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Man on the Moon III: The Chosen- A Review

Cover art for Man on the Moon III, painted by Sam Spratt.

Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, better known as Kid Cudi, has made himself a name that has become synonymous with rap as his past releases have not only wowed numerous music lovers but also altered the course of rap in its most defining years. His unique melodies and psychedelic trap-infused raps create an immersive effect on listeners that not many other rappers can replicate. And who could forget the iconic Kid Cudi hum? It’s needless to explain Cudi’s reputation as he is about as much of a household name as a rapper can be at this point in time. Despite his accolades, I found myself hesitant to listen to this new release as many of Cudi’s past endeavors have left me, for the most part, unimpressed; not for a lack of talent but because his music failed to grip me for one reason or another. With Man on the Moon III: The Chosen (MotM3) I decided to give Cudi another chance and I’m really happy that I did, as MotM3 is one of Cudi’s most prolific releases to date.

This album is somewhat of a return to form for Cudi as his past few releases seem to have failed to grip his audiences the same way as his past projects. Including this album in the Man on the Moon series was a risky endeavor as it was arguably Cudi’s most intrinsic string of projects and thus gives this project a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Cudi manages to deliver with his most coherent and focused project in years.

The tracklist of this album consists of 18 songs with a total runtime of about 58 minutes creating a very digestible project that can be listened to as a whole without creating fatigue. For the most part, each track is easily discernable from the others as they all feature unique flows, melodies, and themes. Certain tracks like the slow-paced “Mr. Solo Dolo III” can be easily discerned from more bombastic tracks like “Show Out”. Cudi has managed to display his better understand of pacing within this album which is a very important factor that many listeners and artists ten to overlook. The variety of sounds and production styles help to break up what could easily be a monotonous-sounding album upon longer listens. Unfortunately, the latter half of this album does suffer from some pacing issues as I found myself consistently forcing myself through the last few tracks as they all blended together. This is just a small gripe however and doesn’t really take away too much from the experience.

Kid Cudi poses with his newly announced sneaker, the Vadawam 326. The name was inspired by his daughter, Vada.

Another small gripe I have with this album is the lack of live production elements. More and more albums suffer from this issue as music steadily finds itself removed from studios and transferred to software. While many phenomenal tracks have been made this way, I find that a more spirit-centric album such as this one takes a bigger hit for not having as authentic of a sound. This isn’t to say that the album is devoid of live recordings. My issue is that the tracks that are predominantly electronically produced are too “mechanical” and lack the organic sound that can only be created through human instrumentation. To end this on a positive note, I did enjoy the production on this album as I found it to be unique and a good utilization of the electronic styles I’m usually not too fond of (à la Travis $cott). I just wish that it had some more authenticity to it as it would have complimented Cudi’s vocals exceptionally well.

Other than these relatively minor gripes, I found myself entranced with this album for most of my first listening experience. When it comes to sampling a project, the first four tracks generally carry a heavy importance as they can be summed up as the “first impression” of the artist’s work. Kid Cudi manages to make one of the strongest first impressions I have listened to in recent years as the first four tracks each contain a sample of the sounds and experiences you will discover upon listening to this album. “Beautiful Trip” transitioning into “Tequila Shots” has to be one of the most satisfying track lineups I’ve heard. To add to this, “Tequila Shots” is probably my favorite track of this album for a plethora of reasons. The base bumps, the mix of vocals from Cudi and the absolutely perfect chorus are just a few examples of why I find myself completely entranced in this song. I can’t quite explain it, but it has an effect on me that completely immerses me into this project.

Other notable tracks for me were “She Knows This”, “Heaven on Earth”, “Show Out” and “The Void”. The rest of the tracks on this project were also very well done and I found it hard to pick my favorite few, which is really a good problem to have.

To briefly elaborate on each, “She Knows This” has a phenomenal intro that catches your ear, followed by a segway into the chorus that is downright catchy. Cudi then showcases his rapping prowess (more so than other tracks) as he bobs in and out of different harmonies and flows with some clever bars intertwined. The track then has a well-executed beat switch which changes the tempo and vibe of the song in all of the right ways.

Cover art for the first "Man on the Moon" album.

“Heaven on Earth” is just more rapping from Kid Cudi in its purest sense. His style best mimics that of Travis $cott’s more recent sound and while I generally don’t get much from Travis’ music I found this track to be entertaining and very catchy. The switching of flows is well executed as Cudi seamlessly maneuvers around the production. While I’m on the subject, I really enjoyed the music box sampling as it created a unique sound that you don’t hear often in hip hop. I always enjoy refreshing new sounds in production as rap seemingly becomes more and more stagnant as years pass.

“Show Out” is part of a new trend that American artists are hoping onto (likely spurred by Drake on “More Life”) where they incorporate more elements of grime music into their tracks. Skepta, a British rapper and grime artist, is featured on this track alongside the late Pop Smoke. Probably the best element of this track isn’t really accredited to Cudi but to the beautiful combination of Skepta and Pop Smoke. These two showcase some of the most unique voices in rap today and the combination of the two is about as wonderful and rich as cheese and wine. Cudi further adds to this track by doing the Cudi thing; rapping infused with harmonies. All around it is a very fun track to listen to and it perfectly breaks up the pacing of the album as an absolutely unexpected banger.

Skepta (left) and the late Pop Smoke (right) collaborate with Cudi on "Show Out".

Lastly, “The Void” is quite simple in premise for me. Really, it just boils down to being a great example of a Kid Cudi song with great singing, a catchy chorus and some pleasant bars assimilated cohesively in one track. The best way I can summarize my thoughts is that is my version of a litmus test for Cudi’s music if someone unfamiliar with his work asked for an all-encompassing example of his sound. It’s just a well-done combination of many of the key elements that I enjoy from Kid Cudi. The production is also satisfying with a nice use of synthesizers that most closely emulate his sound from Man on the Moon: The End of Day.

Despite not being all to familiar with Kid Cudi’s work and quite hesitant to listen to this album, I found myself extremely surprised and disappointed in myself for holding off on listening to this project. Since my first listen, I find myself still putting it in my daily track rotation and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. Despite the latter half of the album feeling weak to me, I didn’t let it detract from the overall psychedelic and immersive experience of this album. I believe this album has made me into a true Kid Cudi fan and I hope those of you on the fence about him give this album a chance. You may enjoy what you get out of it.

Rating: 8/10- Outstanding

Written By: Michael Miserendino

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