Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kid Cudi - Satellite Flight Review

The past couple years have been rough on Scott Mescudi. After releasing Man on the Moon I & II in 2009 & 2010 to critical and commercial acclaim, Kid Cudi's descent in the rap community has been well noted. In 2010 Cudi bore his first born daughter, but further legal issues concerning the child, and the removal of marijuana from his system due to protecting the newborn caused drastic repercussions for his music, most of which fell under the 'stoner' category of Hip-Hop, somewhere Cudi previously thrived. The rapper then turned singer struggled with serious writer's block due to his sobriety, before finally releasing WZRD, his rock album, to poor reviews. After announcing a comeback to Hip-Hop later that year Kid Cudi released Indicud in 2013, again to poor reviews albeit slightly more favorable. Which lands us here, in 2014, unsure of the direction the rapper turned singer turned rapper/singer will take. Satellite Flight, a so called prelude to Man on the Moon III due out in 2015, may answer some questions, despite raising more. 

 As the subtitle, The Journey to Mother Moon, and artwork (despite how atrocious it may be) make perfectly clear is that this will be an interstellar album, something other-worldly. Truth be told, if there's one thing Cudi succeeded at in making this album is an accurate representation of his work. Sonically speaking the record seems like it was taken straight off an alien spaceship, beginning with the opener itself. Four tracks here, including the intro, are completely instrumental, two of them lasting for over four and a half minutes. Thankfully, the production throughout Satellite Flight, while not groundbreaking, is its most redeeming quality. Copernicus Landing, while never fully expanding upon its original palate or even having the wherewithal to formulate a beat, holds the listeners attention through its memorizing trance of harmonic simplicity. In My Dreams 2015 works in much the same way, substituting simplicity for electronic chaos however. Synthetic bleeps echo through both speakers like a game of Pong sped up, a deep, sickening bass protrudes from the depths, and a Boards of Canada-esque piano recording elicits nostalgic feelings, much in the same way the band does. It's a truly haunting track and is one to easily get lost in. In fact, much of the production on here extract similar feelings, and almost all come tuned with an outer space-type foundation that Cudi then layers upon. 

Unfortunately for Kid Cudi, the one layer that has continually caused him trouble recently, his vocals, still linger as the major issue holding his music back. While not as bad as his two most recent projects, most likely due to the paltry 6 tracks he's vocal on here, certain moments throughout are sure to grab groans and displeasure from many, the most noticeable being Blamain Jeans. Easily the worst on the album, the track is borderline uncomfortable, with Cudi discussing, rather seductively, his wishes for a special night with a woman. Problem is, it sounds as if he's talking to you and comes off as gimmicky, corny, and awkward, all sorts of feelings I don't want to be experiencing in my music. Other instances of Cudi's problematic vocals can be found on the title track, Satellite Flight. Despite thousands crying out against Cudi's forced 'nasally' vocal singing, he continues to trudge on. Combine this with his trademarked, ad nauseam "Mmmmmm's," makes a potentially decent track somewhat annoying.  

Vocally speaking, where the Moon Man shines best on here are actually the tracks that limit his vocal extenuating and highlight perpetuating hooks, in such cases like Internal Bleeding & Troubled Boy. Both, as evidenced by their titles, deal with anguish and problems arising within the self. A simple hook, if impactful enough, can last the duration of a song with no worry over the sound becoming monotonous. Cudi on Internal Bleeding feels in literal pain as the lyrics spew out of him with such density and passion that one can only feel for the man. But has he pulled this shtick for to long? Throughout his career, especially post-MOTM, the breadth of topics the rapper covers has been trite and repetitious, never varying to far from his 'no one gets me' motto that he's held dear for so long. One can hold on to the same cliches for so long as one can bear to listen. The sounds he forms with these, for the most part, sound pleasant, but if you're going to Kid Cudi to hear something unique and inventive best to look the other way. 

The album as a whole, mostly due to its lack of lyrical depth, doesn't stand in terms of the impact it sustains on the listeners. Nothing here resembles something like, say, New Slaves off Yeezus, where, the impression it has on me is lasting and resounding. One thing Cudi does have is cohesion, a fixture of his that he's had down since his earliest mixtapes, which continues here with the obvious space-like style of the project in accordance with the feelings of entrapment and loneliness, the latter being especially noticeable with the lack of any clear features. As mentioned before, the production as a whole is Cudi's best work here, showing clear improvements off his newly-found hobby. But as a whole, Satellite Flight: The Journey To Mother Moon suffers from the same mishaps the troubled rapper has faced on his previous two endeavors. Whether the album succeeds in bridging the divide between Indicud and Man On The Moon III will remain to be seen. One thing's for sure though, the success of the latter will surely determine Cudi's legacy. 

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