Kid Cudi - Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon

Kid Cudi finally reaches the moon.

Additional Info

6.6

ALBUM: Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon

ARTIST: Kid Cudi

2014

Hip-Hop/Rap

Kid Cudi's had enough of this Earth.

Ever since his instantly enjoyable debut (Man on the Moon: The End of Day), Cudi has been trying relentlessly to recreate the sprawling imagination, yet confined focus, he had when crafting those original "lonely stoner" anthems. For the most part, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (a more drugged out chapter of his story) was successful in doing so (it’s probably my favorite of the two) - but the frayed, and really just dulled, edges to his enigmatic persona were already seeping through. All this only became more magnified when he made the poor decision to attempt trip-hop and "psychedelic rock" with the same drawling cadence he tackled hip-hop with. On paper, a change in dynamic seemed perfect after stretching his initial conceit for two albums, but, the thing is, Cudi doesn't seem to want to let go of the niche he carved out for himself. This made WZRD a middling effort, and forced him to head back to hip- hop with his tail between his legs - hopefully to try something new and daring. Instead, we got Indicud - which was met with (appropriately) reserved praise as a return to form of sorts.

If only that were enough.

At this point, Cudi was sobering up for personal reasons, began acting more, and simply seemed to be past his phase in music. But, due to sobriety, or, inversely, due to the lack of weed that usually seemed to help him stay on point, he decided to just shed any notion of progression and just embrace the tired shtick of "doing it for the fans" and just "for himself." Slug and Ant made Sad Clown Bad Dub II "for themselves." Blu & Exile came up with Below the Heavens, and then followed it up with a whole slew of obscure and self-involved gems. Jay-Z had American Gangster.

There shouldn't be a divide between progression (or creativity) and simply putting out better material. But, as it were, Cudi made the distinction, and simultaneously made it obvious that, even when claiming that all these albums tied into the same story and universe with some Tarantino-esque brilliance, he was just reaching to capture past nostalgia and sinking deeper into his established niche.

On the other end of this “progression-spectrum,” (a term I just coined), are those who find so much inspiration in their own niche that they never have to leave it. But that requires consistently great writing, engaging and evolving production, and just plenty of new ideas. Instead, Cudi decides to repeatedly rehash the same ones - with less and less conviction each time. When he tries to hone into his previous rap ability (“Too Bad I Have to Destroy You Now”), his regression as a writer becomes blatant. When he evokes a familiar melody, it’s lost in a mess of jumbled ideas that aren’t complicated enough to deserve such flawed execution (“Satellite Flight”). Even as his producing reaches new heights, it's still cut off by a low ceiling ("Copernicus Landing" and "Return of the Moon Man (original score)" boasting the same aesthetic he's previously gone for with glimpses of newfound creativity).

One thing you can’t fault Cudi for is his adherence to a shtick - whether it be the “lonely stoner,” or a “galaxy traveller” with his fans. He pulled all the punches for the last minute roll out (reminiscent of Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Mr. West before him - but a lot less important). Including invitations to “copernicus landing” and other extraterrestrial affairs, he does always seem steadfast when delivering his product to consumers, even if he sounds more disconnected than ever on wax. Maybe it’s because the concept of space and knowing more than we can understand is in itself so broad that Cudi seems to always be so wavering in his execution. He chose a basic premise to follow with nothing to ground his actual sentiments too, aside from droning on about how his “heart is leaking,” and that “people talk shit about” him. The intricately woven, yet haphazardly written, “Balmain Jeans (ft. Raphael Saadiq),” the minimalistic “Troubled Boy,” and the various atmosphere-setting instrumentals throughout this release are where his focus should be - if not on breaking out of the suctioning orbit that’s got him repeatedly delivering the same tracks, repackaged even more poorly, time and time again.

“No one wants a troubled boy”

1. Destination: Mother Moon
Supposedly picking up from the end of Indicud, particularly “The Flight of the Moon Man,” this first track is an instrumental canvas for the proceeding album. It’s laced with poignant strings that are as vibrant as they are static and cold, and serves as a triumph of exploration. A celebration of reaching “Destination: Mother Moon” that’s even more apparent once the synth picks up its pace and the snares start to clap along. Cudi deservers some credit at least for his imagination, even if it borders on tunnel vision. Regardless, he’s definitely grown as a producer.7.0
2. Going to the Ceremony
Premiering only a few months after the release of Indicud, this was Cudi’s one and only hint to the public that a new project was already on its way. As usual though, he drops any pretense or sense of subtlety and opens the next track with an excerpt on there being an “extremely, extremely low probability of life existing on the moon.” Which of course isn’t true in his case, because he’s been reminding us incessantly since his debut that he’s “the man on the moon!” Apparently for Cudi, finally “Going to the Ceremony” for his homecoming (a handful of albums after the initial conceit), involves a lot of droning rumination - considering he’s a lot more sober (and a lot less engaging) now. There are moments of insight in the sparse verses (“no need to cry/you straighten up/you're such an adult/pay all your bills/yet you are a zombie”), but it’s the Dot Da Genius assistance on the production and his own original, yet familiar, score that drives the song. 6.0
3. Satellite Flight
Adding on to the aesthetic, “Satellite Flight” opens with more references to a “Rocket Powered Space Capsule” and that “a young man will come and save the universe from the forces of evil.” Not only is this overarching theme restricting the direction of his art, it’s also becoming increasingly generic. The production is interesting, glitching its way to “the satellite” and eventually becoming swooping and hollow for the outro (that’s reminiscent of “These Worries,” as is the “no worries” bridge). But the track, especially Cudi’s vocals, are far more grating and abrasive than the older melodies he tries to mimic.6.0
4. Copernicus Landing
This track is once again a well produced instrumental. The slow build up pairs the rough synths with subtle and delicate strings, followed by smooth sigh-like “uhs” harmonizing in the empty space, as he emulates the state of drifting off into actual space - awaiting descent.7.0
5. Balmain Jeans (feat. Raphael Saadiq)
The scratchy synth that initially leads the track gives way to 808 drums and an overall airey piano feel for Cudder to singsong rap about grimier content than usual (“You can lick it after I’m done lickin’ you first/I wanna taste it/Tired of waitin’”). While it’s definitely a smooth song, and there’s something to be said for the execution of certain parts of this brooding ode to sex (“Are you tasty?/Yahm, yahm, come on baby”), a majority of the song is awkward (“can I come inside your vortex?”). But you can only discredit the lyrics to an extent before having to give credit to the overarching melodies and all the “vibes” Cudi keeps talking about. The use of Raphael Saadiq also extends an average song into a grand and rewarding outro, and a sex-driven premise into genuine love.7.0
6. Too Bad I Have to Destroy You Now
Cudi feels himself way too much. It used to work back on the earlier projects when he was genuinely a better writer and rapper, with an arsenal of flows and melodies at his disposal. But now, even when pulling out verses that are two to three years old and flows from his debut album, he can’t emulate a similar vibe. Tracks like these are also why there’s a legitimate case to be made for Cudi simply catering to fans he already has. Fans that think Indicud and WZRD are flawless and just steps on the way to meeting “the man on the moon.” Fans that get a glimpse of a familiar melody and then disregard the complacent trash that follows it. But Cudi pretends to do it in such a self-effacing way, claiming that he’s had to go to “a much darker place” and his now back for his fans, that it’s almost as if he doesn’t want the drawling nature of his music to ever be taken seriously. The production and melodies remain the most enticing aspect of the album, while the content becomes a chore.3.5
7. Internal Bleeding
A retrospect track lamenting on the transition from having "tried it all" to being a "holier man." The sobriety Cudi's strived to achieve after the birth of his daughter has been greatly successful, but this track serves as a reminder for the toll it's had on him as man attempting to reach for more than what's on this Earth. The chorus-driven song has a few sparse passages that see Cudi slurring his words in an even more drawling manner than usual, and the production leaves him plenty of negative space to croon. But the generic nature of the content, and even the muffled and static mixing, leave a lot more to be desired.5.0
8. In My Dreams 2015
The last two tracks on this record are instrumentals, which is probably a good thing at this point. This shorter interlude crackles along at a moderate pace while blips and bloops and zaps and other stereotypical sci-fi noises whistle along brightly - retiterating a familar melody from “Too Bad I Have to Destroy You Now.” It's a bit menacing and eery but there's a calmer foundation to be found in the airy keys and the thudding drums. The robotic welcoming to his “dreams” that repeats in the background creates a good segue into the final act: the “Return of the Moon Man” as a “Troubled Boy.”7.5
9. Return of the Moon Man (Original Score)
With horns grabbed from either Kanye’s “Blood on the Leaves” or the original track, “R U Ready,” by TNGHT, Cudi composes an entire scoring fit for a whole mess of sci-fi films. The triumphant, but somehow a bit dangerous, build up is breed from the initial slowed-down horns, and only becomes more engaging as keys start to tick along. A stroke of Cudder genius comes in the form of classic melodic strings (played by the man (on the moon) himself) creating a short interlude - almost a tribute to a fallen comrade or even a tense face-off about to turn into a showdown.9.0
10. Troubled Boy
With a brilliant transition from the previous instrumentals, Cudi brings this album full circle. Subtle strings and synth remain just that - subdued and minimalistic - for the entirity of his outro of sorts, as he hums and croons about the plights of being a “troubled boy.” The writing isn’t a departure from the mundane content on the rest of the album, but it’s also, fittingly, kept to a minimum. This creates a much more rewarding and immersive experience (the fleeting “still have (no one)" is great) leading up to his final, whispered, “goodbye.” A goodbye to what though? Could be a goodbye to the “Troubled Boy,” or to “Mother Moon,” or maybe even to this entire aesthetic. Oh, what’s that? We’re already confirmed a “Man on the Moon III?” Damn it.8.0
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