The Nothing: Kid Cudi’s abysmal return

By Nick Mullen / Staff Writer

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Kid Cudi knows a thing or two about being lonely — at the top and the very bottom.

What’s apparent from the rapper’s fifth studio album “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven,” which was released Dec. 4, through Republic Records, is that he is no less lonely than he was when he was the “Man on the Moon,” but has lost the ability to reach his listeners.

Cudi first gained fame through his work with Kanye West on his pivotal “808s and Heartbreak,” and then soared “Solo Dolo”-style with his debut studio album “Man on the Moon: The End of Day.” The album generated the popular singles “Day ‘N’ Nite” and “Pursuit of Happiness” and garnered generally positive critical reviews.

More importantly, “Man on the Moon” and “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager” sparked a devoted fan base that related with the idea of the depressed, lonely stoner who has diverse musical abilities and a down-to-earth persona.

But what was supposed to be a one-album hiatus in between “Man on the Moon II” (2010) and “Man on the Moon III” (unreleased) to refocus and experiment has turned into a multi-album downward spiral into musical irrelevance. Cudi has been doing his best Kanye impression lately by testing his devoted fan base as they wait for a third “Man on the Moon” album. With the emergence of newer, better artists like Fetty Wap and Miguel though, Cudi is becoming more of an afterthought. His album sales have dwindled, from more than 800,000 for his debut album to just 180,000 for “Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon,” his fourth album, and under 20,000 in the first week for “Speedin’.”

The production and instrumentation on “Speedin’” are rough, albeit intentionally. The grunge-inspired guitars sound like someone who is truly experimenting — a generous word — with their musical abilities, not something ready for release on an album. The cacophony of guitars and basic chord patterns sound like someone who just figured out how to plug their instrument into GarageBand.

Cudi’s lyrics, which have always been dark but thought provoking, sound uncomfortable coupled with the sophomoric guitar playing and the nonstop background moaning and whining that he inserted into nearly every song.

Cudi also added skits featuring Beavis and Butt-head, actually voiced by Mike Judge, to bookend certain songs on the album. The point of these skits is unclear, but they become yet another miscue for a record with an already astounding lack of focus.

Songs like “Judgemental C**t” feature not only a shocking title, but also abrasive guitar riffs and the same chord plucked over and over again before Cudi begins a tirade against himself from the point of view of his haters.

In the 90 plus-minute runtime, it’s hard to distinguish one song from another, as they’re all equally boring and repetitive. The lyrics feature hardly any substance and range from the bizarre — “No more chicken sandwiches / Yes, I’ll pay for the damages,” which no brave Rap Genius member has yet dared to decipher — to childishly repetitive demos.

Cudi’s musical missteps are especially troubling considering the quality of his past works. The artist essentially created the emo rap genre, where rappers shy away from typical bravado and instead dig introspectively for meaningful and emotional lyrics. His integral role in creating Kanye’s “808s and Heartbreak” inspired a generation of musicians, especially rappers, to open up and create music with more intimate subject matter.

Cudi’s music made a place for listeners who felt like they couldn’t fit in and gave a voice to many people who resonated with his introspective and raw lyrics. But who exactly does Cudi relate to now? It seems as if this lonely stoner is just dragging listeners along for his musical trip, even if it’s headed somewhere only he wants to go.

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