For hip hop icon Kid Cudi, all attention this week has been centered around him as the long-awaited third chapter to his Man On The Moon Series has finally arrived. With ten years in the making, this new entry has enormous shoes to fill as its proceeding two solidified hip hop classics in 2009s Man on the Moon: The End of Day and 2010s Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. With the entire culture breathing down his neck, will Cudi and his features, both living and dead, be able to make Man On The Moon III: The Chosen worth the decade long wait?
Starting off with the good, it’s honestly rejuvenating to see Kid Cudi back in album mode for the first time in nearly four years. Despite his 2018 KIDS SEE GHOSTS collaboration being magnificent, there was only so much artistic liberty he had when working with mentor and creative mastermind Kanye West on the spiritually changing journey. With this still fresh in most listeners’ heads, this is used to his advantage as every moment Mescudi explores within his artistic boundaries only adds to the overall sense of reward in his character. Although this doesn’t always result in the splendid expressions you would expect from this series, it at least makes moments like distorting his vocals on “Another Day” and solely humming on “Beautiful Trip”, feel more meaningful than they would otherwise. Adding to the core of the Man On The Moon universe, “Mr. Solo Dolo III” is the perfect expansion to this beloved song series as Mr. Rager is pulled between the physical and spiritual realms for one of the most challenging mental battles of his life yet. Another top-tier display is seen on the ground shaking “Heaven on Earth”, which thrives due to its eeriness and vocal uncertainties. Despite these moments of positivity, there’s still a handful of stretches on Cudder’s seventh studio album that are painfully miserable to get through. I don’t think “Tequila Shots”, “She Knows This”, and “Damaged”, are inherently bad, but for someone on the stratosphere of the Cleveland visionary, it’s undoubtedly under his ability to leave this many poorly delivered flex anthems on the final cut. On the note of unlikely atmospheres, Pop Smoke and Skepta’s “Show Out” was probably the strangest choice for a track here as it’s pretty much Cudi making a drill banger reminiscent of something off Pop’s Meet The Woo 2 project. Sinking this thing’s integrity even more, teaming up with Trippie Redd only adds more filler to this already fairly bloated tracklist as their “Rockstar Knights” crossover is nothing more than a digestible trap ballad. Moving past this, the most notable portion of the LP is its more creative closing leg. While there are still some typical emo-rap songs that don’t do much, like “Sad People”, nearly all the other moments in the second half do something out of the ordinary. Whether it’s the incredibly intriguing interlude of Cudi being born, “Elsie’s Baby Boy (Flashback)”, or the painting of his current relationship on “Sept. 16” the personality these moments give off is truly surreal. “The Void” is at the pinnacle of this due to Cudi’s memorizing hook and surged vocals which culminate into a transcending entity. In its falling action, “Lovin’ Me” with Phoebe Bridgers, “The Pale Moonlight”, and “4 Da Kidz” all contribute to the established sense of camaraderie by tapping into various thought trains of the 36-year-old. Ending with the topically safe but satisfying “Lord I Know”, the last words whispered are “to be continued” (hinting at a future fourth chapter). Although its desire to sell out and make cheap hits becomes a reoccurring issue, Man On The Moon 3’s is still an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
Behind the boards, the records, even more, hit or miss than its vocal side. While I will say there’s at least a consistent sonic force in the gloomy psychedelic production utilized through the hour-long journey, the quality of these sonic backgrounds ranges dramatically. Immediately countering itself between the intensity powerful “Beautiful Trip”, the Take a Daytrip produced “Tequila Shots” offers nearly nothing interesting with its basic trap drums and simple synth lines. This becomes a reoccurring theme throughout as the multilayered intricateness of cuts like “Another Day” and “Mr. Solo Dolo III” are contorted with the simplicity of “Show Out” and “Rockstar Knights”. Still, the pros outweigh the cons here due to the marvelous work of the all-time great beat makers, including MIKE DEAN, Plain Pat, FINNEAS, Dot Da Genius, and Cudi himself. Out of all the well-arranged scores throughout the project, the surefire standout is “Heaven on Earth”, which’s charged drums and chilling samples come together to produce a vibe like no other. Other standout instrumentals include the electro-guitar-based “Elsie’s Baby Boy”, the translucent “Sept. 16”, and the crescendoing of “Lord I Know”. If it wasn’t for the genericness that plagues songs like “She Knows This”, “Damaged”, and “Sad People”, Man On The Moon 3’s soundscape would be much better, but even with its flaws, the evolution seen on Cudi’s tripped-out sound is intriguing to unfold.
In conclusion, Man On The Moon 3: The Chosen is definitely the worst out of the acclaimed trilogy but is solid for what it is. At its best, Cudi was able to put together some emotional tracks that built on its predecessors, but its tendency to set the bar low with attempted trap bangers ruins a good portion of the experience. Going forward, it seems like we will be getting the fourth chapter to this saga sooner than later, and if Kid Cudi can make something much more focused, he may once again be able to be at the top of the rap game.
- Themes from previous records are well developed
- Great atmosphere
- Cudi’s vocal performance is on par with his last record
- Mediocre features
- Attempted hits feel artificial
- Questionable beat selections
- A lot of unoriginality in the tracklist
- Alot of filler songs