When I hear the name Kid Cudi, I think of an artist that pushes boundaries, takes risks, and is not afraid to be himself in order to separate himself from the pack or the so-called norm. I think of an artist who takes inspiration from all different genres and combines them in a unique way, creating his indistinguishable sound. An artist with “a voice who spoke of vulnerabilities and other human emotions, and issues never before heard so vividly and honest.”
Kid Cudi is the hero that hip-hop needed. The hero who said it’s okay to express your emotions, be different, and say something meaningful instead of chasing accolades. The Man on the Moon as a concept album series always represented that notion. Kid Cudi was able to relate to fans on a personal level, in a way that was never before replicated by any other artist. He introduced hip-hop to a new way of thinking and created a new frontier that paved the way for your favorite artists today. Kid Cudi lived his whole career by pushing the envelope and trying to create music “before its time,” as he stated in an interview with Karmaloop Tv back in 2009.
Unfortunately, despite positive reviews and responses, Man on the Moon III: The Chosen has not lived up to Cudi’s past endeavors. Not to say that the album is bad; it truly does have its moments, but to say it is worthy of the Man on the Moon title is questionable at best. If the album were named something else, we would be having an entirely different conversation. The Chosen does not seem to fit into the Man on the Moon concept and certainly does not complete the story of the lonely stoner that humbly introduced himself to the world in 2008.
Beautiful Trip does open MOTM III in familiar territory as the infamous Man on the Moon melody graces our ears in the first five seconds before transitioning into Tequila Shots. Yet, as a listener, we are left without that gut-wrenching punch of a song that Beautiful Trip implies is coming. Instead, we get a mellow dramatic version of the mind of Kid Cudi as he proclaims to his audience that you “can’t stop this war in me” and that he” can’t lose I’m in the third act.”
While not a bad song, it does not deliver the impact that Soundtrack 2 My Life and Revofev had in the previous Man on the Moons. Reminiscent of Mad Solar off his Indicud album, Tequila Shots, seems more like a filler track than an album opener. His lyrics and message not only appear sporadic but offer no clear path, which sets the tone for the rest of the album.
MOTM III is broken into acts, but there does not seem to be a direct story or correlation between each track. Cudi goes back in forth from spitting one-liners to regurgitating old material that appears as a disingenuous attempt to remind everyone that this is a Man on the Moon album.
In the first two acts, Cudi seems to completely abandon everything that made the MOTM series what it is. Instead of pushing boundaries, taking risks, and creating something new, Cudi has fallen into the trap of the times. He not only plays it safe but mimics the mainstream as he sounds eerily similar to his friend Travis Scott. Cudi went from the rapper who claimed he hated hip-hop because of conformity and rappers talking about the same meaningless subjects to rapping about those same empty subjects himself.
“Suppose you got two hoes that go both ways, don’t know my limit, know what it is, fall into the void, this how I’m livin” Cudi raps on She Knows This.
Cudi’s selection of features also do not represent the image of the previous Man on the Moons. The reason Cudi announced his Indicud album, released in 2013, to be his first true hip-hop project is because his previous projects, including the MOTM albums, could not classify as hip-hop and his features reflected that. Whether it be MGMT, Ratatt, Cee- Loo, or Cage and St Vincent, Cudi always had a knack to bring something different to the table. He would never feature someone that didn’t fit into his particular style no matter how popular that artist may be. Trippie Redd and the late Pop Smoke are not only artists that contradict everything Cudi stands for in music but don’t fit the narrative that is Man on the Moon. Instead, it seems like a money grab that disrupts the flow of the album in an exchange radio play. Rather than standing out, Cudi offers no separation from the mainstream and for the first time in his career, lacks originality.
Based on the first Man on the Moon albums, listening is supposed to be an experience that takes the listener on a journey, just as Pink Floyd had done with The Dark Side of the Moon. With MOTM III, there is no journey, no concept, no story. There are just songs thrown together. It does not mean the songs by themselves are bad, but combined as a singular unit, they don’t flow.
For the last two acts, Cudi slightly goes back to his routes. The concept of Elsie’s baby is refreshing compared to the previous tracks but lacks lyrically and seems rushed. He finishes the album strong as The Void, 4 Da Kidz, and Lord I Know provide a glimpse of what the album could have been.
The highlights of the Man on the Moon: The Chosen is the off the charts production thanks to producers Dot Da Genious, Plain Pat, Emile, among others. Cudi also showcases his talent as an emcee, and although the tracks don’t fit into the Man on the Moon narrative, his rhyming skills deserve all the respect and praise. If a hip-hop album is what Cudi was going for, then, by all means, he succeeded but, as previously stated, does not feel like a Man on the Moon. Cudi would have been better off naming this album something else entirely.
On the other hand, Cudi has done so much for hip-hop, music in general, and the world that he deserves all the success coming his way. Although it was not the Man on the Moon I was expecting, as a Kid Cudi Stan, if Cudi is happy, then I am too.