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Shoot for the moon

Introspective lyrics anchor Kid Cudi

In our culture of instant gratification, mainstream music that rises above conformity is a rare find, and this problem seems especially exaggerated in the hip-hop genre. Against this background, Kid Cudi's most recent album comes across as a true gem.

As with most great albums, it takes a little work to truly appreciate Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. Part of that is because Cudi has never backed away from his individuality, choosing instead to embrace and struggle with it. In essence, that's what this album represents - an individual artist's struggle to reconcile and confront his issues with himself and the world around him.

Struggles, though, hardly make for easy listening. There are really only three songs on the album that truly deserve the descriptor "catchy." Those three titles - "Scott Mescudi vs. the World," "Erase Me" and "Mr. Rager" - are accessible without leaving behind the overriding themes of the album.

"Scott Mescudi" is the first on the album and is probably the strongest, as well. It lays out the concept of the album with entrancing string samples and a brilliant feature from Cee-Lo Green that works together flawlessly even after many listens. Cudi's lyrics lay out a sinister and self-aware manifesto for his music. "[I] speak for the seller who I left with / Parallel levels in a dark, dark place / Tripped all you n----- to a dark, dark fate / The guy that you are with a smile upon my face."

Cudi uses the rest of the album to take you into that darker part of his consciousness, but this time he's clearly not smiling throughout the journey. Last year's Man on the Moon: End of Day went after the same goal but did so with a decidedly more accessible sound. This effort is in some ways far more appropriate for the subject matter Cudi tackles this time around. "Naked is always honest," as he says on the appropriately titled track, "The Mood."

The happy-go-lucky stoner attitude sometimes found on the first album is gone here, and Cudi lays his problems bare. He explicitly addresses how he deals with his own problems, criticizing through the personification of his own escapist tendencies to run to cocaine, marijuana and alcohol for relief as eponymous "Mr. Rager."

Naturally, going with Cudi into his own mind isn't always easy. During the first few listens, the album's deceivingly simple lyrics repulse initial attempts to stay tuned with full comprehension, but if you are willing to give this album three or four complete cycles and your full attention, "Mr. Rager" delivers more intellectual satisfaction than any hip-hop album released in recent years.


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