Review: Kid Cudi's Album, "Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin"

Updated on December 19, 2016
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The Gleefully Maverick "Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin"

Kid Cudi’s sixth studio album ‘Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is gleefully maverick. Weaving in and around the boundaries of hip-hop, its two-disc tracklisting is packed with interesting, experimental production trickery.

Governed by its unpredictable twists and turns, ‘Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ free-falls through its playtime. Almost every track brings something new to the table. The album is divided into four parts entitled, ‘Tuned’, ‘Prophecy’, ‘Niveaux de l’Amour’ and ‘It’s Bright and Heaven Is Warm’ respectively.

From start to finish, ‘Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is self-indulgent. However, its best moments offer real escapism and can be genuinely immersive. With 32-year-old Cudi offering his own subversive take on what’s popular chartwise, not everyone will understand the new LP. Nevertheless on ‘Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, Cudi creates a whole other world for those who do.

Kid Cudi Invests in His Offhand Rap Skills

The release doesn’t impact immediately - it takes a few listens to be fully baptised within Cudi’s vision. Without the tracks themselves sounding overdone or try hard, Cudi has no trouble staying true to his musical standpoint on the record. Generally speaking, the tunes found on the project’s backend (like highlights ’Mature Nature’ and ‘Cosmic Warrior’) feel rawer. They’re not as affected as the comparatively polished cuts placed across the album’s front side.

As demonstrated on ‘Distant Fantasies’, a cut in which Cudi tells an ex-lover that she’ll never be able to replace him, the musician appears to be more invested in his rap skills on ‘Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. Admittedly, his offhand, throwaway hip-hop bars are never really awe-inspiring, or overly complicated.

Following Cudi's appearance on Travis Scott’s ‘Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight’, Scott returns the favour and appears on ‘Baptized In Fire’. ‘Baptized In Fire’ contains fleeting moments of lyrical precision from Cudi. However for the majority of ‘Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, Cudi approaches rapping with the same audacious spontaneity he employs for the project’s woozy vocals.

Photo: Dave Benett
Photo: Dave Benett
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Worlds Away From Being Back at the Office on a Monday Morning

Outkast star Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000) co-stars on ‘By Design’. Compared to the rest of the record, the strolling, bubbly electro-pop tune is easy to digest. Breaking occasionally for moments of trap, ‘By Design’ peppily balances out the smouldering inner-demon focus which dominates the LP’s intro quarter.

Atlanta beatmaker Mike Will Made It steps away from his best known work to produce alt-pop grower ‘All In’. Commencing with ocean sounds, ‘All In’ feels meditative, the song’s spaciousness is appealing. Singing about being ready to commit fully to a relationship, Cudi sounds particularly wholehearted and reflective on the tune.

Willow Smith (daughter of actor Will Smith) joins Cudi for the proudly out-the-box ‘Rose Golden’, which promotes individuality. Worlds away from returning to the office or school on a Monday morning, the track’s hip-hop beats are completely overshadowed by its transcendent messages. The lofty, illustrious presentation of ‘Rose Golden’ can feel a little overdone. That said, Smith and Cudi’s singing vocals come together seamlessly.

Exploring Intimacy, Cudi Style

Every track on ‘Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ that involves Pharrell Williams either as a performer or producer sticks out in some way. Williams can’t help but bring his magic to, ‘Flight At Sight / Advanced’. His trademark sound blends satisfyingly with Cudi’s shenanigans on the cut - ‘Advanced’ in particular is gloriously brawny. ‘Flight At Sight / Advanced’ quickly overshadows ‘Does It’, which impacts untidily due to its countless non-stick ideas.

There are several music icons who today’s chart acts tend to consciously and unconsciously reference when making songs about lovemaking or sensuality. Refreshingly, Kid Cudi doesn’t bother imitating any of them on ‘Dance 4 Eternity’. Exploring sex in his own special way, ‘Dance 4 Eternity’ manages to channel the sense of intimacy it clearly wants to. Over the cut’s robust, funky alt-electro bounce, Kid Cudi’s airy, soft, barely there vocals are spread across the tune’s stereo field. The track’s sedated outro is specially alluring.

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"Wounds" Delves Beneath the Record's Eccentricities

Supported by rapturous, subterranean beats, ‘Wounds’ delves beneath the record’s eccentricities. The track’s lyrics are noteworthy because they offer an extended glimpse at Kid Cudi’s relationship with himself, which judging by Cudi’s more recent musical output is turbulent at the best of times. Allowing his accentuated crooning to take centerstage, Cudi uses ‘Wounds’ to touch upon his ongoing spiritual pursuits, and the demon slaying the album’s very own title refers to.

Anchored by alluringly mellow synth pads and co-produced by WZRD partner Dot Da Genius, ’Kitchen’ is a 2-stepping highlight. Sceptical of people’s intentions and wondering why his lovers are unable to handle his intense nature, Cudi explores the downside of love relationships on the track. Cudi peppers ’Kitchen’ with melodic, seemingly spur-of-the-moment refrains, which all contribute to the track’s unencumbered flow.

Making Room for Andre 3000's Discipline

There’s something manic about the menacing, murky hip-hop of ’The Guide’ alongside Andre Benjamin. It’s almost as if Cudi performs the song from different personas. Cudi laces the track with loose vocal cries, lax rap bars, random yelping vocal snippets and animalistic panting. Andre Benjamin’s verse sounds exact and disciplined amid the track’s torrent of hurried ideas.

Parading his creative oddities with the help of the song’s kid-friendly disguise, Cudi enthusiastically raps, sings and chants his way through the spirited Pharrell Williams produced single ‘Surfin’. It’s hard to not to be charmed by the exuberance the tune. 'Surfin’ sounds as if it's from the same family as Williams’ worldwide smash ‘Happy’. The buoyant, cheerful tunes share an similarly undeniable get-up-and-go thrust.

Verdict: ******* 7/10

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