Kid Cudi Takes Us on a Breathtaking Journey With ‘Man on the Moon III: The Chosen’

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Stereogum

A decade after its previous installment, Kid Cudi put an end to the ‘Man on the Moon’ trilogy by releasing ‘Man on the Moon III: The Chosen’ on Friday, Dec. 11.

Tristan Baldeo, Staff Writer

Kid Cudi, born Scott Mescudi, is an American rapper, singer, producer, actor, do it all guy from Cleveland, Ohio. The artist has been a pioneer and innovator when it comes to this generation of hip-hop, inspiring the likes of Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, Jaden Smith, and many more throughout the 2010s. This stems particularly from his open discussions of dark themes such as addiction and depression in a way nobody else would during his Man on the Moon series. The trilogy came to a close with the release of his seventh studio album, Man on the Moon III: The Chosen and comes a decade after its previous successor, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.

Despite his initial success, Cudi has gone through ups and downs throughout his solo career, yet has still managed to submit himself as an all-time great in the eyes of many. Following the first two installments of his Man on the Moon trilogy, two of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time arguably, Cudi would go on to face a creative slump in an attempt to branch out for his next five projects. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven would be most notable out of the bunch, being deemed arguably one of the worst albums of the last decade by critics. It would not be till 2018 that he would land back on his feet with his collaboration project with Kanye West titled Kids See Ghosts, which has seen constant praise from the hip-hop community.

Man on the Moon III: The Chosen marks Cudi’s first solo project since 2016, with a lot to prove to the new generation following his 2018 success with Kanye West. The 18-track album, broken up into four different acts, includes features from Phoebe Bridgers, Trippie Redd, Skepta, and the late Pop Smoke.

The first two acts are riddled with heavy influence from rapper Travis Scott, a mentee of Cudi at one point in his career, as he attempts to connect with the younger generation. Cudi is also seen a lot happier here than he usually is here compared to his other Man on the Moon albums. This half of the album is much more similar to his third studio album, Indicud than it is to the Man on the Moon trilogy in my opinion.

Act I: Return 2 Madness, marks Cudi taking the trap sound from the new age of rappers and utilizing it, something that was usually the other way around up until this moment. While the psychedelic trap sound used here was more or less birthed by Cudi himself, it has been proven that individuals, namely Travis Scott, have the recipe to do it better. The themes of partying and substance abuse are displayed across the entire act and start with a short instrumental introduction named “Beautiful Trip” while coming to a close with the fifth track in the album “Dive”.

Tracks such as “Tequila Shots” and “Another Day” start off the plot of the album and create a beautiful story, with lyrics depicting battles with Cudi’s inner demons and wanting to escape his constant addiction struggles. 

Some of the best songs on the album can be found in this act as well through “She Knows This” and “Dive”. The psychedelic trap records have mainstream appeal to bring parties to life as Cudi puts his vocal talent to proper use, taking these tracks to the next level.

Act II: The Rager, The Menace, depicts the aftermath of Cudi’s partying lifestyle on the album and marks the beginning of an out-of-control downwards spiral. The act starts off with the track “Damaged” and concludes on the ninth track titled “Mr. Solo Dolo III”. 

“Damaged” refers to Cudi’s state of mind due to the party scene he has been involved in. While the track still manages to be enjoyable, it mimics the recipe Travis Scott has to the point where it is hard not to think of him when listening to it. I would have liked him to take a different approach to this track and put a distinct twist on it instead. 

Cudi redeems himself on the nocturnal and hypnotic track “Heaven on Earth” alongside “Show Out” and “Mr. Solo Dolo III”, being the best two songs in the act. Combining the likes of drill and hip-hop, “Show Out” marks the first features on the album from Skepta and the late Pop Smoke, and the duo is simply powerful alongside Cudi.

The track “Mr. Solo Dolo III” is another highlight of the album as Cudi moves away from the rap-heavy trap songs and toward his old Man on the Moon style from the 2010s. This marks the halfway point in the album as well as the transition to what the rest of the album will sound like. Cudi can also be seen diving into the topic of addiction and loneliness once more on this track which has been a major theme throughout his career.

The second half of the album is broken down into acts three and four as Cudi enters his element with the deep and melodic Man on the Moon sound that many listeners are used to. Those wanting that feeling of nostalgia and joy of Cudi’s old work should look forward to this part of the album. 

Act III: Heart Of Rose Gold, goes on from track ten to track fourteen, starting with “Sad People” and ending with “Lovin’ Me”. The act is a lot more personal to Cudi, who is seen reflecting on ideas of love, family, and mental health here. The return to the Man on the Moon sound here guarantees a spark to be ignited within oneself for a feeling of warmth and comfort. 

Tracks like “Sad People” and “Sept. 16” offer a somber sound that can make somebody feel like they are floating when listening. These simplistic tracks are there for you to sit back, relax, and just take everything in.

“The Void” is easily the pinnacle of the album, with a dynamic chorus that feels like an empowering anthem. The track from start to finish was the emotional rollercoaster I was looking for in the album and discusses a topic of loneliness that many can relate to. The final track of the act, “Lovin’ Me” shares the spotlight with indie artist Phoebe Bridgers offering a feeling of bliss, instantly becoming another favorite on the album as the two mesh together perfectly. 

Act IV: Powers, marks the final act of the album as we come to its conclusion. Running from “The Pale Moonlight” all the way to the final track “Lord I Know”, this can be seen as Cudi’s celebratory lap as he stands tall with all the confidence in the world.

Cudi effortlessly flows over “The Pale Moonlight” and from start to finish, with divine hums from the man himself that are beloved by many. Cudi sounds like he owns the track and this only continues for the rest of the album. 

The final feature of the album comes from Trippie Redd on “Rockstar Knights” in which confidence carries over for both artists. The track delivers as Trippie Redd offers an amazing intro and catchy chorus, demonstrating that he still has it in him to make amazing bodies of work.

Cudi manages to do the same thing from “The Pale Moonlight” on his penultimate song “4 Da Kidz” while also conveying a powerful message that the listener is not alone. This message alone is inspiring and makes this another favorite on the album.

The album ends with “Lord I Know” detailing how Cudi is content with life now after all he has been through and is now on a much better path. His daughter, Vada Mescudi, is featured at the end of the track, saying “To be continued”, a cliffhanger that can mean many things as Cudi moves toward a new chapter in his life.

Overall, Man on the Moon III: The Chosen is a great album to cap off the Man on the Moon trilogy. It demonstrates Cudi’s versatility through diverse tracks on the album and cements himself as an all-time great. While the album has no direct skips in my eyes there are obviously some tracks that stand out from the rest. My favorite tracks include the likes of “She Knows This”, “Dive”, “Mr. Solo Dolo III”, “The Void”, “Lovin’ Me”, “Rockstar Knights” and “4 Da Kidz”. For students struggling in some way, whether it be from stress or personal problems, Kid Cudi has your back. This album, along with the rest of the trilogy, is an amazing way to cope with issues and will have you riding a rollercoaster of emotions upon your many listens.

8/10

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