Arguably one of the greatest compliments an artist can be paid is that their music is ahead of its time, in line with the notion that the greatest musical moments can occur when one’s art is not in accordance with the norms and practices of the present day. Kid Cudi often lies at the centre of such debate, and whilst both his Man on the Moon LPs continue to be weighed up by the musical courts, Cudder moves further to the left with his latest outing – an alternative rock album, alongside producer Dot Da Genius.
With the pair going under the name WZRD, will this new repackaging of the Cleveland born G.O.O.D Music affiliate allow audiences to fully capture his vision?
WZRD’s brand of prog-rock-meets-Hip Hop-meets-everything-else goes far beyond the many shallow heights commercial rap has on offer, yielding anticipation for the album. However the opening tracks do ease the listener in; “The Arrival” is a three minute instrumental, whilst “High Off Life” finds Cudi rapping [a rarity on this album] over a more composed, ambient sound.
It is from track three onwards that the sea of listeners will begin to divide into either corner A of declaring WZRD as innovators, versus asection of fans screwing up their face [and possibly tuning out] due to the ‘unconventional’ shift in gear.
“The Dream Time Machine,” which features Empire of the Sun, is an excellent composition with an airy makeup of subtle guitar riffs and drifting drones, which aid Cudi’s gruff as ever vocals to helping listeners reach a high. It may not exactly be a 360 degree turn from anything Scott Mescudi has done in the past but the execution of “Dream…” marks for a highlight for the album.
Cudi and Dot seem comfortable and natural in the region of rock. “Live and Learn” is an example of the duo taking on the genre’s formula and adopting it to their own use; creating a fun, exhilarating listen, whilst lead single “Brake” is a murky, Grunge affair which fully embraces the experimental formula.
Kid Cudi as a performer remains strong – still wailing in his infectious hoarse tones (which are weed-free this time around) and hitting a number of impressive notes to prove all doubters he has some singing ability. However, at times the overbearing “woahs” and impromptu adlibs are incoherent and result in possibly not taking Cudi fully seriously when performing as a “rock star”.
The musical influences of WZRD are clear in their material. “Love Hard” twists up heavy rock and synth heavy pop structures, bearing similarities to numerous familiar guitar heavy tracks, whilst the Nirvana-inspired “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” comes off sounding like a spaced out country record.
Cudi in general excels with his songwriting ability, and as hoped such talents consistently find their way onto this collaborative effort with Dot Da Genius. Again floating to his happy place to discuss emotions, life and love, songs such as the bleak “Efflictim” and the more opimistic “Upper Room” highlight the down-to-earth nature of WZRD’s material and should strike a nerve within anyone regardless of their preference for a particular genre.
Tracks fall short when compared to the lyrical heights of “Pursuit of Happiness,” “Man On The Moon” and more but Cudder’s desire to always provide a poignant message ensure the listening experience with offer something introspective.
If the reason behind the lukewarm receptions for Kid Cudi’s first albums being due to going way too “left” for a Hip Hop album, the WZRD project should have been the platform to allow the multi-talented artist to express his creative streak without having to conform to any box.
Together Dot and Cudi produce an eclectic, kaleidoscope-like atmosphere which leaves behind the world of beats and machismo bars to embrace a zone of heartbreak, instability and euphoric guitar chords. There are some flashes of greatness on the duo’s self-titled debut; from its sampling of the Drive soundtrack-featured track “Under Your Spell” by Desire on “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie” to their pairing with Empire of the Sun.
But where WZRD‘s magic falls short is in its coherence. Tracks often diverge into a number of differing moods and sometimes its various experimentations lose sight of the initial goal of making good music first and foremost; even to the extent that the previous trippy offerings of Kid Cudi sound more defined than material here.
Even if there are periods where the unique project sounds like a tribute album to ’70s prog rock, Cudi and Dot Da Genius should be applauded just for their boldness to yet again push the musical envelope past anything currently on offer.