Monday, September 14, 2009

Giving fruity space rap a bad name

I mentioned it in my post about B.o.B's enjoyable by mixtape standards B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray, but I like to think I'm more favorably disposed toward rappers' non-rap freakout albums than some of my hip-hop listening peers. Not that it makes me more enlightened or any bullshit like that, it's just that whenever a Love Below drops heads tend to break out some ridiculously stringent critical standard that's never applied to your average rap album. But yeah, sometimes such projects are garbage that merely provide an excuse for rock critics to pontificate over what rap could be if only it wasn't so rap-like, and ignore street rappers doing more creative work. And it'd definitely be a good look for critics to universally shit on Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon: The End of Day, to prevent it from becoming a caricature of overpraised space-age notreallyrap.

True, Man on the Moon doesn't really sound like anything in popular rap as of late. Well that's not quite right, it's basically 808s & Heartbreak with all the life sucked out of it. There's three basic problems here: Cudi can't sing, uses a lame Lil Wayne-on-syrup cadence when he deigns to rap, and the production's frozen in place. There's definitely beats that sound like they have the potential to form something interesting, but the producers are so stuck on this static, psychadelic duuude vibe that everything fades to the background. Of course, it's not as if Kanye, Andre 3000, or even Pharrell Mayfield Jr. (who gets the most points from me simply for executing his N.E.R.D. singing with just the right amount of ridiculousness) are these immensely talented singers, but their albums have obvious other strengths in production, hooks and personality that you can overlook their shortcomings as vocalists and melodists. Not so with Cudi, who not only can't sing but decides to do so aimlessly for the majority of the album. It's only experimental if you define the term in the most masturbatory way possible. There's also the uncomfortable mix of introverted emo and insecure brag lyrics that I might overlook if the album was pulled off better, but stick out even more when you take into account the album's other weaknesses.

As someone who enjoys his share of modern synthpop when it's done creatively, be it the aforementioned artists' too cool for rap side projects, Timbaland's mid-decade 'N Sync with critical cred reinvention (don't get me wrong though, fuck that Chris Cornell in da club album he had one of his minions do for him this year -- another great example of pseudo-experimental bullshit) and even getting into territory like Rihanna's last album to a lesser extent, I'm definitely not someone who'd criticize something like this on principle. I don't consider myself some kind of popist wannabe who'll apologize for shitty, pandering singles just because they're hits, but at this point I have a good idea of the sort of pop I like. And atmospheric noodling pretensions to be Cudi's Dark Side of the Moon aside, Man on the Moon ain't worth anything more than the latest garbage-ass Lady Gaga Top 40 jam.

Oh, and Common's "Make Her Say" guest verse? Further proof dude's boho intellectual persona is clearly simply a ploy to get chicks. Not that I'm mad at the guy or anything.


tray said...

I find 'Make Her Say' kinda creepy. It's like this caged parrot setup where they're forcing her to sing about getting face-fucked against her will. Brandon wrote something half-decent once about intellectualized misogyny being the creepiest and that sums that song up. Other than that, I'll take you at your word, you liked the last N.E.R.D. album so if you don't like this it can't be very good.

Badmon3333 said...

'808s & Heartbreak' already had the soul sucked out of it. This is like '808s' if you diluted the shit out of the soul and then injected it back in.

Trey Stone said...

i mean i dunno if it's the word i'd use but i feel like the soulless sound of 808s is the point, the production's extremely good at setting a certain tone with a few exceptions. whereas this is wallpaper by comparison.