Just over 8 years ago, Kid Cudi put out his much anticipated first studio album. There had been a significant amount of hype building to the release; Cudi had just worked on four tracks off of Kanye's 808s & Heartbreak and put out a well-received mixtape A Kid Named Cudi. The trend of the hip hop industry was in a strange place of auto-tune and introspection, and Cudi seemed poised to lead the charge alongside his GOOD Music pals. I think at first glance this album might seem just that, the work of a Kanye protege ready to appeal to the masses. There's a lot more here though, a deep sadness and festering anxiety somehow complementing those impeccably produced beats. When I actually listen to this album I feel Cudi's pain, and that is an unusual way for me to feel about hip hop.
The record is broken into five autobiographical acts, each with their own theme. Act I opens with Cudi welcoming us into his dreams, giving us a somber glimpse into some of his problems growing up and the death of his father. Acts II and III chronicle his use of drugs to battle depression, with the album making the turning point from dreamy loneliness to psychedelic bangers at the start of Day 'n' Nite. The final two acts are more full of life, centered mostly around escapism through sex, love, and drugs, putting aside that internal darkness. Tracks 7 through 13 are absolutely what make this album so special to me: the fusion of psychedelia and hip hop, the collaborations with Ratatat, MGMT, Kanye West and Common, and that sad dreaminess slowly gaining tempo through its escapism. Even the clever sampling of Lady Gaga on "Make Her Say", a song which Cudi claims he only put on the album to make it a little less depressing, helped make it one of my favorite collaborative hip hop tracks ever.
Re-listening to the album now actually surprises me with how well it holds up. Maybe because we've seen artists like Childish Gambino and Frank Ocean take a turn towards psychedelia, or maybe because it feels like it could be a product of Trump era America. I would recommend revisiting this one and listening from start to finish, it could surprise you.
1. "In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem)" - 3:19
2. "Soundtrack 2 My Life" - 3:56
3. "Simple As..." - 2:31
4. "Solo Dolo (Nightmare)" - 4:26
5. "Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music)" - 4:21
6. "My World" - 4:03
7. "Day 'n' Nite (Nightmare)" - 3:41
8. "Sky Might Fall" - 3:41
9. "Enter Galactic (Love Connection Part I)" - 4:20
10. "Alive (Nightmare)" - 4:07
11. "Cudi Zone" - 4:19
12. "Make Her Say" - 3:36
13. "Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)" - 4:55
14. "Hyyerr" - 3:32
15. "Up Up & Away" - 3:47