WZRD, a collaboration between Kid Cudi and longtime producer Dot da Genius, owes a debt both to the MGMT school of vowel removal, and the L’il Wayne academy of inadvisable rock albums.
There was a strange moment halfway through Kid Cudi’s [URL: http://www.kidcudi.com] 2010 LP Man in the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager wherein Cudi decided to ditch this whole “rap” thing for a minute and try his hand at rock and roll. “Erase Me”—the track in question—was a straight-up rock song, sandwiched improbably between the otherwise consistent offerings of Cudi’s pop-leaning hip-hop. This was not the first example of Kid Cudi’s ongoing proclivity toward “rawk”, a fetish that has manifested itself in manners alternately fruitful (collaborations with MGMT) and bizarre (“Erase Me”’s video clip, which featured Cudi rocking a not-entirely-ironic Jimmy Hendrix getup).
Whereas rock-and-roll has previously taken a backseat to Cudi’s career as a rapper, it is now given free-reign with WZRD. While not quite as embarrassing as Rebirth (Weezy’s 2010 head-scratcher of a rock LP), WZRD nonetheless has some explaining to do. Both Cudi and Dot da Genius have repeatedly touted WZRD as a rock album, but endorsing WZRD as a specimen of that genre is sort of like handing someone a Boca burger and saying that it’s actually prime rib. While WZRD does contain eleven tracks on which the primary instruments are guitar and drums, the album betrays itself immediately as the work of hip-hop artists.
The fault here lies both with Kid Cudi and Dot da Genius. Throughout WZRD, drum and guitar lines are incongruously chopped up and rearranged like they were samples, rather than live instruments. Whenever Dot da Genius tries his hand at a straightforward rock beat (as on the opening verse of “Love Hard”) the result is a bizarre, hybrid creature that doesn’t really belong in the worlds of either rock or hip-hop.
From opening track “The Arrival”, all the way to the horrendous “Dr. Pill”, Dot da Genius treats distorted guitar riffs like they were sampled on a synthesizer, rather than played by someone with two hands and a capacity for improvisation. If he were just chopping up samples for Kid Cudi to rap over, then this might not be such a bad deal. But, at least so far as WZRD is concerned, Kid Cudi not a rapper; he’s a singer.
Cudi’s limited vocal range causes problems for WZRD in the lyric department, but this is nothing compared to the fact that he apparently decided that the chief hallmark of rock songwriting is broader-than-hell emoting. Case in point: “Efflictim”, on which Cudi repeatedly asks his lover what she would do if he died. The pathos implied by this conceit falls utterly flat, serving only as a reminder of how much more honest Cudi sounds when rapping about champagne and designer jackets.
Halfway through WZRD, Cudi and Dot da Genius attempt a cover of the Appalachian folk song “In the Pines”. Though competently done, the track sounds like the work of two musicians fooling around during a studio break before getting back to what they’re actually there to do: produce hip-hop.
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Posted in: Hip Hop Music