“I promise you some generation next shit.” Kid Cudi drops this line as he opens his new album, “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager,” and the rest of the album show Kid Cudi living up to this audacious promise. His first album, “Man on the Moon: The End of the Day,” explored the themes of dreams and imagination and was overall brighter and more upbeat, and fit the hip-hop niche very well. However, Cudi’s second album is much darker and ventures farther out from the typical parameters of hip hop. This album is raw at its core while maintaining complexity, infusing psychedelic, hip hop, and rock. “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager” delves into Kid Cudi’s life without sugarcoating all the gritty details.
With this album, Kid Cudi edges further away from pure hip hop and inhabits a broader musical landscape. In “Erase Me,” Cudi is joined by his mentor, Kanye West. The track is a catchy fusion of hip hop and pop rock complete with an eighties vibe. Cudi also dabbles in indie rock with “Maniac”—as he did with collaborations with MGMT in his debut album—featuring Cage and St. Vincent. He even employs jazzier sounds in “Revofev,” whose swing rhythms and elegant balance between melody and rap combine creating a smooth, irresistible feel.
Kid Cudi’s exploration of different musical genres in “The Legend of Mr. Rager” parallels his admirable exploration of diverse themes throughout. Cudi illustrates and offers insight into several aspects of his life, most prominently about his problems with drug abuse. In “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young” he raps, “You live and you learn / Doin’ bumps in the day, keepin’ blunts to burn,” exposing his previous battles with cocaine use. There is a hollow, thumping beat that echoes in syncopation with a clapping sound effect. With eerie guitar distortions and synthesizers, the overall background music pairs well with Cudi’s rhymes.
“Mojo So Dope” even has Kid Cudi discussing his philosophy behind penning honest lyrics as a hip-hop artist. “You must understand when I speak about a song / It’s how I really am / Yeah this is how I really think / I really do rage my demons at the cage.” Cudi gives a refreshing perspective of a rapper discussing his craft—this introspection is a welcome change from many artists who rap about self-absorbed and superficial topics. Through this kind of lyrics Kid Cudi shows his willingness to be vulnerable in front of the public eye, as well as his growth as an artist. The combination of Cudi’s soothing rapping, haunting synth and humming organ progressions help round out the track.
On the bluntly titled song, “Marijuana,” an ethereal piano plays a simple, repetitive progression with soft, achingly haunting guitar riffs and a constant, pulsing beat. The song is a ballad for the drug—one of many confessions exploring Kid Cudi’s various vices—and captures a spooky, eerie atmosphere. Cudi nevertheless does not lose his sense of humor, ending the song at exactly 4:20.
Kid Cudi, who is already known for interesting collaborations with various artists, invites Cee Lo Green and Mary J. Blige to add their strong vocals to “Scott Mescudi Vs. The World” and “Don’t Play This Song” and “These Worries,” respectively. These collaborations with soulful singers add color to the rapper’s rather monotone vocals, making the album more versatile.
With “The Legend of Mr. Rager,” Kid Cudi succeeds in presenting a sophomore album that shows development and maturation. His honest attempt to capture the experience of using and abusing drugs, and the dark aspects of human relationships is complemented by his humorous asides and addictive beats. “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager” is incredibly fluid in its complex fusion across musical influences and a worthy sequel to “Man on the Moon.”