Pion-Ear: Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ review

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Pursuit of Happiness” is such a sweet song. I can really relate to the artist’s motivational message about doing me and removing the shackles of society and the system. But who sings it again? Kid Cudi? Has he been in the studio since 2009? Is he even alive?

Yes, he’s alive, but Cudi’s newest album is a reflection on what could have been the end. Cudi checked himself into rehab in early October–about two months before his new album’s release–for depression and thoughts of suicide. However, Cudi returned to the stage with a seemingly renewed drive Nov. 5 at Long Beach, California’s ComplexCon. Witnessing the artist’s openness about mental challenges throughout production tremendously heightens his newest album’s emotional appeal. But it’s not just Cudi who is back.

He brought his musical mojo back with him. After two mediocre albums (Man on the Moon II and Indicud), an underappreciated album (Satellite Flight) and a really, really bad album (not to be named), Cudi has jumped off the Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven (oops) and returned from the dead with Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, which released Dec. 16.

Speaking of returning from the dead, the best track on Cudi’s new album happens to feature André Benjamin, aka André 3000 of Outkast. “By Design” is an upbeat tune that encourages listeners to let go and live. “The Universe never steered me wrong / The universe never lied,” proclaims Cudi in the song’s second verse. Meanwhile, Benjamin warns of a stiff life in the hook: “Stuck inside a statue look at you / Go ahead and pogo, something gon’ catch you.”

“By Design” is the fourth of 19 songs, but the three tracks preceding it are not to be ignored. “Frequency” boasts questionable lyrics such as, “Couple girls, couple stories and a couple shrooms,” but the beat is appropriately relaxing. Repetition may get the best of “Swim in the Light,” but for anyone having a rough day, the lyrics, “You could try and numb the pain, but it will never go away” will prove you are not alone. The catchy electronic beat of the track doesn’t hurt, either. Meanwhile, “Releaser” consists largely of Cudi humming about denial over an undeniably catchy tune (I will be saying this a lot).

In the fifth track, “All In,” the gentle sound of waves gives way to lyrics about Cudi’s rebirth. “I hate the man that I was so I’m becoming / We’re learning together anyhow / We’re learning together right now,” Cudi rhymes.

“ILLusions” offers another upbeat and catchy tune about finding the light. “Rose Golden” features fellow artist Willow and revolves around “groovin’ to my own drum,” which more or less continues the theme established in “Illusions.”

“Baptized in Fire” slows down the beat. Cudi brags about getting girls and dominating the game, while Travis Scott contributes a hook that praises Cudi and calls for his return home.

It’s a whole lot better than this description makes it sound; trust me.

“Flight at First Sight/Advanced” comprises two parts; in the first, Cudi simply expresses his euphoria at setting eyes on his love in a drowsy, repetitive verse. However, the beat speeds up for “Advanced” as Cudi gets flirtatious with his love. The rapper does a lot of cool things with his voice in this track, and Pharrell Williams joins in toward the end, but this was one of the album’s more disappointing songs.

“Does It,” on the other hand, remains one of my favorites, as Cudi’s rapid-fire verses reaffirm his rapping ability. In the chorus, the artist repeats “I does it, yeah” in an unrestrained show of self-confidence that proves more contagious than obnoxious.

“The emotion in [Cudi’s] voice shines through the autotune.”

“Dance 4 Eternity” is an oversexual slow jam about seeing “that body wet” and “making “moments we couldn’t possibly forget.” If you’re into that, give it a listen, but moving on…

“Distant Fantasies,” as the title may suggest, is more of the same with the addition of lying and cheating on the part of Cudi’s ex, so again, moving on…

“Wounds” gets the album back on track, as Cudi sings about his recovery from mental illness and suicidal tendencies. The emotion in his voice shines through the autotune and actually makes for an inspirational track about dealing with depression, a theme to which nearly any listener will relate at some point.

image courtesy of Wikimedia under a Creative Commons License
André 3000 in 2014

“Mature Nature” brings back the album’s upbeat tone with Cudi relating his girl to Heaven, which is not the most original idea. However, the relaxing melody and the song’s purpose in defining the levels of love make the track decent filler in the context of the album.

Cudi uses “Kitchen” as a platform to discourage uncommitted lovers from approaching him. It has a catchy chorus and unique electronic sound, per usual, but there’s not much to dig into here.

“Cosmic Warrior” is an extended metaphor describing Cudi’s battle with depression, and let me say just one thing. The tune is catchy albeit repetitive. Noticing a trend?

“The Guide” is more about Cudi and Benjamin’s love lives with, um, aggressive women, so there’s not much else to say. However, Benjamin’s verse is noticeably vibrant given he is 41 years old.

In “The Commander,” Cudi sings about how we command our own lives, which continues the motivational force driving the album. The tune is (you guessed it) catchy, and Cudi should seriously consider releasing an instrumental to this entire album.

Fittingly, “Surfin’” ends the album on a high note, with Pharrell Williams returning for a celebratory track about Cudi’s self-empowerment. “Now, I ain’t riding no waves / Too busy making my own waves,” Cudi repeats in an assertion of his independence as a successful artist. Not to mention, this track contains the album’s funniest one liner, when Cudi proclaims, “The industry is so full of sh** / Welcome y’all to the enema.” Priceless.

Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is, without a doubt, one of Cudi’s top two albums. Whether it edges out Man on the Moon: The End Of Day is for the listener to decide. But I for one have a new favorite, and I’m happy to hear Cudi’s triumphant return to music and the moment. The inspirational message within this album makes it worth listening to far beyond its 86 minute length; just be ready for some mature material in some of the more risqué tracks.

4 out of 5