Album Review | Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon III: The Chosen

This album was released on December 11th in the year of our lord 2020. I feel like I don’t really know where to begin with this project. Around 2015, I would’ve told you that no Hip Hop artist had ever fallen off as hard as Kid Cudi did. I think the first Man on the Moon is a fucking incredible record, and probably my favorite album of 2009. I don’t wanna say too much about his other albums just because I’m gonna speak about that more tomorrow when I publish my rating of his entire discography, but I will kinda spoil it by saying I think Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ was a slight return to form. Despite the unbelievably corny title, he kinda bounced back and started giving me more of what I originally liked about his music. Something still felt like it was missing though because I didn’t love it like I wanted to. Also, that album is long as shit. I don’t know if you guys remember, but it was almost 90 minutes long. I think that’s the main reason I didn’t review it when it came out. I’m not writing about a 90 minute Kid Cudi album, especially when there’s little to no sonic variation. Anyway, I was actually pretty excited for this album when it was being promoted. Again, I adore the original album, but I was cautiously optimistic. I’d enjoyed the two promotional singles he’d released earlier in the year, although they very obviously had nothing to do with this project. I guess I was just hoping that this project would somehow match the production quality of the original album. I’m writing this preamble before having heard this project by the way, so hopefully I’m not let down. We’ll see…

Right off the bat, I can say that I really appreciated how this album was split up into four separate acts. The first act is entitled Return 2 Madness.

I’ll cover the album act by act. For each part, I’ll write about the songs I actually like before getting into the ones I won’t be returning to. You can hear the melody of the opening track from the first MotM album being played at one point during Beautiful Trip, the opening track. Beautiful Trip basically sounds like a literal trip to another planet, so that’s pretty awesome. I think it’s a dope intro. The first actual song is called Tequila Shots, and it’s a major highlight for me. The segue from the opening track into this one is super smooth. One of the first things I noticed is that the production is 100% less Indie Pop and more modern Hip Hop. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just different. The production is still super high quality. It sounds extremely expensive. The opening verse is pretty solid. I mean, the lyrics kinda go in one ear and out the other, but Cudi’s melodic delivery sounds fantastic. Same goes for the second verse. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think the lyrics are bad at all. I just enjoy the song more sonically than lyrically. This shit sounds really goddamn good, so I still love it. I think it’s dope as hell. Track 3 is entitled Another Day. Once again, the production here is really great. Pretty much everything I said about the preceding track’s verses applies to this one. I think Cudi’s melodic delivery sounds really good though. The verses are pretty much just about partying and having a good time, which is cool I guess. I really love the hook on this track. I like the “thank God that I saw another day” line in the refrain just because I’ve felt like that before after getting out of a really bad depressive episode. Some of the lyrics in the second verse are a little corny, but that’s honestly to be expected from Cudi. Overall, I think this it’s a really dope track. She Knows This marks a shift in the tone of the album.

The preceding song was lyrically celebratory, but still had kind of a moody sonic atmosphere. The production here is way bouncier and gave me the coveted involuntary head nod almost immediately. The beat is dope af. Lyrically, this track sounds like me when I’m going through a manic episode.

Climbed out the treacherous bottomless pit
Yeah, I'm reborn and my life is the shit, heaven

The beat switches up during the second recital of the hook, and it gets a bit trippier. I definitely prefer the first beat, but the second one is cool too. This is where the Travis Scott similarities started getting very apparent, but I didn’t really mind too much. I mean, it doesn’t sound so much like Travis Scott that I dislike it. I think it’s a pretty good song. The final track from Act I is entitled Dive. Once again, this song has a very celebratory atmosphere. I like how hard hitting the percussion is. It’s kinda weird hearing Kid Cudi make what’s essentially a Trap song, but it works. Again, some of the lyrics are corny in the opening verse, but it’s never so bad that it makes my stomach churn. This is easily my least favorite song up to this point on the album though just because it feels less organized and fleshed out than a lot of the other tracks in my opinion. I do still like it, but I don’t think this album would’ve been harmed if this track was left on the cutting room floor. There’s not much of a hook, and the verses kinda suck lyrically. I like the song though. The verses and production sound really good. It’s a very flawed track to me, but overall I think it’s pretty good. Act II is entitled The Rager, the Menace.

The first track is called Damaged. Again, I’m a bit surprised by how much more of a Trap influence this has than Indie Pop. The autotuned ad-libs at the very beginning of the track scream Travis Scott to me. The opening verse isn’t really anything special to me, but his flow is cool I guess. Kid Cudi is just rapping about partying still. I guess it doesn’t make sense to expect the exact same type of content that was on the first album since that was over a decade ago, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it a little. This doesn’t really feel like Man on the Moon at all. Neither of the verses on this song are particularly great to me, but the hook sounds fantastic in my opinion. Cudi sounds exactly like Travis on the bridge of this song. It doesn’t bother me that much; I just think it’s interesting. The one aspect of this song that really makes it worth returning to for me is the hook. I think the hook sounds really goddamn great. The rest of the song is solid too though. It’s a good track. The next song that I actually like in Act II is called Solo Dolo, Pt. III.

I’m a huge fan of the first Solo Dolo song, and I thought the second one with Kendrick was pretty good too. I like this one less than the first one, but more than the second one. This one’s surprisingly more melodic than Solo Dolo II. I think the production is great, and I love the sung hook from Cudi. This is the first moment on the album where the lyrics really stood out to me.

Say, "I'm waitin' to die," I cry
Many nights I spent gettin' fucked up, livin' a lie
Prayin', I'm just fed up, this tequila in me
Don't tell me to be cool, this is how cool I can be

The writing isn’t like super brilliant or anything. It’s just nice to hear him say something interesting instead of just talking about getting drunk and partying. This is one of the first moments on the album that actually sounds like it belongs in the MotM trilogy. On this track it kinda becomes clear that he was masking his mental illness with parties and vices in the preceding couple tracks, which I’m about to talk about. I think the verses on this track are cool, and I love the hook. It doesn’t really sound like the other entries in the series sonically, but it definitely fits lyrically. It’s a dope track, and easily the best song from Act II of the album in my opinion. The two tracks that I don’t care for from Act II are called Heaven on Earth & Show Out.

Heaven on Earth sounds even more like Travis Scott than any of the preceding material. The beat is pretty solid, and I think Cudi’s flow on the first verse is cool too. The main facet of this song that reminds me of Travis Scott is just the ad-libs. The corny hook sounds a lot like something Travis would do too. This is basically a strictly Hip Hop song; Cudi does way more rapping than singing. I think it’s kind of a mediocre track just because nothing about it is super well done in my opinion. I guess it’s cool if you wanna hear him rapping, and his flow is okay. I don’t know, man… I’m not really a fan of Travis Scott, so this is just a boring track to me. It’s definitely not a bad song, but I’d be lying if I said I really enjoyed it that much. I just think it’s mediocre. Show Out is slightly better in my opinion, but it’s still not something I’d listen to. It’s just a really odd collaboration to me. I never got heavy into a lot of Pop Smoke just because I only like Drill if it’s from Chicago, but his hook is cool here. It’s just… This isn’t what I come to Kid Cudi for. There’s of course nothing wrong with him reaching out of his comfort zone and doing something different, but this is just not what I want. Skepta killed the first verse though. The lyrics aren’t super interesting, but he just sounds really good. The same actually can be said for Kid Cudi’s verse in my opinion. It is really strange hearing Kid Cudi kinda try to sound hard on this track because he’s not a thug at all, and he doesn’t really pull it off in my opinion. Lyrically, it all feels like filler, but his flow is cool, and I like his relatively lively delivery. This kinda reminds me of his performance on Playboi Carti’s latest album in that the lyrics are trash, but his flow sounds good over the beat. Overall, I did enjoy the song to some extent on my first listen, but it lacks replay value. I’m never gonna listen to the song again, but I think it’s decent. Act III is entitled Heart of Rose Gold.

I really like the production on Sad People. I honestly don’t really care for the meandering first verse though; the writing seems kind of unfocused and all over the place, and same goes for the melody. With that said, the hook is pretty great. I definitely like how this song is dedicated to “the sad people who keep the blunt burning.” It’s nice to actually have a song dedicated to sad people because I feel like the album had been missing that up to this point. Some of the imagery in the second verse is kind of interesting.

This ain't livin’, I swim in pain
Never drown, keep my head up above the waves

For the most part, the verse didn’t really do anything for me. Overall, I do like the song even though I was kinda critical of the verses. I like it more sonically than lyrically, but that’s kinda to be expected at this point I suppose. I think it’s a good track. The 2nd track from Act III is called Elsie’s Baby Boy (flashback). This one actually sounds very different from any of the others on the album up to this point in my opinion. The beat sounds more Indie Rock than Trap. I actually really like the simplistic writing on the first verse too; I think it works well. I like how he’s singing about himself in third-person. I think the hook is okay, but I just wish it was less simplistic. I like how in the second verse he sings more about how the death of his father impacted him at a young age. The more personal lyricism is much appreciated. I still feel like the content is a bit surface level with the introspection, but this is definitely one of the better songs on the album to me. The last minute or so is taken up by a really great instrumental outro. That definitely added a lot to the song for me. I think it’s dope overall. It’s followed by Sept. 16. The melodic, spacey production on this track is fantastic to me. Cudi’s soft, almost mumbly singing sounds really good to me as well. The first verse is dope. I think it’s cool that Cudi slid a love song into the track list. He pulled it off without being too creepy in my opinion.

Missin' someone in my life, see, I'm in trouble
And every time I close my eyes, I see her face, see I'm in trouble
No, I can't forget her at all, haunting me
And I'm wishin' you were mine, all for me

The hook isn’t really anything special to me, but it serves its purpose well enough. I feel like Cudi really put his heart into this track. He sounds like he’s genuinely in love here. The kind of robotic vocal effect that comes in during the last part of the second verse sounds really good to me. This is another dope track. The next track is entitled The Void. I really like how relatively energetic this track sounds. The hook is really dope. I feel like this track would be really fun during live shows. This doesn’t really sound too different from something that could’ve been on Cudi’s 2016 album in my opinion. I guess it fits with the lyrical themes of the first couple albums a bit more. I like how he’s kinda singing about doing drugs to avoid certain problems in real life. I can relate to that for sure. The way his vocal register lowers for the second half of the first verse is pretty cool. Something about his delivery on the verses just feels kind of off. It sounds like whoever was in charge of mixing the vocals wanted us to focus more on the melody rather than what Cudi was actually saying. The lyrics can be kind of vague, but some of them stand out in a cool way.

Prayin' I overdose on this love, it got me flyin', I'm headed home
And I'm thinkin' I be dreamin', lights are gleamin'
God watchin', haters plottin', but I can't be focused on that
Here it goes, this the part, I cannot wait

I couldn’t really tell if this song was supposed to be about drug use or suicide, but either interpretation works. Overall, I think this is one of the best songs on the album up to this point. The outro on this track is really pretty, not only sonically, but lyrically too. It’s like he knows a lot of his fans are going through difficult, depressive episodes, so he included a message specifically to them.

Thank you for listening
Thank you for never leaving me
It's gon' be okay
It's gon' be okay
I promise you

It’s a really dope song. The only track that I don’t care for from Act III is entitled Lovin’ Me, which is ironic because this track sounds a lot more like something that could’ve appeared on the first album. I like the Singer/Songwriter-influenced production. The song has kind of an uplifting, hopeful soundscape in my opinion. The lyrics about self-love definitely enhance that aspect of the song too. Believe it or not, I actually did listen to Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher album last year. I thought it was boring as shit personally, but that’s just because she doesn’t make the kinda music that I typically listen to. It’s just not my kinda music. She wasn’t bad here though. With that said, I don’t feel like she really added anything to the song that Cudi wasn’t providing himself. The hook doesn’t really do anything for me. This isn’t really that great of a song to me, mainly because I’m just not into the Poppy sound. It’s a bit too soft and fluffy. I’m never gonna listen to this track again, but it’s decent. The final act is entitled Powers, and it’s the best one in my opinion.

The Pale Moonlight is one of the best songs on the album for me. I love the production, and the actual melodies are just catchier to me than most of the others on the album. I like how Cudi’s hums add so much to the beat. The instrumental would probably feel relatively lifeless without his humming. The first verse is kinda trash lyrically, but his flow sounds really good. The hook is really great. The second verse is even worse than the first one unfortunately. With that said, the song is too good sonically for me to care that much. I think this shit is catchy as fuck. The song is dope as hell to me. I’m not really a fan of Trippie Redd at all after hearing that ! album that he dropped in 2019, but I think he sounds pretty good on Rockstar Nights. His style meshes with that of Kid Cudi really well in my opinion. The production is great, and I surprisingly love Trippie’s hook. Kid Cudi’s flow on the second verse was kinda corny to me, but overall the verse was fine. The way the production kinda evolves during the bridge is honestly pretty amazing. The closing verse from Kid Cudi sounds great too. Keyword: “sounds.” The lyrics aren’t particularly good, but it is what it is. I still love the song. I think it’s easily one of the best tracks on the project. I was a bit worried coming into it because I didn’t care for any of the other tracks with features, but this one ended up being fantastic. I think it’s dope as hell. The penultimate track is entitled 4 da Kidz. I don’t love this track quite as much as the preceding couple, but it’s still very good in my opinion. I really like the production. The spacey arpeggiators that come in during the hook kinda reminded me of Day n’ Nite for some reason. As per usual, the verses kinda suck lyrically, but they sound very good to me. I really don’t think this song stands out much from any of the others, but I do like it a lot. I just don’t have much to say about it because it feels like more of the same, but it’s very well done. It’s a dope track. The last song is called Lord I Know. This track has easily some of the best production on the whole project in my opinion. I unfortunately don’t think the hook is as catchy as some of the others, but something about the way Cudi rapped here definitely stood out. I feel like he kinda stepped up the rapping here. The lyrics are still not that great, but his flow and delivery sounds really good in my opinion. The religious themes don’t really resonate with me personally, but I don’t particularly mind them. Most of the actual lyrics pretty much just go in one ear and out the other. The song is still dope to me sonically though; I fuck with it.

This is a pretty good album. I don’t really think it lives up to the quality of the first couple Man on the Moon albums, and I’d honestly probably take his 2016 album over this too, but I’m still a fan of this record. There’s surprisingly not a single track here that I would say is genuinely bad. Some of them just lack anything that pulls me in, but those tracks were few and far between. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Cudi stated that he thinks he’s lyrically underrated, which is probably why he rapped so much more on this album than he usually does. I definitely disagree with Kid Cudi. He’s not a good rapper to me at all to be honest. I don’t come to Kid Cudi for dope rapping though. This project’s strengths are strictly sonic. The production is really good, and I think Kid Cudi’s singing has actually improved over the years. Obviously I’d like this more if Kid Cudi’s rapping was actually good, but it’s never so bad that it completely ruins a song for me. It’s just that his rapping doesn’t really add anything to his music in my opinion. I come to him for catchy melodies and relatable lyrics. He delivered on the melodic front, but there weren’t as many relatable songs as I would have liked. He doesn’t ever go as in depth about his troubles as he did on that first album. I personally don’t expect him to reach the levels of greatness he was flexing on the first Man on the Moon, but I’m satisfied with what he gave us for this project, and I hope future releases are at least as good as this. It’s a pretty dope album.

Favorite Song: Rockstar Nights
Least Favorite Song: Heaven on Earth


Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.

Grade: B-

Tell me if I'm trippin'

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