By Serena Johnson | The Duquesne Duke
Amidst crackling, retro static, muffled mutters croak over a lo-fi electric guitar sequence. This leaves curious listeners with a staggering sense of perplexity that the mad scientist behind this grunge concoction more than likely planned on provoking.
Enter hip hop’s brilliantly rebellious offspring, Kid Cudi, with his latest studio album, “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven” – a seemingly suicidal compilation of punk rock ballads that are guaranteed to force those familiar with the artist’s rap persona to furrow their brows.
Kicking his recent record off with an obscure bang, The Lonely Stoner is almost entirely unrecognizable. Hip hop aficionados beware: with the exception of a sole Beastie Boys-esque one-man shouting match (“Man in the Night”), Kid Cudi is hitting a lot of musical bases, but rap simply isn’t one of them.
While the initial track, “Edge of the Earth/Post Mortem Boredom,” creates country-inspired imagery a la “whiskey” and “angels,” Soundcloud single “Confused” has the intense spirit of Lenny Kravitz, despite its lazy lyricism during the repetitive chorus (We get it, Scotty, you don’t know who you are, you don’t know who we are, but you smoked a lot of really good weed.)
Nearly every track showcases a sort of Generation X brutality that only artists akin to Cudi could successfully pull off on today’s airwaves. For those who enjoy a sort of dated atmosphere, kitschy Beavis and Butt-head impersonations and maniac angst only add to the ’90’s nostalgia the trailblazer was clearly aiming to present.
Heavy influences of alt-rock icons are transparent in this Cudi-meets-Cobain amalgam of harsh harmonies. Eighth tune “AMEN” appropriately sounds like the end of a prayer to whatever deity reigned over the religion CAKE built in the early 2000’s. And Foo Fighters fans may enjoy the morbid “Fade 2 Red,” while cries of “no saving me…” heighten the album’s ongoing theme of perpetual apathy.
A suburban gothic ether is molded via ominous echoes in “The Nothing,” a slaughterhouse lullaby that’s perfect for terrifying children and moody teenagers alike, while “Judgmental C*nt” serves up some ear splitting death metal shrieks. And then there’s “Séance Chaos,” which lives up to its ghoulish name by emitting the rockabilly essence of a mall goth summoning Satan in their childhood bedroom.
Still, in the midst of all of this mayhem, however, Cudi somehow manages to give certain rappers a run for their money in terms of polishing a maudlin melody. His hotline may not bling, but he still abandons machismo to express heartache using his throaty cadence as a weapon.
“Bury me to sleep in a wedding tux, everything, everyone sucks,” he poignantly lilts in the eponymous love song – one of quite a few including “Handle With Care,” “Adventures,” “Screwed,” and “Fairy Tale Remains.”
While the album may be an innovatively pleasant surprise, there are still some areas where it falls short that can easily be heard in the super annoying titular single “Speedin’ Bullet to Heaven” and lackluster tracks like “Angered Kids” and “Fuschia Butterflies.” But luckily, Cudi’s soothing ASMR inflection reels us right back in with talks of the Devil in a nefariously female form with “Red Sabbath.”
All good things must come to an end, however, and there was no better way to conclude this unexpected gem than with a sentimental farewell (“Embers”). Soulfully crooning, “I really don’t want to leave, I really don’t want to leave,” Kid Cudi melancholically says his goodbyes, but hopefully this bittersweet adieu is simply a “see you later.”
For those interested in this neo-psychedelic change of pace, “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven,” both sides A and B, can currently be streamed free of charge on Spotify or purchased on iTunes.