After a series of sub par releases, we finally get a Kid Cudi album that’s at least worth mentioning. When you subtract the previously inept attempts at making something that even midlly resembles music, you can find the worst pieces of Cudi’s catalogue. Projects like WZRD, Indicud, and especially the god awful Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven…you really can’t go much lower. Luckily, Cudi manages to pull himself out of this tailspin, even if only slightly. Passion Pain and Demon Slayin’ manages to find a happy medium in being a deeply flawed album, yet also providing some content that even casual listeners can groove along to.
First off, I want to touch a bit on the flawed nature of the album. This album is definitely not one that you can listen to from start to finish (in my opinion). There are so many tracks that feel under cooked, or stretched out to the point of subverting my feelings of wanting to listen to the song anymore. Sometimes, Cudi takes a two minute idea and stretches it into a four or five minute run on sentence that really doesn’t scratch the itch that I had hoped I would. Songs like Swim In The Light just feel simply underdone.
However, I have to parse this with the fact that there is some absolutely fantastic production on some of the songs that are featured on this cut of the album. Surfin’ with Pharrell has a phenomenal instrumentation, and features a bouncy, fun beat that is contrary to the tone of the majority to the album. Cudi’s tone and inflection throughout the song really inject an air of life that a lot of his recent music has been missing. On top of this, you also get excellently dark pieces like By Design that features a tremendous Andre 3000 chorus. Honestly, if the whole album had sounded like just these two pieces, we might have had a masterpiece.
Then, there are some tracks that simply fall in the middle. Rose Gold featuring Willow Smith was one of those that was ultimately something that you can write off pretty quickly. Featuring a delightfully dark instrumentation and chorus, the song never really goes anywhere. The repetitive nature of it is great for a listen or two, but when you realize that the song itself is ultimately bereft of a conclusion or a final thought (or really, even a point for that matter) it’s hard to justify a continuous listen. The same can be said for the underwhelming performance given by both Kid Cudi and Travis Scott on the song Baptized by Fire. The chemistry the two seemed to demonstrate on Travis’s piece fades away on this song, mostly due to Cudi not using Travis in the most effective way, either through a chorus or ultimately delivering a strong verse.
Ultimately, this album is a definite step in the right direction. It’s nothing perfect, but it’s also not as trash as the last few musical tortures we’ve been subjected to. If Cudi keeps moving towards this style, I feel like he’ll eventually find his groove again. I mean, after all, he released an album after only: 3 terrible albums, several years, a rehab stint, leaving G.O.O.D music, feuding with Kanye West and then reuniting with Kanye West, and having songs produced by legends like Andre 3000 and Pharrell. So…maybe there’s hope?