Scott Mescudi slays his demons and pushes through the pain on his new album.
Kid Cudi has learned a lot about himself, and the industry in 2016. The Cleveland native earned the respect of the hip hop industry with the release of his first studio album Man On The Moon, and gained a massive following. Unfortunately, these fans have been overwhelmingly unimpressed with his newer work. After the flops of his last two albums Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven and Satellite Flight, Cudi has found himself in a dark place, estranged from his own fans. Where did the Cudi they knew and loved go?
Cudi has relentlessly defended his own art, and allowed his own mind to be as free and weird as it can be. Last year, he went on social media rants about the creativity of other artists, specifically Kanye West and Drake, accusing them of hiring a team of people to write their lyrics, making their music "fake." Amidst the drama he provoked, Cudi decides to open up about his battle with depression and suicidal feelings and announced that he would take a hiatus in rehab to focus on becoming well. He received a wealth of support from his fans and other celebrities, who commended him for his honesty and bravery. Drake responded with a diss track "Two Birds, One Stone." Some called the track tasteless; others chalked it up to the nature of the industry. From whatever angle you heard the news or read the stories, Kid Cudi was back in the spotlight.
When Cudi announced the track list for Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin', the anticipation began to brew as fans held their breath hoping that this new album would come within arm's reach of the bar that was set for him as an artist up until about 2014. They were ready for the famously soothing, humming and psychedelic style that they fell in love with. A handful of celebrities showed their own excitement for the new album including Pharrell Williams, who appears on two tracks on the album. He's a guest on "Flight At First Sight" and a featured producer on "Surfin," an upbeat symphonic track that you can dance to. Kid Cudi sings, "I ain't ridin' no waves / too busy makin' my own waves, baby." The music video features collaborators including Willow & Jaden Smith, A$AP Rocky, and King Chip.
Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' tells the story about how Cudi overcame his mental health obstacles, and how he copes with the things he can't change or overcome. On "Rose Golden," he and Willow Smith harmonize over the idea of finding their power and passion from within, and being driven by the sure sense that they are destined for greatness. The trumpets give the song a folk feel, which matches its triumphant message. "Look at where we're at now / how did we make to level all in one piece?" He's grateful to have come so far, even though he's gained a lot of battle scars and lost friends along the way. "Where them friends now? I don't see em / and even if I do, I don't sense the truth in 'em."
Cudi gets real about mental health on "Swim in the Light," which reveals how easy it is to feel defeated by pain and depression. Even though you may try to numb the pain, these feelings can never be completely eradicated. In the song, he escapes the dark by "swimming in the light," and the continuous synth throughout the track mirrors the constant sense of impending doom felt by those experiencing depression.
Cudi has developed into a more confident version of himself, which makes Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' his best since Man on the Moon. He now can make artistic reaches that feel bold rather than desperate, as is the case on "Kitchen." The song features orchestral stringed instruments accompanied with a fluttering flute. This classical foundation fits the story of how love can be overwhelming in his personal relationships, and in it he gains some insight about the way he loves.
In "ILLusions," Kid Cudi says farewell to the demons he's faced since he was 13. His life is starting to make more sense to him, now that he has chosen to take control and fight for his own happiness, and fight for light. He describes his own mind as a land of beauty as far as the eye can see. Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' puts fans in touch with Scott Mescudi, the man behind the mic by carrying the metaphor of light versus dark throughout the album. He seems proud of himself for making it through his own struggles and lighting his own path to greatness, and his music is better for it.