Album Review: Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day


November 12, 2021

In my family, I’m nowhere near the music guy. That would be my younger brother, Connor, who is a sophomore at Cathedral Prep. But I generally like music enough to talk about it myself, although I’m not indulged as much as he is.

With that being said, one artist that I always consistently listen to is Kid Cudi. Real name Scott Mescudi, the rapper/producer grew up in Cleveland and became a prominent name in the alternative rap scene alongside mentor Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest, OutKast, MF DOOM, Logic, Brockhampton, and others.

The one thing that has always stuck with me about Cudi is that he is such a unique storyteller. Whether it was his father’s death when he was young, being kicked out by his uncle, or his former drug addiction, Cudi is able to tell his stories and feelings through a different voice than what is considered “normal” in the rap scene.

The only way I can describe Cudi’s music is that it feels magical, like you’re being transported to a whole other dimension.

With all that being said, Cudi gained attention after his debut mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi, in 2008. He eventually released his debut studio album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, on Sept. 15, 2009.

Man on the Moon, the first of the trilogy, is a very techno-amped, outer space-vibe type of album; it’s no wonder the album draws a lot of comparisons to Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreaks album, which was released the year prior. However, Cudi draws away from the use of auto-tune, which West used in his album, to create a more authentic feel to the album in a way that makes you truly feel his words.

The album also tackles some really hard-hitting themes, all of which Cudi has struggled with in his life.

Depression, anxiety, loneliness, family issues, alcoholism, sex, paranoia, fame; Cudi manages to fit all of these and more thought-provoking themes into this album, divided into five separate acts.

The album begins with Act I: The End of Day.

The first track of Act I is “In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem),” which starts off a journey with the Man on the Moon. In the first song, Cudi “welcomes” us into his dreams, where everything appears as Cudi wants it. He wants to experience and feel his own happiness in his dreams so that he can escape the pains of life and anxiety. Cudi raps, “Everything is A-okay, I don’t worry ’bout anything. ‘Cause every day, every day, every day is sunny, here in my dreams now,” as a way to reassure us that he is feeling good in his current state of mind.

The track ends with a narration from fellow G.O.O.D. Music rapper Common, taking us into the second track, “Soundtrack 2 My Life.”

This track was one of the most popular of Cudi’s early career, felt by many who keep their emotions bottled up. In the chorus, Cudi raps, “I’ve got some issues that nobody can see, and all of these emotions are pouring out of me.” This relates to the separate verses of the song, where Cudi basically tells the story of his life, both growing up and now, and how that has caused his struggle with mental health problems; the issues that nobody can see.

Personally, I consider this as one of Cudi’s top ten songs ever. Its vibrant techno beat gives it a very upbeat and positive feel, but the true meaning behind the song is really depressing. That’s what makes Cudi so interesting; his colorful and vibrant beats make him seem like a positive artist, but the true meaning behind most of his songs and the messages he conveys give him that mysterious and sad edge.

Act I ends with “Simple As…,” where Common narrates that we have entered “an unstable part of his imagination, so intense he cannot tell his dreams from reality.”

So begins Act II: The Rise of the Night Terrors.

Starting off Act II is “Solo Dolo (Nightmare).” Through the eerie and uneasy melody, sampled from “The Traitor” by the Menahan Street Band, we now begin to feel Cudi’s inner dreamscape, diving into the madness and insanity. This song, portrayed as one of Cudi’s nightmares or Night Terrors, displays his struggle with his lonely life in the real world. Cudi uses his dreams to escape reality so that he can live in his mind and feel accepted.

The fifth track is “Heart of a Lion,” also titled as the “Kid Cudi Theme Song.” Cudi uses this song as a metaphor to tell the story of how he’s fought through his mental and emotional health issues. They were always there with him, but he learned that he’d have to fight back and become a stronger man.

Cudi also uses historical references to describe the battle with his inner demons. He raps, “When I recollect how it used to be. Like David and Goliath, kinda like me.” This paints the picture of Cudi as David and some unknown, powerful force as Goliath. Just like David, Cudi felt overwhelmed to fight a much bigger force than himself.

What makes Kid Cudi so great is that you know that this is his “theme song.” The track has the feel of a very inspirational anthem, that anyone, no matter how small, can fight back against the biggest of obstacles.

The sixth track ends Act II with “My World,” which features Billy Cravens, an award-winning producer and songwriter.

One of my favorite songs on the album, “My World” features a very slow tone, accompanied by a great keyboard feature courtesy of Cravens. This track involves Cudi speaking his mind to all his doubters, mainly in his high school years. Cudi talked about how he used to disguise his loneliness in high school to impress the girls, such as playing sports.

The chorus is Cudi repeating “This will be my world, I told you so.” He uses this as a way to let everyone know that he’s on top in his world, and no one can tell him otherwise. Cudi also raps, “Always be a hater tryna shoot down any dream;” Cudi is saying he doesn’t care how many people will hate, he’s still going to have bigger and bigger aspirations and goals.

As “My World,” ends Act II, Act III: Taking a Trip, begins with Cudi’s most popular song, “Day N’ Night (Nightmare).”

There’s a lot to digest with this track, but because Cudi is able to convey different elements and themes, it makes the song a whole lot more enjoyable. Although the beat of the song and tone seems very calm and vibrant, the lyrics and story say otherwise. Cudi raps about his stress and anxiety causing insomnia, his depression, failed relationships with women, and smoking away his pain and loneliness.

Following this is “Sky Might Fall,” a fairly underrated song on the album. This song depicts how Cudi is able to battle back against his nightmares and fears; he continues on to not worry about them and continue to find his inner peace. In the chorus, Cudi raps, “The sky might fall, but I’m not worried at all.” Cudi shows that he isn’t afraid of the world closing in on him, because he knows it will be all ok in the end.

The ninth track ends Act III on the album, “Enter Galactic (Love Connection Part I),” which has a very vibrant feel. What makes the track so intriguing was its underlying meaning; Cudi details a relationship with a girl, and he encourages her to do psychedelics with him. Hence the title, “Enter Galactic,” since psychedelics allow people to enter a sort of spatial world. The one thing I enjoyed most about the track is the sudden change of low tempo to an upbeat tone.

Common then returns to narrate Cudi’s arrival in his new home in “the prison of our reality,” declaring that, “This is his new home.” This transitions us into Act IV: Stuck, and the tenth track on the album, “Alive (Nightmare).”

“Alive” is like a correlation with a werewolf; Cudi says that he comes alive when “the moon shines.” The song infers how Cudi’s inner beast comes out at night, referencing how he becomes more instinctual because of drugs and his mental health.

The song is made much more enjoyable by producer Ratatat’s amazing guitar work, which makes up most of the beat.

After transitioning from a more upbeat song to a much more darker and angry feel, the album continues with “Cudi Zone.”

Produced by Emile Haynie, Cudi raps about still being trapped within his own reality, and he references a lot about feeling like he is soaring and “zoned,” or basically high. There’s a lot of references to his early life as well, such as his dad, who died when Cudi was 11, and his roots in Cleveland. It is easily one of Cudi’s most underrated and overall best songs.

So we keep switching from upbeat to low-tempo vibes as we follow the story of the Man on the Moon. But this next track, “Make Her Say,” calms the tone down as it takes a dive into Cudi’s feelings towards relationships with women.

Even though this song features two fantastic artists in Kanye West and Common, I’m not going to get into the details of the meaning of the song for content reasons. But the song does have a couple mentions to other popular songs. Lady Gaga even performs an acoustic version of her hit song “Poker Face” to mesh with the beat of the song. Another nice touch was all three rappers referencing fellow rapper T.I.’s hit song “Whatever You Like” in the chorus.

The final song of Act IV presents itself as, from what I’ll say, mystical, eerie, depressing, amazing; there are really no words to describe “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare).”

Cudi sings in the chorus, “I’m on the pursuit of happiness, and I know, everything that shine ain’t always gonna be gold, hey. I’ll be fine once I get it. I’ll be good.” What seems happy and inspirational is actually really dark and sad when you look into the deeper meaning. There are tons of references to drugs, drinking, mental health, nightmares, and insomnia. Cudi’s “pursuit of happiness” is that he wants to smoke, drink, and party, because that’s how he feels alive. The one thing that is blocking him from achieving this happiness is his dreams and nightmares. They block the path to true happiness, driving Cudi insane to the point of experiencing cheap thrills in order to feel some form of delight. Truly terrifying and incredibly dark in my opinion. But that’s what makes Cudi so intriguing; his story is shared by so many and that’s how he can connect with his fans.

Also, the guitar solo from Mike Stroud of Ratatat on the track is seriously incredible. You have to listen to it just to understand how good it is.

We’re now on the final leg of the album; Act V: A New Beginning begins (haha) with “Hyyerr,” featuring fellow Cleveland rapper Chip Tha Ripper.

Another song featuring the theme of drug abuse and addiction, which has established itself as a major influence in Cudi’s album. The chorus simply contains Cudi continually humming, “And we get hyyerr,” yet it feels incredibly soothing and satisfying to listen to at the same time. Chip also had a really nice feature on this track.

The album ends on the fifteenth track, “Up Up & Away.”

Cudi raps on the chorus, “I’ll be up up and away, up up and away. ‘Cause they gon’ judge me anyway, so whatever.” Cudi is again referencing his response to drugs because he feels like he’s flying or floating away. However, he knows that people will judge him but doesn’t mind it; he’s fine with being criticized even if he’s doing everything in his power to better himself. Cudi also mentions how he is happy with how far he has come in the music scene. Yet he still uses his dreams to escape the pressure of reality as a means to cope with his depression.

Common narrates that a “new challenge” awaits Cudi, ending the album with, “This is the story of the man on the moon.”

And thus ends an insane journey through one of my favorite albums. This album really sparked my love for Kid Cudi not just as an artist, but as an inspiration. Sure, Cudi made insanely great music on this album, such as “Pursuit of Happiness,” “Up Up and Away,”and “Sky Might Fall” to name a few. But what really separates Kid Cudi, the rapper, from Scott Mescudi, the man, is his storytelling.

Just like so many people in the world, Cudi has struggled with drugs and depression. The fact that he sort of became the first mainstream-like artist to tell the stories of his struggles through his music is an inspiration to many. Fans have talked about how Cudi has actually saved their lives through his music. Now that’s influence, and this album is at the peak of his work.

As for a “final grade” of Man on the Moon: The End of Day, I’m personally feeling a 9.5 out of 10.

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