If you were alive in 2008, chances are you had a few songs from Kid Cudi’s debut album, “A Kid Named Cudi,” downloaded onto your iPod shuffle. Even if you have no idea who Kid Cudi is or otherwise don’t know about the album, you’ve probably heard some of his other songs. It’d only take the first few seconds of hits like “Pursuit of Happiness” or “Day ‘N’ Night” for you to realize you know his work, and just a few seconds more to remember you’re a fan. He’s remained a hitmaking machine throughout his career. And while most of his previous work has been on streaming platforms for quite some time, his very first album just hit platforms last week.
Like every album out there, there are some highs and some lows. Aside from the literal high that he takes listeners through in “Maui Wowie,” which is essentially a 2-minute love song dedicated to the weed strain of the same name, “A Kid Named Cudi” features some of his highest quality tracks to date. But since it was his debut, the album also features some of the worst tracks of his entire career. For most artists, this dichotomy of good and bad would be enough to describe their work. But for a musician like Kid Cudi, some songs just don’t fit into either category. So before you skip the same half of the songs on the album without a second thought, let’s go over some of the most notable ones here.
These are the songs on the list that are without a doubt nice to listen to. They possess aesthetic beauty in the standard musical sense and if that’s the only reason you listen to them, so be it.
“Embrace the Martian”
“Embrace the Martian” is arguably the catchiest song on the album. Featuring a fast-paced spacey beat to match the theme of the lyrics, the track lands on all fronts. Despite the almost depressing meaning behind the lyrics, as Cudi essentially begs the listeners to embrace him and all of his idiosyncrasies, the tone of the song is anything but melancholic. Cudi’s flow is quick and smooth, which provides an ironic contrast to the awkward encounter one might expect with a self-proclaimed Martian.
“Cleveland is the Reason”
Offering one of the most interesting beats in his entire discography, Cudi’s homage to his hometown in “Cleveland Is the Reason” is nothing less than a certified banger. It’s almost impossible not to nod your head along with the strange whooshing sound the beat makes. It’s almost like the auditory equivalent of the moving strobe lights they have at your local sub-standard college bar. Cudi complements the beat to perfection on the track; he winds in and out of the beat and builds tension all the way up to the hook. Skipping this song on your playthrough would be a crime.
Avoid these songs at all costs. They shouldn’t be on your playlist or even on the album.
In the midst of a primarily original and excellent album, “Pillow Talk” somehow weaseled its way into the mix. The pillow-talking concept is featured at least once in every rapper’s discography, but to go so far as to feature it in your debut album gives the impression that there’s something interesting about it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. For the entire 3 minutes and 24 seconds of this track, all I could think about was falling asleep. Rather than wanting to hear the pillow talking, I just wanted him to shut the hell up so I could rest my head on my pillow in silence. It’s nothing in comparison to some of the other tracks on the album — Cudi’s voice is nasally, the beat is boring and the lyrics were so on the nose that it makes recent Muse lyrics look like they were written in binary code. Sorry Cudi, but if you wanted to keep your listeners awake long enough to hear your pillow talk, you needed to take a different approach.
Other than being about a particularly potent weed strand, this song is very forgettable. It’s not necessarily boring (how could it be?), but rather, it’s just really annoying. It’s basically Cudi repeating over and over again that he needs the Maui Wowie, and he never changes the monotony in the song. If this strand of weed is anything like the song its high inadvertently produced, then it’s probably no longer on the market.
These are the songs that have a deeper meaning than others and offer insight into who this Kid named Cudi actually is.
“Man on the Moon”
While this track is certainly aesthetically pleasing like almost all of the other tracks on the album, the true beauty comes with the meaning behind the song’s existence. Much like “Embrace the Martian,” “Man on the Moon” takes listeners inside the mind of an outcast. But rather than asking the audience to embrace his differences, this track showcases Cudi’s coming to terms with himself. By calling himself “The Man on The Moon,” he finally accepts himself as a social outcast and wears the title wholeheartedly. It’s arguably the most important song on the album since the intrapersonal approach paved the way for his most famous later works, including three albums of the same name.
Often overshadowed by “Man on the Moon,” “The Prayer” is yet another example of Cudi’s artistic integrity. The track features the same intrapersonal exploration that “Man on the Moon” does, but centers around his need to provide meaning in his songs. Rather than producing tracks that merely sound good, Cudi wants to make something impactful. What follows is a track that captures his insight alongside the emotional weight of being content with one’s own death after a life full of accomplishments. To say this song is emotional would be an understatement.
Regardless of whether the man on the moon came crashing down to Earth later in his career, the release of his original album on streaming platforms temporarily takes us back to when his music took our breath away. Despite a few hiccups, “A Kid Named Cudi” was an excellent album to ease listeners into “Embrace the Martian.” It not only offered phenomenal-sounding music with meaningful lyrics but also featured Cudi’s signature vulnerability that eventually became paramount to his success.