Album Review: Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’

by Jacob McKay

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This album is probably something I shouldn’t be allowed to write about because of my stance when it comes to how I feel about it’s creator. Kid Cudi has been an instrumental part of my upbringing, and he’s been a musical fixture in the lives of most people I surround myself with. I remember the first time I heard Day N’ Nite. I had a connection to that song before I realized that so much of it was just like me. All of Cudi’s work comes from a place of such deep feeling and emotion that he raised the bar for the level of emotion I expect out of what I listen to. That’s how I gauge music, the amount of feeling it’s able to illicit. Cudi has made albums that do that beautifully,The Man on the Moon albums probably best so. With his brief foray into WZRD he was still able to produce a song that I return to every so often because of it’s palpable emotional content, “Teleport 2 Me”. Cudi’s last album showed an artist who lost his way to much of the outskirts of his fanbase. I was troubled by the last project. It spoke of an artist very much lost in the miasma of his own mind. Speedin Bullet 2 HeavenĀ was not a masterpiece by any means, I think that has to be acknowledged to appreciate this new work. It was experimental though, and people didn’t give it enough credit for that. Cudi did a brave thing there. And I think he knew that most people wouldn’t understand it, but I think he made it for himself, or at least where he was at the time. The title track off of that album is the lone bright spot for me, and a track that I listened to almost every single day last year when I was going through my own issues. Cudi communicated hope, and the immense effort it takes at times to wake up every morning and simply smile. Even at his most unfocused he’s still capable of connecting, and this new album is a much more focused effort to connect. Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ isn’t a happy album, as the title should suggest. It fits. It is an incredible journey through the mind of a genius, who even at his darkest points is still immensely relatable. The second song on the album, “Swim in the Light”, sets the tone for the project. The repeated refrain is, “You can try and numb the pain but it’ll never go away”.

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Not a happy place to start from, but a fitting one for the subject matter. The majority of this album was assumed to be finished before Cudi’s short stint in rehab, and you get a darkly beautiful sense of where his mind was at. That second song contains such rich instrumentation that you immediately get lost, and thats when the album takes you for a ride. Cudi’s hums are all over this thing, and in the best way. He uses the hum to help his lyrics convey the appropriate feeling, almost as if it’s additional instrumentation. This album also showcases some of Cudi’s best collaborative work ever, in my opinion. “By Design” featuring Andre 3000 is an upbeat turn that helps balance out the more brooding tracks at the front of the album. The beat is incredible and 3 stacks absolutely rips it, and the hook and bridge are incredibly catchy. ” When you think too much you’re removing what’s moving,” Andre croons. “Rose Golden”, which some were surprised to learn features Willow Smith, features incredibly powerful harmony on the hook from both artists. Jaden Smith also does background vocals on “Kitchen,” which may be my second favorite song on the album. The Smiths are huge fans of Cudi, as is most of the teenage population that thinks outside of every box in the way that those two do. My personal connection to this album peaks with “Does it”, a solo track in the middle of the project. Cudi goes in about how he feels unrecognized and under appreciated by the industry and by people as a whole for doing, “music, TV, and movies”, but the point of the song isn’t to simply complain about that. It’s a self-affirmation anthem over a beautiful instrumental backdrop, with a healthy dose of Cudi hums. For anybody who has realized they have some level of talent, but has struggled with confidence, this is your song on this project. Cudi “Does It”, and his confidence emanates from the song. It’s infectious, and proves once again how he expertly communicates feeling through his music. The Passion is most evident here, as well as the demon slaying. The pain is evident too, and it’s amazing how accurate the name of this album is for the songs that comprise it. The darkness in this album is necessary. It’s been a dark year, for many, especially for Scott Mescudi. His personal darkness is relatable on another level, when there seems to be a cloud over a generation. Cudi’s heart and soul are in this one. It’s impossible to do it justice in my own words. This is an album I thought about simply not reviewing because of that. I’ve sat on my hands all week just absorbing myself in it. It’s beautiful and some of it cuts so deep that it hurts. But it feels so good by the time you’re done. It’s like crying and then realizing that you needed it. It’s not important to rank this on any list, whether it’s his best albums of all time, or even the best albums this year. This album, for me, is a master stroke of somebody who knows he holds a very unique sonic brush. Nobody sounds like Kid Cudi. Still. Even after all these years. And he’s still providing new twists to a sound entirely his own. I guess, one could say, he just does it.

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