Every nine months or so, I ask myself a question: just what is it Kid Cudi does? I mean, I know what he does. He’s a rapper, a singer, a musician, an actor and now a producer. But does he do any of those things with particular distinction? No. Is there an uncanny Bradford Cox-like creative chutzpah where he’s not proficient at any one thing but the talent is undeniable? Far from it. So maybe we need to look at Cudi’s less tangible, less aural qualities. Maybe he’s like the Sid Vicious of hip hop? You know, not spectacular musically but there’s a fascinating id and personality there than encapsulates something a lot of people feel they relate to? No, definitely not that either.
Seemingly, he’s just a moody, romantically-minded kid with something to prove. What that is, I’m not sure, but I also can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to him than that. There has to be, right? He’s a Yeezy discovery. And while Ye has made mis-steps in the past, his creative acumen rarely falters. Perhaps Indicud is the key to the Kid Cudi kingdom that everyone but me seems to have free passage to.
The idea behind experimentation is that you start off without an idea or formula, relying on your chops to find something you or someone else would not have otherwise found. Mescudi on the other hand sees experimentation as a genre in and of itself. To him it means layers upon layers of 80s synths and warbling atmospherics, instrumental breaks that meander into their own asses, bad vocals punctuated by corny effects and attempts at genre-bending that see cohesion on the horizon and then promptly run in the other fucking direction.
Mescudi makes multiple attempts at blending disparate indie-rock and folk samples with hip-hop beats and new wave synths. The synths are a very tired trick and the beats, frankly, are boring. When combined with the various samples such as the likes of Father John Misty (“Young Lady”) and the contribution from the Haim girls (“Red Eye”), the result is a very muddied and awkward cacophony.
“New York City Rage Fest” might be the single most annoying thing I’ve ever heard. Or at least I thought that, until I heard the hook on “Brothers”. It sounds like someone drunkenly singing into a pedestal fan but hey, the hook on “Cold Blooded” is just embarrassing. See for yourself: “Cold, bitch you know I’m cold / I’m one cold blooded nigga / Oh, so cold.” The beat is quality and the rapping is solid, flow and all, but I had a hard time getting past that hook, well-sung though it may be.
The masters of cold, digital soundscapes like Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa divested themselves of warmth and humanity and as a result, made music intrinsically warm and human. Mescudi on the other hand, attempts to combine all of these elements outright. The result is an awkward mixture of sloppy, detached beats, meandering sentimentality, monotonous (and often off-key) vocals, so-so rapping and delusions of grandeur that remain delusions.
And it’s the deluded grandeur that I guess people find charming? I don’t know. The opening track “The Resurrection of Scott Mescudi” is a mishmash of tinny anvil clanging and saw synths. Picture the montage scene in Iron Man where Tony Stark is building the suit in the cave. The hubristic title and bloated atmospherics are very telling. Mescudi envisions himself as a deceased vigilante who is resurrected with robotic implants to help him fight crime. He is RoboStoner. And he’s not very interesting, even for a bonafide superhero.
The few bright spots on the album mostly occur when the guests are given a chance to shine. Kendrick Lamar, RZA and A$AP Rocky all take a stab at keeping this album afloat, like people running around with tentpoles as a canvas collapses on top of them. For the most part, they succeed. RZA’s contribution on “Beez” is excellent and the beat is one of the more interesting on the album. “There’s holes inside your sweatshirt / Through your apparel, through your blood, through your bone marrow.” Brutal.
Indicud is a strange record. And not in a good way. It doesn’t intrigue or inveigle, it’s strange in a way that is off-putting. More than once I found myself scrunching my face and furrowing my brow like someone had left a sarcastic note under my car’s windscreen wiper. And Jesus, why is it so long? 18 tracks? You could halve the tracklist and still have only a semi-decent album. Did Indicud provide an answer to my question? Well, on Indicud Scott Mescudi, rapper, singer, musician, actor and now producer definitively proves that he has something to prove, but not much more.
(Wicked Awesome / GOOD / Republic)