Where To Start With... Kid Cudi
Ever since his first mixtape A Kid Named Cudi emerged in 2008, attracting the attention of Kanye West, who immediately signed him up to his newly created GOOD Music imprint, Cleveland-born artist Kid Cudi has always been one to blend styles and genres in his music.
That first collection made use of samples from a range of artists that included everyone from Paul Simon and Band of Horses to Outkast and N.E.R.D., and that sense of artistic restlessness has been an ever-present in a career that has already taken in five studio albums under his own name, a rock band side-project called WZRD and a move into acting that has seen him appear in films like Entourage and Need for Speed.
After four albums that, broadly speaking, fell under the hip-hip / R&B umbrella, his last outing on 2015's Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven marked a complete change of direction that had more in common with the alt-rock influence present on the WZRD album he created with Dot da Genius. Not everybody was thrilled with the dramatic change in style however and despite some glowing endorsements from the likes of Kanye West, Erykah Badu and Outkast's Andre 3000, the album received some less-than-enthusiastic reviews and left some of his fans a little perplexed.
However, in December last year Kid Cudi returned with album number six - Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' – which represented a return to familiar hip-hop territory. While the album has been available digitally and via streaming services since December 16th, this week it arrives on a physical format for the first time (you can preview and purchase the CD version at the top-right of this page).
Much like Kid Cudi's two Man on the Moon albums (the third instalment of which fans are still waiting for), Pain, Passion & Demon Slayin' is a hefty outing at 19 tracks, with the album spilt into four 'acts': 'Tuned', 'Prophecy', 'Niveaux del'Amour' and 'It's Bright and Heaven Is Warm'. The album features a handful of guests including Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, Andre 3000, Pharrell Williams, Travis Scott and Willow Smith, with production contributions from longtime collaborator Plain Pat, Mike Will Made It and Mike Dean.
If Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven left you feeling a little alienated, be assured that Kid Cudi is back to doing what he does best on the new album and while there is still plenty of musical experimentation, as you'd probably expect, here it feels more focussed. Highlights include album opener 'Frequency', Andre 3000 collaboration 'By Design', the Pharrell-featuring 'Flight At First Sight' and the towering 'Baptized By Fire', featuring Travis Scott.
As a whole though this is a very strong offering from Cudi and there's hardly any filler here, despite the lengthy runtime, showing that he's back to his best. Whether the next thing he does will be the long-awaited Man on the Moon III, we'll have to wait and see, but on this evidence Kid Cudi is at the peak of his creative powers again.
You can find the video for 'Surfin'' below, beneath that we've picked out five highlights from his career so far as a guide for the uninitiated...
Probably the standout track on Kid Cudi's debut mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, 'The Prayer' is based around a sample from Band of Horses' 'The Funeral' and is a curious breakout track given its lyrical obsession with death, but it struck a chord with many, including Kanye West, who was moved enough to make Cudi his first signing on the newly-incorporated GOOD Music.
'Day 'n' Nite'
Taken from his first 'proper' studio album Man on the Moon: The End of Day, 'Day 'n' Nite' is the song that brought Kid Cudi's talents to a mainstream audience, and we've gone for the original version instead of the remix by Crookers, both of which performed well on either side of the Atlantic. Written about the death of his uncle in 2006, who had kicked him out of his house shortly before, the track is one of the most emotionally-charged moments on his debut and still stands up as one of his best moments.
Written and performed with Kanye West for his second album Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, 'Erase Me' was one of the biggest hits from Kid Cudi's sophomore album and the song's promo video, directed by Jason Goldwatch, features him performing alongside a fake backing band that includes Christopher Mintz-Plasse, better known to most as Superbad's McLovin'.
'Just What I Am'
Featured on 2013's Indicud, 'Just What I Am' is one of the highlights from Kid Cudi's third album and features a guest appearance from King Chip, with the two rappers duelling over a slow beat full of swirling synths. Even amongst the tracks on one of his strongest albums, 'Just What I Am' is still a standout moment.
Our final pick is taken from Kid Cudi's fourth studio album Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon and features none other than Raphael Saadiq, who lends his vocals as well as his production skills to the track. Less hip-hop or R&B as it is dark, brooding synth-pop, this is one of the most melodic tracks on the album and shows the kind of stylistic range that Cudi is capable of.