Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
Label: G.O.O.D. Music
In a month that has seen the media spotlighting Kanye West and his typical lack of cohesive conversational skills, Kid Cudi has quietly released his sequel to Man on the Moon: The End of Day on Kanye’s own G.O.O.D. Music label. Not only does Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager battle against Big Boi for the most ludicrous, long and arbitrary album title of 2010, it also fights against preconceived notions of what Cudi’s own hip-hop should be. Though Mr. Rager serves as an ambitious extension of his debut album, it is ultimately a lackluster and frustrating effort, too scattered to follow through on the potential of its presented ideas.
Cudi can spout verses of dark introspection like no other hip-hop artist out there, and Mr. Rager time and again proves that. In fact, so much of the album sees Cudi exorcising the demons of his past (and possibly current) drug and alcohol abuse that the tracks have a voyeuristic and often uncomfortable feel to them. “These Worries,” which is constructed from a squealing two-chord synth progression, is so brutally honest in its depiction of Cudi’s party-hard lifestyle -“So much whiskey in my liver/ I really like the punch it delivers” – that comes across as cliché. Unfortunately, a lot of the album falls into this trap. “The Mood” is a clunky, repetitive joint filled with nonsensical rhymes that will fail to put anyone in the mood for anything other than skipping to the next track. “Marijuana” is exactly what it sounds like, a piano-based song dedicated to the wacky tobacky and its glorified powers of creativity and relaxation. Songs about dope are cool and all, but not when they are this utterly boring.
Still, nothing compares to the lazy post-punk/pop of “Erase Me,” a three-chord rocker about lost love that would make latter-day Weezer bust a gut. Not only is the song regretfully positioned in the middle of the album with the intention of making some heads nod and some feet tap, but it features a stellar verse from Kanye West that, when placed next to Cudi’s lazy delivery, highlights the overall uninspiring qualities of the rest of the songs.
What makes Mr. Rager so ridiculously frustrating is that there are moments on this record that show Cudi has the talent to be one of modern hip-hop’s finest sonic creators. The distant, ethereal haze of “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young” is immediately catchy and deeply satisfying. “MANIAC,” featuring vocals from St. Vincent and Cage, skillfully treads the area between lyrical mystery and introspective revelation, something the majority of Mr. Rager fails to do. Cudi knows how to craft heavy, complex and nuanced music, but for the most part, the buck stops there.
Mr Rager isn’t a bad album per se, though it is an extremely exasperating and tired affair at times. Cudi spends too much of the album inside his own head-check out the appropriately titled “Trapped in My Mind” – instead of just letting his creativity and confidence flow. There are moments of poignant and heartbreaking lyricism here, but they are too often overshadowed by incoherent structures and misguided attempts at honesty. The dark subject matter begs for a breather-like “Make Her Say” provided on The End of Day, or the music video for “Erase Me,” because Cudi is at his best when he blends his highly personal lyrics with an air of playfulness. 50% of the time, Cudi is really on to something, creating striking sonic moments. The other 50% of the time though, he is lost in his own ideas.
by Kyle Fowle