Kid Cudi wallowed in loneliness on his 2009 debut, Man On The Moon: The End Of Day, and its fame-lamenting 2010 sequel, Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager, but he is starting to show signs of lightening up. Last year the mopey rapper cut loose on a little-noticed record with his rap-rock duo WZRD, and for Indicud—his first album since splitting from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label—he abandons the complicated mythology and strict solemnity that freighted his past solo works. For the first time, Cudi is more interested in throwing an actual party than a pity party, and with his bass-engulfed beats and chewy, sing-along hooks, he’s well-suited to the task. In spite of its brighter outlook, though, Indicud is still a Kid Cudi record, and like its predecessors, it’s a long, unhurried listen, paced like drifting fog.
Cudi’s greatest weakness is, as always, himself. Rapping in a stoner yawn and singing in an even drowsier moan, he’s one of hip-hop’s most listless presences, a self-focused buzzkill who can’t be bothered to sell the catchy hooks that seem to come to him so naturally. He’s a better curator than performer, however, and he compensates for his impassivity with some inspired guests. In the spirit of past collaborations with MGMT and St. Vincent, he recruits eccentric folkie Father John Misty for “Young Lady,” a kitschy slab of psychedelic go-go that clings to the ear like a burr to a wool sock. Always appreciative of a challenging beat, Kendrick Lamar pivots around the militaristic drum cracks of “Solo Dolo, Pt. II” with master showmanship, and even A$AP Rocky, a rapper who, like Cudi, could be accused of hiding his blandness behind forward-looking production, delivers a smooth verse on “Brothers.”
Indicud’s two most daring tracks are also its most brazenly random. Cudi hands “Beez” over almost entirely to a pair of rambunctious verses from RZA, who has seldom sounded this silly or excitable since his Gravediggaz days (and in the spirit of that quasi-horrorcore group, he threatens to eat a zombie). And, most audaciously, Michael Bolton takes a post-Lonely Island victory lap on the bizarre “Afterwards (Bring Yo Friends),” a nine-minute soft-rock/house hybrid that finally concedes what the rapper’s previous releases have been too stubborn to: Yes, Kid Cudi is sort of fucking with you.