Originally scheduled for September, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is finally here. Delayed due to sampling issues, more important news broke shortly after: Scott Mescudi – aka Kid Cudi – was in rehabilitation for “depression and suicidal urges”.
As anyone who has suffered from mental health issues will know, talking about the subject is hard, let alone disclosing it via an open letter to the internet. Drake certainly has no grasp of that, pouncing on Cudi‘s vulnerability to reignite their beef, on his recent ‘Two Birds, One Stone’.
Out of rehab and off the back of a successful performance at ComplexCon, Cudi could be forgiven for feeling despondent about Drake’s upcoming project stealing his thunder. However, after a mixed reception to his work in recent years, this outing brings hope of happier times, both for Mescudi himself and his music.
The record is divided into four acts, beginning with Tuned. The first song, Frequency, is a far cry to Enter Galactic, – from 2009’s ‘Man On The Moon’ – with sex as astronomical love-making being replaced by a “couple girls, couple stories and a couple of shrooms”. Despite Cudi‘s more grounded libido, this echoes the gritty melodies of 2010’s ‘Man On The Moon I’. Swim in the Light and Releaser add spacey and haunting vibes respectively, followed by Andre 3000’s steel drum accompanied hook in By Design, before All In harmoniously brings the act to a close.
The second act, Prophecy, opens with trippy ILLusions, Willow Smith on Rose Golden and Baptized In Fire. Here, tasteful autotuning harks back to Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak – which involved Mescudi heavily in both songwriting and production – and more recently, ‘My Beautful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. Having moved on from his ‘GOOD Music’ label, Cudi is still close to West, recently supporting the ‘SAINT PABLO’ tour. Travis Scott’s endearing hook – “…Phoned home to the moon / Did you change number?…Need you back home / Big bro” – was evidently appreciated by Cudi. Pharrell Williams adds himself to the cohort in Flight at First Sight / Advanced, ahead of the Prophecy being pulsatingly fulfilled by Does It.
Niveaux de l’Amour – the penultimate act – begins with a smooth Dance 4 Eternity and extraterrestrial Distant Fantasies, before the impassioned Wounds and the orchestral Mature Nature lead to the Plain Pat and Dot Da Genius produced Kitchen. After working together on his first mixtape, they continued collaborating until ‘Man On The Moon II’, making them arguably Cudi‘s original productive visionaries. They emerge from their reunion showcasing a reimagining of their old formula, with a buoyant beat providing a natural ascension into Cudi’s final act.
As the title suggests, It’s Bright and Heaven is Warm leaves the listener with a smile on their face. Cosmic Warrior is trance-inducing, prior to the returning Andre 3000’s starring role in ‘The Guide’. A lively sample of ‘Heart Of A Lion’ comprises The Commander, immediately preceding the last effort, Surfin. This simply can’t help but be feel-good, with Pharrell Happy Williams producing again. The chirping of trumpets and happy-go-lucky “too busy making my own waves” hail a newfound comfort for Cudi in his own skin – a highly enjoyable end to proceedings.
Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is a return to the more upbeat, experimental hip-hop that originally rocketed the man on the moon into stardom and there is enough here to suggest that Kid Cudi is most definitely back on course for his zone.
Words by Jonno Mack