Kid Cudi can fly. While we’ve always kinda known, it wasn’t until Indicud that Cudi ‘fessed up. It’s a feat he’s spent much of his career not trying to show us how to do but encouraging us in manning yokes of our own instead. Alone, as has been his nature for much of this flight, buzzing and hovering about, Cudi soars like no other. However, when Solo Dolo, Kid Cudi is also most distressed. Resilient as he is though, he winds around the universe of mind on the hunt for a wormhole to slip down that might promise some positivity where it seems to be lost. And he’s quick to point out to us places where hope glimmers, even if just momentarily.
Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin’ finds Cudi on that same flight. He lugs his longtime demons, (the ones he’s slayin’) with “Unfuckwittable” hubris and a capitulant smile -the kind of smile you might give upon hitting your pillow after an exhausting day. As opposed to times when he’s left his audience too far in the dust on a soul searching mission, which was the case on his last three major releases, Cudi’s circled back, making the fans privy of this most recent prospect. Also back from recess is the partitioning of the record; Demon Slayin’ is split in four parts. It makes his sixth LP the best effort in some time.
For one, the album is a return to Rap, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, the 2015 release, was a grunge album that deserted a part of his fan base and pundits, alike. Before that album, his biggest blip, Cudi had ventured off on Indicud and Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon losing steam all the while. Plain Pat has been absent from Cudi’s discography since Mr. Rager save for a lone appearance on SB2H’s title track, informing the schism from “Day ‘n’ Nite” to his alt-rock project. The correlation between Pat’s presence and the public’s reception to the music has been the story of his legacy, thus far.
Demon Slayin’ though, summons Cudi’s longtime collaborator recalling the now homely sounds of his first two LPs and develops on them occasionally, smoothing out dissonant, brittle melodies from the rager’s past with a polish akin to ragtime keys’ evolution to jazz piano. A score-like continuity stabilizes Demon Slayin’, diminishing the turbulence zagging throughout his preceding discography, via keen sequencing and synced synths that defer to downy dreams in lieu of nightmares.
“I see everything with new beams, I do dream,” intonates Andre Benjamin on “By Design” in a cadence that’s been reserved for Young Thug over the past year. A beat whisperer, 3 Stacks wastes no time transcoding Plain Pat and Pharrell composition, cementing the notion, which is, on this song, to actively bask in this experience over which you have nann control. Cudi abstractly conveys the same idea (“take me bound to the come me down// my fantasy in this remedy”); ultimately, this is all by design. Not only is there solace in letting go but nixing once distressing preconceptions gives way to infinite possibilities that before only existed in two places: the universe and dreams.
Such a sentiment cascades into “All In”, introduced by crashing waves that, like Cudi, operate only under the guise of the cosmos. A bare Mike Will production brings Cudi to his explicit surrender (“whatever happens, happens”) before bookending with the submissive waves. “Dance for Eternity” carries Cudi into the void via a solo that could’ve been played on a holophonor from Futurama. His mission is perhaps best realized on “Mature Nature”, one of four solely Cudder productions, which also ripples into the abyss, resting cinematic strings and trancey bass guitar atop a vaporwave constant. “In the moment, snap it,” he instructs before wisping the refrain, “heaven again”.
Demon Slayin’ wouldn’t be such a glorious landing were it not for the obstacles encountered en route, though. For as much time spent moving forward, unhinged, The Commander spends as much time staving off the past. For all to see on the 87 minute project is Kid Cudi’s return to his childhood bedroom, untouched since his first flight; the monster in his closet is still there as intimidating as Cudder will let it be.
An ongoing trauma of Cudi’s (he’s been afflicted since youth, as we learn on “ILLusions”) rears its way onto Demon Slayin’ in one of the most courageous acts from an artist can make. It follows Cudder making public his battle with mental health in a Facebook post earlier this year in that the music no longer masks his afflictions. Where “Day ‘n’ Nite” touched on his struggles stylistically and subtly, “Rose Golden”, “Baptized in Fire” (“Since a kid, I’ve been haunted by visions of death”), and “ILLusions” exhume them plainly. The exposal empowers Cudi the way a confession might. Such empowerment resurrects some of the old Cudi, the one whose bars are often questionable (“Now a couple nudes, suckin boobs// Seeing double, double, and it, zoom”), yet tickling and full of confidence we wish on anyone in recovery.
Lyrical drecks include him “feeling like a trilly billy”, and “the industry so full shit, welcome, y’all, to the enema”, as noted on the first single, “Surfin’”. They’re light flicks on the album as a whole but speak volumes to Cudi’s state of mind. “Light”, figuratively and literally, “keeps the evil at bay” he says on “ILLusions”. He later takes four and a half minutes on “Swim in the Light” expounding on his new practice of fighting darkness with its obvious foil.
Demon Slayin’ finds an energized Cudder telling the homies just how he found renewal. Our big brother from “Revofev” is back with some pro tips and the album gushes like a fountain of rejuvenation for the fatigued. Perhaps the assistance of Willow Smith, Travis Scott, and the always youthful Pharrell spur the gusto. Plain Pat provides the guidance like a Yoda of sorts.
“I took a swan dive,” Cudi explains on “Cosmic Warrior”, the start of his final act. He’s flying again and Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin’ equips us for accompaniment.
“Let’s get well, yeah”