In a world where the Top 40 consistently includes hip–hop, Kid Cudi is increasingly becoming an anomaly. Think of him as the anti–Drake, a paradoxical force making hip–hop safe for brooders. While much of the scene relies on electronic beats and rhymes about girls and cash, Cudi has historically stuck to very un–Top 40 themes: profound depression, his affinity for mind–altering drugs, scarring family issues and alienation from the trappings of fame. On his new album, we see Kid Cudi exploring many of these same themes, deftly interweaving them with a soundscape that pushes the musical envelope in exciting new ways.

Like last year’s Man on the Moon: the End of Day, this album is highly conceptual: broken down into five “acts,” each has a clear thematic and aesthetic bent. Some of the album’s best moments are in the first and third acts (which explore his hard–partying nature), where head–nodding percussive beats and flowing rhymes persist. Highlights include the album’s first track, “Scott Mescudi vs. the World,” which features a tasteful appearance from Cee–Lo Green. The third act — aptly entitled “Party On” — boasts the album’s peak, “Erase Me,” a track that showcases Cudi not only as a skilled rapper but a capable alt–rock crooner.

The second and fourth acts are noticeably more subdued in sound and tone. The second act has a psychedelic vibe — fittingly so, as it explores Cudi’s oft–publicized relationship with drugs. The final act is a strong finish — the verses are often reduced to positive platitudes, but the songs are just too rich and fulfilling to write off.

Kid Cudi Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager Sounds Like: Not much else, really 99–Cent Download: “Erase Me” Good For: Exploring your life and dilemmas, preferably in act format 4/5 Stars


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