistical, and narcissistic.; Kanye's concert outfit for The Glow in The Dark Tour (2008)

The artist, who often refers to himself as “Mr. Solo,” released Man on the Moon, late last year. In order to evaluate the album’s message, one must first understand the context in which Kid Cudi is writing. The 25-year-old rapper lost his father at a young age, was never socially accepted as a teenager, and never excelled at anything in life prior to his recent triumphs in music (Mescudi). As such, the album as a whole reflects these disappointing and often pathetic life experiences. Despite the sorrow in the lyrics, lines such as “the lonely loner seems to free his mind at night,” coupled with thumping bass and addicting melodies, have people all over the world dancing.; 'Man on the Moon' album cover

Consequently, Cudi’s music becomes more of a celebration of his experiences, which have made him different, than a litany of reasons why listeners ought to pity the artist, which conveys an authentically emotional ethos, which listeners find entertainingly thought provoking. A second way to evaluate Man on the Moon is to analyze how original it is in comparison with other contemporary mainstream music. The Los Angeles Times album review contends that Kid Cudi is dissimilar to his peers, and even those more established than he, because while they rap about their egos, “gang battles or club-to-crib seductions,” Cudi is inspired by his innermost thoughts and emotions and thus has “made poetry out of being invisible” (Powers). His unique lyrics reflect his beats as well; Kid Cudi was the first mainstream musician to collaborate with House and electronic groups, such as Ratatat, MGMT, and The Crookers, to make for never before heard dance inducing yet thought provoking tracks. Being original in the sense of lyrics and beats correlates to Kid Cudi’s desire to be viewed as an original by employing an individualistic ethos (Mescudi). All of the above mentioned characteristics contribute to Kid Cudi’s fresh perspective on Hip hop and rap; while most of today’s rappers are focusing on their own egos, glorifying their own accomplishments, and employing the same kinds of monotonous beats, Kid Cudi reflects on the albatrosses in his life, mainly dealing with the pain of being an outcast.
The artist’s first single, “Day ‘N’ Night,” had millions of people rocking their bodies while racking their brains. “He’s all alone through the day and night/ The girl he wants don’t seem to want him too” the rapper croons, as a thriving bass and hypnotizing synthesizer bring the track to life, enticing the listener to groove. In another verse, Kid Cudi reflects on the feelings that accompany solace, and explains that he “can’t shake the shade” that these feelings cast on him. I enjoy how the song correlates to Kid Cudi’s message as a loner: that being different ought to be celebrated, not lamented in songs with slow, solemn beats. It is original not only in its message, but it was also the first song in which a mainstream artist collaborated with a House band, The Crookers. As a result, the song catapulted to the number three spot on the Billboard“Hot 100” (Billboard). In awe at what he has accomplished, the artist explains, “this is jus all new to me yall, this life, the attention, the love, the hate, ive spent 25 years of my life jus bein a regular dude,” and when it comes to receiving accolades, he does not know “how to respond sometimes because [he is] not used to” his sudden fame (Mescudi).; 'Make Her Say' single release album cover

No longer an outcast and unsure of how to handle sudden stardom, the artist released “Make Her Say,” the second single off of Man on the Moon. In this song, Cudi’s entire attitude shifts from that of a humble misfit to that of the modern egotistical rapper. At the start of the song, in which he collaborates with the more established talents of Common and Kanye West, the upstart rookie exclaims “Me First!” before he begins the first verse of the song. This statement of brass bravado sets the tone for the rest of Kid Cudi’s gaudy rap, during which he neglects his initial ethos as a unique and emotional artist in favor of a more mainstream, vain sound. In “Make Her Say,” instead of exploring his own emotions, the rapper sings “We can have a helluva night, through the day,” in reference to a possible sexual encounter with a woman, but only if she is willing to bring her friends along for an orgy, or what Cudi calls, “the ride.” This line and others in “Make Her Say” sour Kid Cudi’s ethos as an outsider especially for me, as I appreciate the artist’s more emotional experimentations. The complication of this ethos in favor of a more mainstream sound weakens the believability of Kid Cudi’s appeal as an artist commenting on loneliness. Therefore, it is not as if Kid Cudi fabricated the joy he conveys in the song; his feelings reflect on the way women began to throw themselves at him after “Day ‘N’ Night” was released, and thus, his lyrics in the song could be considered authentic. Furthermore, the reason that this song was chosen to be the artist’s second single, released before the other songs on Man on the Moon, must have been due to Universal Music Group’s premonition of it selling better than any other song on the album (Man on the Moon). I will admit that the song is a great party song that has been prone to cause my foot to tap when I listen to it.; Screenshot from Vevo's post of 'Pursuit of Happiness'

Perhaps the artist’s “coolest” work, his newest single, “Pursuit of Happiness,” and its video, are Kid Cudi’s attempt at returning back to his roots as an explorer of emotion in the eyes of his listeners. In the song, the rapper tells of the difficulties he experiences in chasing his aspirations, but despite the fact that he “may fall, [he] may die,” he will live his life to the fullest, no matter what “trials of tomorrow” await. With a mighty bass and an addicting electronic sound provided by Ratatat and MGMT, the music itself returns to the style of Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘N’ Night” collaboration with The Crookers (YouTube). In the video, Kid Cudi no longer portrays himself as the haughty womanizer of “Make Her Say,” but as the stark individual he truly is. While attending the party in the video, the rapper drinks, sits, stands, and dances separately from the revelry that takes place amongst the other partiers, who move in slow motion relative to the artist.; Screenshots from Vevo's post of 'Pursuit of Happiness'

Although Kid Cudi shows no signs of remorse throughout the video or song at being n outcast, he does appear perplexed in the final scenes of “Pursuit of Happiness.” As the party and music wind down, the artist stumbles into a bathroom only to find two representations of himself in his drunken stupor: the suit-clad businessman and the fearless, fashion forward artist. He crooks his neck to convey confusion, at which point the song and video reached me on a personal level; Kid Cudi seeks happiness through figuring out why he feels compelled to act differently in certain situations. I interpreted this to his suggestion that he will be happy when he figures out how to act in a uniform manner after discovering his place in the world. Although the song and its message are great in my opinion and this exact type of ethos is that which initially earned Kid Cudi the limelight, the song has not gained the attention of Billboard’s “Hot 100” in the several months since its release (Billboard). This could be reflective of the damage that “Make Her Say” has caused on Kid Cudi’s sincerity and authenticity as an outcast, or it may just be a fluke. Only time, and the release of more new singles, will tell if Kid Cudi can overcome “Make Her Say.”

Works Cited
"Kid Cudi - Chart History." Web. 8 Mar. 2010. cudi/chart-history/1007248>.
"Kid Cudi - Pursuit Of Happiness Ft. MGMT, Ratatat." Web. 26 Mar. 2010. .
Alexander, Donnell. "Cool Like Me." Seeing & Writing 3. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. 440-44. Print.
Rosen, Jody. "Album Reviews: Kid Cudi – ‘Man on the Moon.’" Rolling Stone 15 Sept. 2009. Print.
Kid Cudi. Man On the Moon - The End of Day. Rec. 15 Sept. 2009. Universal Motown Records, 2009. MP3.
Mescudi, Scott. "Science to My Shyness." Web Log post. June 2009. Web. Mar. 2010. .
Powers, Ann. "Album Review: Kid Cudi, 'Man on the Moon'" Los Angeles Times 15 Sept. 2009. Print.

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