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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Kid Cudi Sounds More Pedestrian Than ‘INSANO’

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After over 15 years of Kid Cudi producing some of hip-hop’s most experimental and imaginative music, we reconvene to ask the age-old question: which iteration of him are we getting?

The man on the moon first rocketed toward stardom by pouring his heartfelt, melancholic rhymes over dreamy beats; since then, he has added to his legend with his constant artistic reinventions, drifting across the musical cosmos as he dabbles in electronica, rock and psychedelia. 

Cudi, originally Scott Mescudi, now finds himself in a trap-inspired, energetic space with his latest work “INSANO.” Released Jan. 12, “INSANO” comes at a critical juncture in Cudi’s career — his ninth album is also his last with Republic Records, and he has openly contemplated retiring and leaving music for a new creative space. 

As such, it is only fitting that “INSANO” takes a slight departure from Cudi’s previous catalog, adopting a more carefree, raucous tone while embracing the sounds of his younger contemporaries, a celebration of all that he has accomplished.

The opening track, “OFTEN, I HAVE THESE DREAMZ,” is a bold introduction to Cudi’s new concept. Producer Mike Zombie overlays a smooth vocal sample over punchy drums as DJ Drama announces the arrival of a triumphant artist bringing “blessings on blessings on blessings, it’s fair to say we God’s favorite.” Cudi enters, smooth and laid-back, casually flexing his success and longevity in the industry.

The album then explodes into “KEEP BOUNCIN’,” as its thumping bassline and 808s greet the listener to Cudi’s trap arc. While Cudi has clearly embraced the sound since his initial forays in the 2020 album “Man on the Moon III: The Chosen,” the quality of the resulting tracks is mixed. Tracks such as “WOW” and “ELECTROWAVEBABY” capture the signature woozy, vibey feel to Cudi songs, but “KEEP BOUNCIN’” and “GET OFF ME” are simply too generic to leave a deep impression.

Cudi’s features vary heavily in substance as well. For every perfectly complementary guest verse such as A$AP Rocky’s appearance on “WOW,” there is a feature that adds little value to the song such as Travis Scott on “GET OFF ME.” The lack of cohesion between the tracks makes it harder for artists to find an established place in Cudi’s scattered focus.

Still, Cudi trudges on. The 21-track, 64-minute album is a laborious listen, especially when songs of similar substance are strung together with little to distinguish them. There are some standouts further down the album such as “MR. COOLA,” in which Cudi’s brooding, menacing delivery pairs well with C Gutta’s aggressive production, but the sheer volume of filler makes the listening experience extraordinarily mind-numbing.

To associate Cudi with the word “boring” is truly a shame. At his best, Cudi could communicate his deeply personal struggles with isolation, heartbreak and depression with a sense of optimism, his messaging touching millions of fans with its earnestness. Yet, Cudi’s attempts at bravado in “INSANO” often fall flat. Bars such as “what’s it called when your music changes the world? I call it magic” are deeply distracting in their corniness, and excessive repetition such as the phrase “too damn high” being repeated 17 times in, you guessed it, “TOO DAMN HIGH” comes across as lazy and unoriginal.

Even Cudi’s indulgences in his experimental side are extremely inconsistent, dropping multiple milquetoast, awkward tributes to the more unconventional sounds of his contemporaries. “MOST AIN’T DENNIS” perhaps illustrates this best — Cudi, seemingly unsure of what to do over a Dollar Tree Lil Uzi Vert beat, drops the puzzling line of “act like my poo don’t stink” in deeply ironic fashion.

But Cudi, after all, is a magician, often pulling out something fundamentally original out of nothing. He saves his best for last. In the bright, synth-pop-inspired “BLUE SKY” and the upbeat, Drake-esque “HIT THE STREETZ IN MY NIKES,” Cudi finally captures what he has been trying to show for the last hour: that he is happy, healthy and content with where he is.

Perhaps it does not matter to him that much of “INSANO” is a departure from what he is best known for. To be clear, it is not a bad album — it is simply not the Cudi we are used to. Gone are the days of the “Man on the Moon” series and its gloomy, introspective sound. Perhaps it is intentional that “INSANO” is not quite insane, feeling more like a semicolon than an exclamation mark to what has been an illustrious career.

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