Album review: Kid Cudi, ‘Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon’

**1/2 (out of 4)

 

Beyonce, and everyone else, had to know this was coming.

 

After the runaway success of the R&B icon’s "Surprise! Here it is!" release method for her latest album (a stunt previously used to less Earth-shaking effect by Radiohead and more), it was inevitable that other artists would follow suit. Now Kid Cudi has dipped his toes in the spontaneous pond (band name idea alert!), releasing “Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon” just hours after announcing its existence.

 

The rapper’s latest collection of outer space-influenced songs doesn’t slot in with anything else in modern rap, and that's the point. Consisting of six songs and four instrumentals, the project's theme is obvious: Cudi is spaced out. One song ("Satellite Flight") even starts off with a robotic countdown. The beats, helmed by Cudi and longtime collaborator Dot da Genius, are minimalist at best and sparse at worst. If the goal is to provide an audio equivalent to floating in space, then boom--he nailed it.

 

Yet in other ways, Cudi’s not spaced out at all. Always shifting his sound and approach, the rapper now comes off frank and sober, not the hard partier previously chronicled on songs like "The Mood" and "Wild'n Cuz I'm Young." When I say sober, I mean that literally. The rapper revealed in a recent interview that he has stopped drinking due to a health scare last year. That doesn’t mean the entire album’s low-key; Cudi freaks out in a good way on "Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now," a rapid-fire reminder that Scott Mescudi (his real name, by which he’s credited when appearing in the upcoming “Need For Speed”) is excellent at talking smack on record.

 

The whole point of the thing, though, is to present something new. The way Cudi switches his flow--from a near-snarl on "Internal Bleeding" to a smooth sex machine on "Balmain Jeans"--is awesome and innovative. He deserves credit for challenging the boundaries of hip-hop and trying to do a rap version of a Toro Y Moi record. But disposable lyrics and music leave a hole at the center of the album, which feels comparable to visiting an art gallery with your "cool" friend from college and watching them “ooh” and “ahh” over a certain piece just because they feel like they're supposed to. Lack of depth in music is lack of depth in music, no matter how much you want to hang out with the person making it.

 

erwilkins@tribune.com