Fighter: Kid Cudi
Trainer (Gym): Kid Cudi (Wicked Awesome, Republic)
Cut Men: Pharrell Williams, Mike WiLL Made It, Mike Dean, Plain Pat, Dot Da Genius, Anthony Kilhoffer, J Gramm, Idle Kid
Weight Class: Rap Vanguard
Notable Fire: Kitchen, Cosmic Warrior, The Guide Feat. Andre 3000, Surfin’ Feat. Pharrell Williams
Notable Trash: Flight of the First Sight/Advanced Feat. Pharrell Williams, Dance 4 Eternity
Tale Of The Tape: CUDI BYKE!
If you have ever worked in sales, you know that a business is always hunting down the elusive word of mouth referral. Whether you’re selling lemonade or stock tips, you know you are achieving success if you can turn one happy customer into two.
That was the text I got from my homie a day after Cudi dropped Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. And while the single, “By Design” featuring Andre 3K piqued my interest, it was this testimonial which eased concerns after the
disastrous genre pushing follow-ups to the outstanding Indicud, Satellite: Journey to Mother Moon and the alternative rock album, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven.
As an avid, yet pragmatic, fan I can confidently state in front of the congregation that Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is the best offering from Kid Cudi in years…if you like Kid Cudi’s ethereal signature ad-libs and weed-laced raps, that is. Cudi starts off dark but flips the script and eschews those familiar themes of depression, sorrow and self-medication for lighter tones which eventually crests with the single “Surfin'” (which should be played at every battle of the bands this summer), and falls at the album’s conclusion.
Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ contains four acts: “Tuned”, “Prophecy”, ” Niveaux de l’Amour” and “It’s Bright and Heaven is Warm”.
Tuned is a five track exploration into the fight with his own demons. The album opens with “Frequency”, centering on Cudder getting back into his preferred state of mind, be it by drug use or another coping mechanism. On “Swim in the Light”(produced by Mescudi himself), Cudi raps about love lost or his own battles with addiction and relapse. “ You can try and numb the pain but it will never go away”. Either way, his struggle is laid bare for the listener to see. “By Design” is pure fire and holds the first of two features from 3 Stacks, and an incredible use of Caribbean steel drums thanks to Pharrell, who crafted the beat along with Plain Pat. Tuned closes with “All In” and a continued pick up of tempo and emotional context. It’s also not a coincidence that one of Cleveland, Ohio’s many talented artists has a track that matched the battle cry of the reigning NBA World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Prophecy continues the good vibes and frequency modulation. “ILLusions” is not meant for sober listening, period. “Rose Golden” featuring Willow Smith offers positivity for the soul and is a candidate for a daily wake up listen to start the day. “Baptized in Fire” featured Travis Scott (and named dropped Daryl Dixon of TWD fame), but opens the door for the weakest part of the album. “Flight at First Sight/Advanced” feels more like an excuse for Pharrell to flex his Neptunian muscles than a needed song on a rather long album. Cudi rebounds somewhat with “Does It”, though could’ve had some of the fat cut from its 4:22 run time.
Niveaux de l’Amour is French for Levels of Love, a completely apt title for the songs therewithin. Act three opens with “Dance 4 Eternity”, which oddly feels like a Halloween love song (there’s a reason why those don’t exist) and could’ve been cut out. The same is true for “Distant Fantasies”, as Cudi flirts with being a stalking ex-boyfriend character. Business picks back up with “Wounds” wherein Cudi touches on the so called demon slayin for which the LP is named, and “Mother Nature”, another song that ran a bit long. The third act ends with the smooth “Kitchen”, which could’ve been on the B-side of Indicud.
It’s Bright and Heaven Is Warm Act four is cut from the same cloth as Man On The Moon era Kid Cudi. The wait was long, but the album crescendos with “Cosmic Warrior” and “The Guide“, a dope look at a man-eater. “The Commander” is the spiritual successor to “Heart of a Lion” (a personal favorite). Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ concludes with the aforementioned Surfin’ saw Pharrell once again do his thing on another hit record.
Tale of the Tape: Winner by Split Decision
It’s rare that an 89 minute album remains strong beginning to end. Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ would’ve been well served to have most of act three removed completely. Eighteen of 19 songs are at least four minutes with the 19th clocking in at 3:55. Cudi could’ve cut out about 20 minutes — only 5 songs mind you — while maintaining an album of the year candidate. The opening and closing portions of this record are solid, but the album sags in the middle.
Cudi recently left rehab after checking himself in back in October after dealing with depression and “suicidal urges”. The “demons” that needed “slayin'” in his life are very real, hence the pain and passion we saw shoot out of the 33-year-old Clevelander when Drake said of him, “You were the man on the moon/ Now you just go through your phases/ Life of the angry and famous/ Rap like I know I’m the greatest…You stay xanned and perked up/ So when reality set in you don’t gotta face it.” Drizzy could’ve just been mad his Raptors couldn’t get more than two games off the Cavaliers in the playoffs, but the most important outcome of all this is witnessing a stable Cudi, byke to putting out his brand of idiosyncratic melodies.