Kid Cudi is a fascinating rapper, claimed by the backpackers for his work with Kanye West on 808s Heartbreak but equally loved by the mash-up club kids who went ape for his "Day N Nite" single, especially in its nu-disco remix from Crookers.
His debut album was deep in the category of "much anticipated" as soon as it was announced, but when the promised game changer finally arrived, it became obvious that Cudi had already changed the game, and maybe debut albums aren't what they used to be. With its narration from Common and a track list broken into five "acts," Man on the Moon: The End of Day is almost as conceptual as its name implies, kicking off with a spaced-out slow roller coated in strings while Cudi states "Welcome, you're in my dream now." You most certainly are.
What follows is Pink Floyd-styled story where the real world pain of "Soundtrack 2 My Life" mutates into sci-fi fantasies from the dark side of the moon. Along the way, brilliant samples -- like a bit of OMD's esoteric album Dazzle Ships -- and innovative sounds from Cudi and special guests Emile, Ratatat, and MGMT slowly shuffle the listener through the man's spliff-fueled exploration of space, a place where the artsy escape ridicule but fall prey to crushing isolation. With its bleeps, the hooky "Day N Nite" belongs, but the follow-up single, "Make Her Say," is a glorious mix of glitz and vulgarity with Kanye and Cudi twisting a Lady GaGa sample from "Poker Face" into "Poke Her Face."
While it lightens the mood just before things turn ponderous, it barely fits. If it wasn't for the song, it would be as if Cudi launched his career with his own 808s, and therefore anyone looking for a more gripping kickoff should seek out either of his widely available mixtapes (A Kid Named Cudi or Dat Kid from Cleveland). This first official release is a soul searcher and may require more patience than your everyday debut. Still, the chilly, complicated Man on the Moon perfects the futuristic bleak-beat hip-hop Kanye purposed a year earlier, and rewards the listener with every tripped-out return.