Kid Cudi High-Fives, Beats Up Sinners 

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Kid Cudi
Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager

(G.O.O.D. Music)

In the year since Kid Cudi's debut, the Brooklyn-identified Clevelander has proven himself both an extremely promising artist capable of taking rap in radical new directions and a typically fucked-up dude in his mid-20s. For every space-rap anthem from his uneven Man On The Moon: The End of Day and subsequent collabos, there's a YouTube video of the skinny, spectacled MC being a drunk and/or high asshole. He addresses those problems throughout his new album, like on "These Worries," one of two Mary J. Blige assists: "So much whisky all in my liver/I really like the punch it delivers/makes me warm while I high-five sinners." His worries, in other words, give him strength—hence all the rage.

Both albums follow five-chapter structures, but where the first was overly literal about its sonic narrative—fuzzy smoke sessions leading to blissful party tracks, gloomy come-downs and squinty-eyed morning after wake-and-bakes—Man On The Moon II's highs and lows are more fluid. The opening section's all rousing beats and triumphant boasting, with the buoyant Cee Lo Green duet "Scott Mescudi vs. The World" and No I.D.'s superb orchestral production on "REVOFEV," but Cudi's pomp deflates on the next track, "Don't Play This Song." He begins: "Wanna know what it sounds like when I'm not on drugs?/Please, please don't play this song." Appropriately, ensuing drug anthems like the surprisingly affecting "Marijuana" precipitate the record's strongest section. Cudi doesn't wind up redeemed, as on his debut, but trapped in an interior purgatory. Seems more truthful coming from a guy whose music has evolved so dramatically while he's seemed to regress emotionally.

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