Words: Charlie Lake
‘Man on the Moon III: The Chosen’ serves as the third instalment of American rapper Kid Cudi’s long-running Man on the Moon series, with its prequel being released no less than a decade ago. It comes as the seventh full length LP from one of the most versatile and beloved names in hip hop, Scott Mescudi. It is split into four acts, just like its predecessors. Labelling this project as part of the Man on the Moon trilogy was bound to put some pressure on Cudi to put out some of his best art ever, due to the acclaim that the two prior albums received. Nevertheless, The Chosen is a raw and heartfelt effort, continuing the trilogy with style.
The 18-track album features guest appearances from late New York rapper Pop Smoke, Skepta, Phoebe Bridgers and Trippie Redd. Cudi reunites with his trusted production team for much of the album: Dot Da Genius, Take A Day Trip, Plain Pat, Emile Hayne and the unparalleled Mike Dean, the latter known largely for being Kanye West’s music director. The product of the fives’ meticulous mastery is one of fluorescent soundscapes, airy dimensions and emotive medleys which could not be more Cudi if they tried. The album has notable trap influences, especially in acts one and two, perhaps from Travis Scott, who Kid Cudi admits has impacted his style since his rise to fame in 2015.
Much like its predecessors, the third and final instalment in the ‘MOTM’ series comes off as therapy of sorts. Wearing his heart on his sleeve is precisely what makes Kid Cudi one of the most important artists of the past 15 years. A pioneer of openness and vulnerability, he blazed a trail so that the likes of Drake and Childish Gambino could prosper with their own brands of emo-rap.
On the catchy opener ‘Tequila Shots’, Cudi raps about his struggle to comprehend that he’s back fighting an internal war he thought he’d left behind on previous albums. Over the track’s warped synths and distorted organs, he finds some comfort in the memory of better days.
On Track 5, ‘Dive’, co-produced by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, the rapper explores his struggles with alcoholism and the unease that comes with partying and overindulgence, a message very reminiscent of ‘Man on the Moon I: The End of the Day’. The album’s most surprising moment is Track 8, ‘Show Out’ featuring Pop Smoke & Skepta. Venturing into all-new territory, the song is energised and drill-infused, with Cudi’s verse being something previously unheard by his fans.
The experimentation with genres continues with ‘Elsie’s Baby Boy (flashback)’, which sees Cudi reminisce about his childhood, paying tribute to his mother over a guitar riff sample from The Animals’ single ‘House of The Rising Sun’. The album’s crown jewel, however, is undoubtedly ‘Mr. Solo Dolo III’. A continuation of previous instalments, the track sees Cudi delve into the darkness once again and sing about the mental health obstacles which stand in his way in his pursuit of happiness.
The album draws to a close with ‘4 Da Kidz’, probably one of the most important tracks yet in his discography. On this record, Cudi communicates directly with his fans, offering payback in the form of a comforting message: “Feeling alone? Just know you are not / We won’t leave you alone.” In numerous interviews, including his most recent with Zane Lowe, Cudi cites his fans as one of the reasons he has managed to maintain his mental health in recent years, and so this ending message has a more profound meaning than it may do at first glance.
Despite fans being disappointed at the lack a feature from long time collaborators Travis Scott and Kanye West, the album is no less than outstanding. ‘Man on The Moon III: The Chosen’ is an emotional masterpiece, with Kid Cudi giving us every part of himself, laying out his insecurities and inner demons in the hope that it might help someone else. The very fact that the main body of the album was recorded in only two weeks demonstrates how truly versatile of an artist Scott Mescudi can be. It really is no wonder that it is projected to surpass all his previous first-week record sales, with around 175,000 units expected to be sold.