Kid Cudi’s debut album, “Man on the Moon: The End of the Day,” was one of the breakout rap albums of 2009, but was often marred by inconsistency. The album suffered from having too many ideas crammed into one album, and although the overall effect of the album was positive, it wasn’t quite the epic game-changer that many people thought it would be.
Just a year after his debut, Kid Cudi is back with “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.” Not only is the album title somehow longer than Cudi’s obtusely named first album, but it’s also longer (17 tracks clocking in at over an hour) and probably better than “End of the Day.”
The first thing that needs to be addressed is the change in sound found on “Legend of Mr. Rager.” At its core, it’s still the same Kid Cudi that we heard on “End of the Day,” but the tracks this time are often a little slower and much darker in tone. Kid Cudi is still rapping a lot about drugs and sex, but it’s all wrapped in regret and loneliness.
The only thing on “Legend of Mr. Rager” that even comes close to the upbeat glow of “Pursuit of Happiness” is probably the lead single “Erase Me,” which ends up sounding more like an alternative rock song than a straight-up rap track. It’s the kind of song that should be a train wreck, but Kid Cudi’s complete dedication to the song (and Kanye West’s amazing guest verse) help make the song an album highlight.
That’s not to say that the rest of the album is bad. “Scott Mescudi Vs. The World” features some of the best rapping that Kid Cudi has recorded paired with perhaps the catchiest chorus on the album (courtesy of Cee-Lo Green). Both tracks with Mary J. Blige are impressive self-analyzations of how Cudi’s drug use affects his friendships and vice-versa (“Don’t Play This Song” and “These Worries”). “Maniac” stuffs three or four different ideas into a three minute song, and is one of the few times when I wish that Kid Cudi had decided to make the song a minute longer than it is (preferably in the form of more St. Vincent, who opens the song with a bang and then disappears).
Unfortunately, the darker tone found throughout the album begins to wear the listener down and although it’s easy to notice the improvements that Kid Cudi has made to his sound after his debut, “Legend of Mr. Rager” isn’t exactly what one would describe as “fun.” This is especially true of back-to-back downers like “Wild’N Cuz I’m Young” and “The Mood.” Both songs are well done, but both songs feature such sparse instrumentation and subdued rapping that they’re tough to listen to.
“Legend of Mr. Rager” also starts to drag towards the end of the album. There are still four tracks left on the album after “These Worries,” which is track 13, and none of them are great. “The End” is probably the worst track on the album, featuring a boring chorus and two unnecessary guest verses. “All Along” is best described as a ballad, and although it isn’t unlistenable, it doesn’t seem that necessary either. “Ghost!” isn’t nearly as exciting as the exclamation point in the title leads the listener to believe, and has no business being the second longest song on the album. “Trapped in My Mind” is in the same category as “All Along,” a mid-tempo track that would be viewed as “acceptable filler” if there weren’t four or five other tracks on the album that already fill that role.
Kid Cudi obviously has a lot of ideas. Both of his albums have been the pseudo-concept albums featuring a combined 32 tracks. That being said, for every great track that paints Kid Cudi as a fearless adventurer and perhaps the future of not-quite-mainstream rap, there’s a track that has some interesting ideas but never manages to take off. “Legend of Mr. Rager” is a step in the right direction for Kid Cudi, but it’s obvious that he still has a lot of room to grow and improve. At the pace he works at, I can’t wait to hear his third album when it drops in late 2011/early 2012.
Standout Tracks: “Scott Mescudi Vs. The World,” “Don’t Play This Song,” “Erase Me,” “Maniac,” “These Worries”
Final Grade: 4 (out of 5)