Alternative, Left-field rapper Kid Cudi returns to form with an ambitious new album, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’.
At one time, Kid Cudi was “kind of a big deal.” In 2009, he captivated the world with odd-ball album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day. The album was driven by surprise, left-field hit, “Day ‘N’ Nite.” After his initial success, Cudi cooled off a bit, with his coolest coming in 2015 (Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven). Despite the miscue, he returns capably with an ambitious new album, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. Does K.C. slay? He does indeed!
“Frequency” kicks off the LP in typical, Kid Cudi fashion, for lack of a better description. Ultimately, it a record that is left-field to the nth degree. For the most part, he sings, though the second verse finds him embracing pop-rap. One lyric is repeated throughout the course of the song:
“Couple girls, couple stories, and a couple of shrooms.”
This isn’t far-fetched for Cudi either – his music is known for references to sex and various drugs. The hook is infectious:
“Yeah, yeah, widen your view / and tune on into the frequency / chill all alone, love is the rule / follow it to the frequency.”
“By Design,” featuring Andre Benjamin, gives Cudi a more grounded, traditional record. Nothing is ever traditional with Kid Cudi, but “By Design” has more appealing cues to the less adventurous listener. The groove is infectious while “come on, don’t f*ck up the Feng shui” ends up being one of the most memorable lyrics of the entire album.
He’s joined by an unlikely collaborator on “Rose Garden” – Willow [Smith]. The results are quite impressive, with Willow playing a backing role. The contrast of their respective voices is part of the allure, not to mention the superb production work (strings, brass, etc.).
“Baptized in Fire”
“Baptized in Fire” featuring Travis Scott features dark, enigmatic production work. The record is anchored by a hard-hitting beat. Kid Cudi delivers nimble rhymes, another signal of return to his signature sound. Throughout the course of the single, he flexes, whether it’s his come-up, a variety of girls, or being the best in the game. Notably, he also references his nightmares from the past:
“Nightmares kept a n*gga from closin’ his lids / since a kid I’ve been haunted by visions of death / such a trip, not normal, I customed the grip.”
“Does It” goes hard – literally. Cudi eschews pop [rap] for hard-hitting rhymes – save for the hook. In addition to mad rhymes, the production work is lush – stunning. “Distant Fantasies” contrasts once more, sounding enigmatic and sketchy. Even so, “Distant Fantasies” intrigues thanks to its vibe and distinct sound from everything else gracing the LP.
“Surfin’,” concludes Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ confidently and energetically. Few rappers could successfully make reference to Kubrick and Spielberg. Indeed, Cudi “ain’t riding no waves / too busy making my own waves.”
All in all, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is intriguing. While it runs ever too long at nearly an hour and half, there are more than enough standouts to appease. Much better than Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, Cudi is able to experiment without alienating his core base. In that regard, Passion is a return to form, even trying new things that break from his past. More often than not, Kid Cudi indeed slays.
Gems: “Frequency,” “By Design,” “Rose Garden,” “Baptized in Fire,” “Does It,” “Distant Fantasies” & “Surfin’”
Kid Cudi • Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ • Republic • Release: 12.16.16
Photo Credit: Republic
A full track-by-track review of the album can be found at The Musical Hype.