The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.
When the topic of artists with a cult following comes up, it’s impossible to allow Kid Cudi to slip through the cracks without being mentioned. The Cleveland native has collected ragers one by one during his near-15-year run in the music industry. It began with his 2008 breakout mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi, and continued through his first two albums, Man On The Moon I: The End Of Day and Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager, all of which spawned classic tunes that his fans have held close to their hearts. However, Cudi’s next few albums presented a descent from the astronomical throne as he appeared a bit more human thanks to the sub-par projects. Ten years removed from the second installment, Mr. Rager returns to the moon to conclude the trilogy by hitting his fans with a healthy dose of nostalgia and clarity.
The qualities Man On The Moon III: The Chosen hold are both similar and different to the predecessors in the series. The third installment is constructed like the previous two; four chapters that capture the life and story of Mr. Cudi himself. Just like Man On The Moon I and II, Cudi allows listeners to reside in his world and watch him take on his demons, whether they were self-produced or brought onto him by an outsider. The difference is that Cudi is no longer drowning in the relentless quicksand that is his tumultuous life. The music on Man On The Moon III is great, but the promising story that appears on the album is even better because of all we’ve seen Cudi endure.
The highlights of Man On The Moon III arrive quickly beginning with “Tequila Shots.” The song is wrapped in a head-knocking bass and a melodic hook that finds Cudi reminding himself to press onward in his neverending internal battle. “Can’t stop this war in me,” he chants on the song. A decade sits in between Man On The Moon II and III and while the problems that riddled his life still exist to varying extents, the paralysis they induced on him isn’t as strong. Sure, he has momentary relapses as he does on “Another Day,” but that comes with the journey. The saying goes, “It’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up,” and Cudi makes it clear that getting up, staying up, and raging in a less harmful way is his goal.
Depression, isolation, drug addiction, struggles with fame and family, and more are themes that have appeared in Cudi’s music over the years. Nowadays, a paradise of peace and prosperity is something that the rapper craves more than ever. “Heaven On Earth” captures his itch to find euphoria amid chaos. “Ain’t no thing in this world that can keep me from peace but me,” he raps in the second verse. Cudi rips through potential momentum-halting obstacles with the force of a nighttime rider in the open streets, and the approach serves as the precursor to the explosion that is the album’s following track, “Show Out.” The collaboration with Pop Smoke and Skepta is easily the climax of Man On The Moon III as its peaking energy sees Cudi flow through it with a menacing approach, one that is sharper than anything else on the album.
Soon, things settle down on Man On The Moon III. The rapper’s hard-hitting entrance on the album is replaced by a string of lethargic tracks. “Sept. 16” promotes a search for endearment whether it be from an outside source or in the form of self-love, while “The Void” sees Cudi promising to stay grounded and not relapse into a former state. The high from the first half of the album comes to a close and Cudi settles into a pocket of meticulous thought rooted in his current journey. Both of the aforementioned songs are examples of how Cudi actively seeks to maintain his current lifestyle if improvement is not on the table.
Man On The Moon III is an earnest conclusion to Cudi’s trademark series. A happy ending is not waiting at the end. Mr. Rager doesn’t step off his spaceship to dust the particles of past struggles off his shirt. What Man On The Moon III accomplishes, however, is closing a chapter in the rapper’s life in a very real and authentic way. Cudi knows the depths of his struggles, but he’s also aware of how long his adoring fans followed him through it all. To give them a perfect, clean conclusion would be misleading for his fans and naive towards himself. Man On The Moon III is Cudi’s best album in a decade and the stories he has to tell will continue as it says at the end of the album’s closer, “I Know.” Whether he returns to the moon or comes back to Earth to do this, we can rest assured knowing that Cudi has at least returned to form for the foreseeable future.
Man On The Moon III: The Chosen is out now on Republic Records. Get it here.