If the likes of J. Cole and Schoolboy Q have not done enough for your rap playlists this year and you are still in search of crisp lyricism and fast-moving beats, it is with much regret that I must inform you that Kid Cudi’s Satellite Flight marks the second stage of the Cleveland based rapper’s (an ill-fitting description as Cudi does very little rapping and a lot of what sounds like interplanetary space travel) departure from the hip-hop genre. Cudi has always been deeply introspective, a self-proclaimed “loner” whose music was laden with melancholy references to his drug-addled life. His past releases, namely Man on the Moon I & II, were immensely well-received hip-hop albums that were reflective of Cudi’s brand – lonely, permanently stoned and extremely talented.
Songs such as “Day’n’Nite” and “Soundtrack to My Life” became staples in the music libraries of hip-hop fans, people couldn’t get enough of what Cudi had to offer, so he chose to do what most artists would never dream of; he tried something different. After a foray into alternative/rock music with his band WZRD, a duo of Cudi and his producer/band mate,
Dot Da Genius, he returned to the hip-hop world with his third studio album Indicud, a flop at best. Satellite Flight serves as another attempt by Cudi to return to the stage of mainstream music culture, but he misses his mark. Whether it be too much THC or simply an overdose of creative angst, his album is psychedelic and explorative, but not in an entirely positive way.
The highlights of the album include the songs “Balmain Jeans” feat. Raphael Saad, a love ballad boasting a trance-inducing beat complemented by Cudi’s smoothly flowing voice and “Copernicus Landing,” an instrumental display of synth mastery on the part of Cudi and his production team. Much to the dismay of longtime fans, only the song “Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now” resembles his older style. The rest of the album is a little too progressive. The theme of being in space permeates the album and yields a trippy but ultimately repetitive sound. There is little way of telling when one song has ended and the next six-minute acid-fueled journey of a song has begun. Many rappers have an onomatopoetic sound that accompanies their brand. For Chance the Rapper it is a piercing squawk, DMX is famous for his Rottweiler-esque bark, but Cudi’s is now a drawn out moan best described as “OOOOUUUWUUUUOOHH,” an addition that he seems to include in every song as if to remind us that only he is remotely capable of such lugubrious sounds.
Cudi is trying to be different – revolutionary even – and for that his efforts deserve applause. But stay seated and don’t worry about asking for an encore. You really don’t want more. Satellite Flight demonstrated the attempted end of Cudi’s musical exploration and return to his conventional methods but, after a listen, it remains clear that the Cleveland-based rapper isn’t quite ready to be normal, at least by his standards. As a fan, it is difficult to criticize Kid Cudi because his talent has been so obvious in the past, but it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of his work to describe Satellite Flight as comparable. If you’re looking to experience space travel, watch the movie Gravity. It won a lot more awards than Cudi’s album and will certainly leave you much more satisfied.