Kid Cudi - Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 03.03.2014
Kid Cudi surprised us last week with the release of a new album, a sprawling journey through time and space, but is it a mere stop gap on the way to Man on the Moon III or does it have its own artistic merit?
Kid Cudi – Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon
1. Destination: Mother Moon
2. Going To the Ceremony
3. Satellite Flight
4. Copernicus Landing
5. Balmain Jeans [feat. Raphael Saadiq]
6. Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Know
7. Internal Bleeding
8. In My Dreams 2015
9. Return of the Moon Man (Original Score)
10. Troubled Boy
Running time: 41:14
Kid Cudi is back, and he's back with a brand new full length album, Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon. The first thing that should be noted is that the version of the album I'm reviewing is the digital version which was made available online last week, Beyonce style, and not the physical version that will be released in the coming weeks with additional material featured. Kid Cudi spent the back end of last year promoting a new EP that he aimed to drop some time “around February.” Cudi continually commented that the new material was a bridge between 2013's full length record Indicud and the next instalment in his Man on the Moon series, due to be released in 2015. Weeks ago Cudi announced that he'd decided to just go ahead and release a new record, claiming he'd hit “such a creative stride” that releasing a full length album was the way forward, even if it was less than a year since Indicud. In comparison to the first two instalments of Man on the Moon, Indicud received mixed reviews, so this is an important record for Kid Cudi to build some momentum.
With his new record, Kid Cudi took the Beyonce-lite approach to its release. Although he gave fans notice that the record would become available some time in February, the record's release was announced with just one hour to spare last week. The strategy has proven a success, as at the time of writing Cudi is battling Schoolboy Q for dominance on the Billboard 200. And when you take into account the mixed critical reception the record has received in the last week, it was probably a good idea that the record wasn't built up all that much. However, Kid Cudi has always been an alternative and experimental hip hop artists, and as such he's always been open to criticism, so he will have gone into this record with no fear whatsoever and that's of huge benefit.
Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon is a bizarre, genre-bending, mind-boggling record from one of the more innovative artists out there at the moment. It's also an incredibly enjoyable listen from start to finish. The record is filled with these eyebrow-raising instrumentals that really quite take you out of this world and to a whole other planet. The beats orbit around your brain, plummet down your throat and leave you gasping for air. As you try and catch your breath, Cudi bombards you with vociferous dialogue that leaves you surrounded and mesmerized.
Even for a man of Kid Cudi's great ambition, this is a record that pushes the boundaries and makes bold statements, and not just musically. It's no coincidence that the record dropped the same day as one of the year's most anticipated hip-hop releases in Oxymoron and it's no coincidence that this record sounds like it does. Kid Cudi markets himself in such a way that makes you believe he's anti-establishment or anti-authority and yet everything he does, every move he makes is intended to provoke a reaction, including this far-reaching record which he surely didn't expect to please all of his fans. He's like the CM Punk of the hip-hop world. He manipulates situations around him to get the reactions he wants and love him or hate, the one thing it's difficult to argue with is the quality of his performance and in this instance, his performance is top notch.
Opening instrumental “Destination: Mother Moon” is like the buckling of a seatbelt as you prepare to enter into the unknown. It builds slowly and blossoms with otherworldly hand claps and drum pedals, leading into “Going To the Ceremony,” a track that's been around for quite a while now. Interestingly, the track takes a more traditional route, but then again the journey is only just getting started. It features an earworm of a guitar riff that carries the track, a real glasses in the air affair if there ever was one. It feels like the beginning of something epic, a sonic, sprawling guitar breaking clouds apart and leaving nothing but clear blue skies. “Satellite Flight” continues that theme, with a spoken-word sample introduction and some more typical Cudders rapping, for those who will argue this isn't a real hip-hop record. “Let's take it where there aren't any roads,” croons Cudi as the album, almost literally, takes flight with this anthemic victory lap of a track. But we're barely getting started, and the ambitions of Cudi are yet to be fully realised. This is just the beginning of the journey to Man on the Moon III.
“Copernicus Landing” is one of several instrumental tracks, and you get the feeling that these types of offerings are going to be one of the most polarizing aspects of the record. Personally I think it's all a bit pretentious, but it's the same time it's a wonderful listen and you really have no choice but to admire a) the ambition and b) the ball-sack of the guy. The song is like a light flittering on and off at random intervals; it captures your attention for good or bad because you have to see what it does next. And surely by no coincidence at all, we get a dramatic change of beat around the 150 second mark, signalling the amount of time it typically takes to leave the Earth's atmosphere. And this really does feel like we're mid-flight, gazing out of the window at sights we've never seen before, and we have no idea what to make of it all. “Balmain Jeans” is another down-tempo number, with Cudi singing rather explicitly about sex, but he pulls it off in a way that's rather soulful, rather than the more stereotypical hedonistic way some might associate with the genre.
“Too Bad I Have To Destroy You” is as standard a Kid Cudi track as you will find on this record, from its lyrical themes of people talking BS and being high to the trademark humming that finds it's way onto about half of all Kid Cudi tracks. But it fits perfectly on this record with its sprawling, shimmering beat that's so understated it lulls you into some sort of trance where all you can hear is Cudi's dominate vocal. It's one of the rare instances where he actually raps on the record, and while the verse isn't a particularly recent recording, it proves that he still has what it takes to remain at the top. “Internal Bleeding” is something of a passive affair that comes and goes with little fanfare, though it does progress with a pulsating drumbeat that almost acts as the song's heartbeat. The track feels like something of a comedown from an astronomical high. “In My Dreams 2015” is another predominantly instrumental stop-gap, and one that alludes both in its sound and in its title to the release of Man on the Moon III and at this point you do wonder just how good that record will be if this is merely the warm-up act.
The penultimate track is another pretentiously titled instrumental outing, “Return of the Moon Man (Original Score,)” and if we're being truly honest about, it's fucking brilliant. It quite honestly sounds like something that could soundtrack a scene from the continuation of the Star Wars films, though it stands on its own as an enthralling piece of music, like a prelude to Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds bonanza. When the beat changes ever so slightly, it changes the whole complexion of the track, from eerie, to haunting to downright ominous and fearful, the tracks takes you through moods with the uncertainty of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, or worse still entering the atmosphere of another planet. The album closes with the acoustic-coloured “Troubled Boy” where Cudi ponders “it seems no one wants a troubled boy,” possibly referring to his own experimental offerings and their critics. It's a delicate yet triumphant end to an album that many may have switch off by now, but taking in the record as a whole is most certainly a worthwhile experience and in that closing sentiment, you feel Kid Cudi is preparing to win over all of those critics with Man on the Moon III. Personally, I'm already on board and ready to take flight.
Kid Cudi - “Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now”
The 411: One would have to imagine that this is going to be one of the more polarizing albums released all year, but my first instincts are that it's a brilliant piece of work that borders on the pretentious more than once, but has plenty of merit to back up its outlandish and far-reaching ambitions. Having giving the record numerous listens I can say that it rewards those who invest their time into it, as you pick up on a variety of new and intriguing sounds upon each new listen. There's not a whole lot of actual rapping here, and there's even less to go on lyrically, but Satellite Flight leaves you dazed and confused by its vast, soundscapes of near pitch black colour, that make you feel as though you're falling through time and space. Kid Cudi seems like he's been falling for a while now, but doing so without fear means it's only a matter of time before his detractors realise that the brilliance has been ever-present. Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon is a mammoth effort, and one of the best pieces of art I've heard in 2014. Bring on Man on the Moon III.