Nearly 11 years after Man on the Moon: The End of Day, Kid Cudi concludes the series he started his musical journey with on Man on the Moon III: The Chosen. In between the decade long gap, Cudi has grown as an artist. Experimenting with grunge on Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven, collaborating with mentor Kanye West on 2018’s acclaimed KIDS SEE GHOSTS, to forming a new duo dubbed The Scotts with Travis Scott are just a few examples of what he’d been up to since the last MOTM. Seeing him come back full circle to the story that introduced the world to Scott Mescudi has been a long time coming, but now is a better time than ever. After an extremely tumultuous year that has wained heavily on everyone’s emotional and mental health, MOTM3 is the calm after the storm that we all need right now.
Split up into four acts, MOTM3 tells the story of Cudi’s battle with his alter-ego Mr.Rager, an embodiment of his depression, anxiety, and dark thoughts that we first met on 2010’s MOTM2. Where the last Man on the Moon entry was characterized by its moody darkness that seemed to be a product of Cudi’s newfound fame at that time, MOTM3 is all about Cudi finding his solace after years of struggling, Cudi is at peace at last. As one of hip hop’s first prominent artists to tackle mental health extensively, Cudi continues looking deep into his psyche on this new album except with a bit more optimism this time.
From a production standpoint, MOTM3 is a continuation of his psychedelic sound of indie rock and rap, drenched with spacey energy, but here it’s evident that his time spent with Laflame has heavily influenced this new album. A lot more trap bangers with the same beat patterns and flows you’d get from a Travis Scott track, even adding his own ad-libs in similar Travis Scott fashion. I wouldn’t say he’s biting Scott considering Travis idolizes Cudi. So if anything it comes off as flattery. The result though is for a handful of some of Cudi’s bouncier cuts ever. Literally, the first half of the album is filled with nothing but bangers, a first for a Kid Cudi album. MOTM3 also sees Cudi spitting more bars and riding on beats effortlessly. Take a listen to “Pale Moonlight” and “She Knows This” and it's quite clear Cudi was trying to up his rap game, which he most certainly did.
While not chockful of features, the guests that show up are nothing short of extraordinary. Phoebe Bridges harmonizes with Cudi on the chorus of “Lovin’ Me”, Trippie Redd trades bars on the energetic “Rockstar Knights”, but the biggest surprise is definitely Skepta and the late Pop Smoke on “Show Out”. Questionable choice at first, Cudi on a drill beat? surprisingly it works, as Skepta and the late Brooklyn rapper overshadow Cudi on his own track, a highlight for sure.
From the moment the album kicks off, Cudi narrates the start of this odyssey: “As he falls deeper into a state, the return”. Entering the same psychedelic state he was in over a decade ago on “Tequila Shots”. A reflection on his past struggles with himself, yet this time he sounds more confident than he did in 2009 to fight back for control as he hums over the chorus (“This time I’m ready for it, can’t stop this war in me.”). Setting the tone for the rest of the album. A struggle between finding happiness within himself and not succumbing to the darkness.
His Mr.Rager persona comes through on the following bangers “Another Day” “She Knows This”, and “Dive”. Where he admits he’s still the same old guy with the same pain, lavishing in women and drugs but slowly becoming uneasy to the partying. He starts to spiral out of control with “Damaged” as his demons start to coming back into his life he begins to ask himself (“Hellish life why? Do it or not nigga, ride by.”). While he still flourishes the rockstar life on “Heaven on Earth” and the drill beat-heavy “Show Out”, the album switches into a more introspective look into Cudi’s mind with “Mr. Solo Dolo III”. From here on out, the journey to inner peace begins.
The contemplative track sees Cudi ponder how he’s become so lonely and isolated, his dark thoughts taking center stage as he states:(“Say I’m waitin’ to die I cry, many nights I spent gettin’ fucked up livin’ a lie.”). A turning point for the album as the songs become even more pensive. “Sad People” is Cudi starting to find the light again amidst his thoughts, an ode to those who are in the same boat as him, dedicating to the other sad people that are keeping the blunt burning.
Cudi looks back at his childhood on “Elsie’s Baby Boy, detailing his younger days during his father’s death. “Sept 16” is a love ballad dedicated to his girlfriend(?). Whose love is what keeps him centered during his fight. A genuinely emotional track that showcases the power of love, compassion, and the power it has on somebody who has spent years searching for that themselves. Now with a better mindset, Cudi’s confidence shines on “The Void” and “Lovin’ Me”. The latter being an anthem focused on self-love, something Cudi thought he was incapable of. (“At times I really didn’t show
What was wrong with me, wrong with me. I told myself I cannot grow Without lovin’ me, lovin’ me”.).
Scott is carefree with no worries on his mind anymore. Taking full control of himself on “Pale Moonlight”, still acknowledging that he’s got issues to take care of but he’s in a better place now. Cudi humbles himself by looking at his own mortality living the rockstar life on “Rockstar Knights”. Cudi dedicates the majestical “4 da Kidz” to his day one fans and anybody else who was struggling like him. Hearing him croon the chorus (“This is just the right vibe, turn it loud if you need to. Stars in the sky, they will light your way through. Feelin’ alone, just know you are not. We won’t leave you alone, oh-oh.”). Would bring a tear to any longtime Cudi fan. MOTM3 ends with “Lord I Know”. Finally, Cudi is content with his life. Calling himself a warrior for surviving this long. Never allowing himself to succumb to his demons again. The ethereal, synth-heavy outro of the track certainly indicates Cudi has finally achieved a higher state of mind.
Man on the Moon III showcases the end of Cudi’s long journey of finding inner peace within himself. Having introduced himself with the first MOTM, then taking things into a darker turn with MOTM2. The last entry in the series is a fitting end for Cudi’s fight. It’s an album that longtime fans are almost certainly going to love, providing his best output of songs in some time, but for me, it’s the album’s concept that makes me adore it so much. Scott has finally achieved balance. He’s overcome his depression and dark thoughts, destroying the Mr. Rager persona once and for all. After years of struggling with his mental health, vices, and the world around him. Scott Mescudi has found inner peace at last.
Best Tracks: Tequila Shots, Another Day, She Knows This, Damaged, Heaven on Earth, Show Out, Mr. Solo Dolo III, Sad People, Sept 16, Lovin’ Me, Rockstar Knights, 4 da Kidz, Lord I Know.