Record #410: Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009)

Hip hop has always been a chameleonic beast. It didn’t take long for hip hop to join hands with rock and roll, and it quickly made allies of heavy metal (don’t see also: the ubiquity of rap metal in the late 90s). Over the last fifteen years, hip hop has risen from an underground movement to the Lingua Franca of pop music.

So its should come as no surprise to anyone that hip hop would eventually cross the aisle to meld itself with indie rock…

And while Man on the Moon: End of Days might not always sound like indie rock, it borrows much of its slacker/stoner ethos and 4am introspection from that circle. Ratatat shows up on two tracks, one of which also features indie darlings MGMT. “Day N Night (Nightmare)” and “Pursuit of Happiness” are standbys on any college radio station. “Up, Up and Away” isn’t far from an OK Go anthem.

Even when the album leans more towards a pure hip hop, it’s musical center is far closer to 808s and Heartbreak than The Chronic (to the point that my wife thought this was Kanye from across the house). Most of the tracks are filled with a lush, synth-heavy atmospherics and deep, retro drum machines. Cudi doesn’t rap as often as he sings in an unassuming, nonchalant baritone. The one sore thumb is the Lady Gaga sampling “Make Her Say,” which is still enjoyable.

Oh—and did I forget to mention that this is a concept album? There are five acts, which are each introduced by a narrator. It’s a loose storyline: The Man on the Moon (who the narrator describes as the most introspective, revolutionary, and honest rapper of all time. Allow him his hubris) falls asleep and has to…battle through his dreams? I think? The acts are titled “The End of Day,” “Rise of the Night Terrors,” “Taking a Trip,” “Alive,” and “A New Beginning,” which gives a vague, but followable outline.  The tracks are organized more by theme than narrative, which keeps the concept from being too overbearing.

On the surface, it seems to take itself a little too seriously. After all, he doesn’t expect to us to believe that he’s the first rapper to express emotional vulnerability, does he? But it seems like most of it is played for irony. And if you can get past that, this is an excellent record from a young artist.

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