Kid Cudi needs friends right now.
If that wasn’t obvious from his recent breakdown — wherein he was publicly dragged by his former mentor and checked himself into rehab — then it’s abundantly clear on his new album Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. To be fair, Kanye’s had his own issues with real friends, and later recanted and continued to support his former protege. But clearly, Ye wasn’t involved in the studio, which is where Cudi really could’ve used him.
The album blows up all the problems with self-indulgence that Cudi’s had his entire career to massive levels. Throughout the 90-minute album (!) you can’t but feel that Cudi really needs someone in his corner, if only to tell him no.
From the very first track, it’s clear that Cudi’s had little editing for the record. Otherwise, they might have asked if we really needed that much groaning and maybe informed Cud that no grown man should let the phrase “sucking boobs” pass from his lips and into a microphone. The album is full of odd, embarrassing decisions like that. Passion is largely a collection of bad looks that could have been squashed or altered if Cudi just had a sounding board. “Releaser” contains the most needlessly irritating delivery of 2016 (outside of maybe “California” the rare clunker on Awaken, My Love! [Editor’s note: I disagree, “California” is fire]) Cudi’s strained whisper comes off like a cross between Serge Gainsbourg and Salad Fingers. The switch to French in that song was literally groan-worthy, as several startled coffee shop patrons who were unlucky enough to be sitting near me on my first listen can attest.
The lyrics are another area where a team lift would have made Passion more listenable. Cudi’s always portrayed himself as a deep soul with a penchant for the metaphysical and the difference between his fans and detractors is whether or not they took him at his word. He’s a tell-er, not a show-er. On “Mature Nature” he raps “this is so far out, trust me” and I don’t think I could better summarize Cudi’s career in a single sentence if you gave me 100 tries.