A couple days ago Cleveland artist Kid Cudi revealed the tracklist for his upcoming album Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. With features and collaborations from Andre 3000, Travis Scott and Mike Dean, I was excited not only because of the proven track records of those collaborators, but it seems as if Cudi’s finally back to rapping. Last year if you remember he dropped his grunge-inspired Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, an extremely divisive record that either left folks praising his creativity or dismissing it as a half-ass attempt to recreate what Kurt Cobain did more than 20 years ago. What it did do for sure was further alienate Cudi from his mainly hip hop fanbase, something that has been going on since his first foray into rock more than 4 years ago when he and frequent collaborator Dot da Genius formed their band WZRD. His growing ego (he refers to himself as ‘The Chosen One’ on Twiterr) and seemingly unwillingness to accept criticism hasn’t helped him either; just last week he called out those who utilize ghostwriters, specifically Drake and former mentor Kanye West. Having listened to Cudder’s music since his peak in 2010, it’s hard to see Cudi seen as washed up and a laughing stock instead of one of the most influential artists of the new decade. However, with his new album coming up, it gives him a chance to totally redeem himself, or at least put him in a more positive light.
Cudi’s return to hip hop this year, from his solo offerings to his contributions to Travis Scott’s Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight and West’s The Life Of Pablo, was a pleasant surprise considering SBTH was such a disaster. Had he finally moved past his ‘edgy’ phase? I’m usually all in for creative overhauls (I honestly can’t listen to the same thing for too long), but SBTH was too much of an unbearable thing. Although there were some highlights – first track “Edge of the Earth/Post Mortem Boredom in particular – the album is damn near unlistenable. So when I first heard his post-SBTH track “Frequency,” I was excited that the new ‘old’ Cudi appeared to be back. But is he here to stay? With SBTH debuting at No. 36 on the charts with only 19,000 copies sold, people aren’t checking for his music like they used to. Granted music sales aren’t the be-all-end-all when it comes to success, but it’s definitely an uphill battle back to positive relevancy, especially when you consider the rapper’s boisterous and sometimes arrogant social media presence.
So even with all these factors working against him, why am I still excited for his next album? Well for one I’m a firm believer in second chances. Even though Cudi notoriously does whatever the fuck he wants, surely he won’t throw anything remotely reminiscent of SBTH on his very next project right? Another reason I’m looking forward to PP&DS is the aftermath an acclaimed album could possibly generate. Not only would I love to see one of my favorite artists return to the forefront of hip hop, but the surge in interest could convince Cudi to finally work on his much-rumored Man On The Moon 3 album. If you recall, Cudi spoke with Billboard about the project in April. “Honestly, I was ready to live up to the obligation and do MOTM3,” he said. “I was planning on doing it after Speedin’ Bullet. But the Speedin’ Bullet response tore me up… I don’t even feel obligated to do MOTM3 anymore. As of right now, people should just get that off their mind. That’s not ever going to happen.” While this certainly isn’t a good sign, Cudi went on to say that if the first two installments were platinum, it’d be a “different story.” So perhaps if PP&DS were to do big numbers he’d feel obligated to complete the trilogy.
Kid Cudi’s descent from rap’s elite was his own doing. This Friday though he has a chance to redeem himself and propel his star back into the limelight. While his out-of-the-blue shots at two of the most popular artists in all of music doesn’t help, if Cudi can harness his inner moonman (and those sensual hums you know you love), then a return to prominence could be in the near future. However, if Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is another dud, this could very well spell the unfortunate end to one of hip hop’s most intriguing figures.