2023 was a huge year for music, but 2024 is following suit in exemplary fashion. Why do I say this? Well, to my surprise one of hip-hop’s greatest contributors, Kid Cudi came out with his ninth studio album titled Insano, earlier this month.
Cudi’s return came as a shock to fans everywhere. The reason being his multiple pursuits in other industries. The former Grammy winner has been publicly outspoken on his ventures into Hollywood and fashion, most recently starring in the film Silent Night alongside Joel Kinnaman.
In regards to fashion, Cudi has always been characterized by vibrant colors, making him a trend-setter on all fronts. His newest addition to the fashion industry involves his designer line titled 'Members of the Rage.' Sources revealed that Cudi has brought pieces to Paris, hoping to debut alongside that of Off-White, Chitose Abe, and Louis Vuitton.
As well as his efforts to build a name for himself in the entertainment and fashion industry, Cudi has left many comments on the future of his artistry, insinuating that his illustrious career as a music creative may come to an end shortly.
In an interview last year with Max Volume Music, Cudi described how he is “kind of nearing the end on all things Kid Cudi.” The hip-hop creative detailed how toxicity from fans coupled by his interactions with other creatives has played a part in his desire to deviate from hip-hop.
Nevertheless, Cudi had been teasing Insano
for a great deal in 2023. His release of one
single from the album titled “Porsche Topless,” last year served as a preview for what to expect from the visionary come drop date. Despite the track attracting significant attention and being produced by leading industry prospect BNYX, Cudi had to postpone the release of the project to January.
“I have to push INSANO back until January,” Cudi tweeted. “I want to make sure that everything lines up and I give y’all the best version of myself.” As a means to quell the building anticipation among fans, Cudi decided to release two more singles from the album titled, “MOST AIN’T DENNIS,” and “ILL WHAT I BLEED.”
Both singles contrasted sonically from that of Porsche Topless, which fall in line with the genre-bending hip-hop style bolstered by Cudi throughout the years. However, fans started to worry as to whether the project would hold its own considering his last project Entergalactic, had been on the receiving end of harsh criticism.
Needless to say, Cudder is back, and better than expected. The 21 song project takes listeners on a sonically diverse journey, incorporating genres such as trap, rock, and alternative innuendos. The album features some of the top artists from the modern day landscape, including Travis Scott, Lil Wayne and Pharrell Williams.
Unlike the more traditional projects that have garnered traction in recent times, Insano transcends the mold by seamlessly integrating Cudi’s distinct essence within a plethora of unique beats and electronic effects.
The album takes on an ominous start, with the track “OFTEN, I HAVE THESE DREAMZ,” featuring the always impressive DJ Drama. Cudi’s level of introspection lyrically, as well as Drama’s sharp ad libbing assists with conveying the euphoric feel echoed throughout the rest of the project.
My personal favorite of the songs present on the album would be “GET OFF ME,” featuring LaFlame himself. Apart from the song “LOOOVE,” on Travis Scott’s album Utopia, this is the first time in 4 years we have seen the Scotts working together to create their acclaimed psychedelic sound.
Cudi has always been one to give other artists their chance to shine as features, and we saw this in full effect in the song “WOW” featuring A$AP Rocky. Upon appearing on this song, Rocky was practically non-existent from the hip-hop realm in 2023, but he took his chance on Insano to take shots at Drake, an artist that he has been noted to have feuded with in the past.
As well as these serious tracks, Cudi takes a chance to showcase his experimentation with tracks like “ELECTROWAVEBABY,” and “CUD LIFE.” Both songs served to show that the icon has not been absent from the realm of hip-hop aimlessly, but rather he has been polishing a nuanced sound that has set the bar for future releases this year.
As a listener, I cannot begin to express how nostalgic hearing this project was for me. Throughout my childhood I viewed Kid Cudi as a beacon of hope to navigate the complexities of life. When I heard he was calling it quits after his last project Entergalactic, I was heartbroken. Now, Insano has reignited my love for all things Cudi.
Though I was thrilled to hear Kid Cudi come back with a new project, I must say it is not my favorite work of his. This tends to be the case with a lot of artists that have created such a lasting legacy earlier on in their careers.
Cudi’s discography is a large-scale woven tapestry of experimentation. The lyricism present in Insano strikes a correlation with the introspective aspects of his older projects such as Man on the Moon: The End of Day. With this being said, critics argue that the album lacks a level of cohesion.
The frequency of genre-hopping puts off feelings of disjointedness and can be said hinders the collective value of the project. While the tracks in itself are significantly different from one another, diversity is not always a bad thing, and in a way showcases
Another critique Cudi has been subject to is the monotone cadence present in some of the tracks. The usage of this style of rap differs greatly from the emotional range shown in Cudi’s past works, but he does delve into some instances of varied vocal approaches such as in the track “BLUE SKY.”
For me, the problem with Insano goes beyond that of over-used monotonous rhyming patterns, or a lack of holistic unity. Cudi has always been one to innovate, and create lasting impressions through his confidence, but I felt this project was simply a shell of his former self.
When Insano first came out, I was very optimistic that it would trump that of the Man on the Moon series given Cudi has had time to reinvent himself. However, post-listening, I don’t get the same feelings of adrenaline driving down the interstate screaming songs like “love,” “tequila shots,” or “Erase Me.”
Rather, I find myself shuffling through the songs and instantly comparing them to that of previous albums, but this is not a bad thing in entirety. Insano gave me an opportunity to touch base with an artist that assisted me greatly in transitioning through the various phases of my life.
To say Kid Cudi was not a part of most people’s childhood would be ludicrous to say the least. Whether it was through collaborative projects like Kids See Ghosts, or his multitude of stand-alone projects, in some way shape or form, Cudi has always been a force of utmost importance in music.
Whether the general consensus is that Cudi is finished in music, or has a little more left in the tank is irrelevant when considering the contributions he has made for music, and the world as a whole. His ability to allude to themes like loneliness, depression, and anxiety, overcomes a general challenge present in the hip-hop industry today.
There is an underlying notion, that to be a hip-hop artist, you must demonstrate a hardy exterior free from mental dispositions of any sort. However, Cudi challenges this norm consistently and serves as a pioneer for those struggling with mental health issues on even an international scale.
Not to mention his level of influence on the next generation of talent set to grace the scene. As it stands, it is known widely that artists such as Travis Scott, Juice WLRD, and Lil Uzi Vert derive a lot of inspiration from Kid Cudi.
His vulnerability therefore impacts not only the mass population of listeners, but rather impacts future generations of artists that can emulate his plays on emotion, in turn challenging the negative connotation in hip-hop mediums today.
Insano in my opinion stands as a great reminder for what Kid Cudi represents: courage to try something new, and owning it as art regardless of the reactions associated with it. It is for this reason that even if the music may not be the same as past projects, it holds a special place in my heart and for all those that are connected to Cudi.