Kid Cudi — “Surfin’” TRACK REVIEW
This is the calm before the Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ storm.
Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi is returning to the world of hip hop once again with his forthcoming sixth solo commercial studio album, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. The anticipation for this project couldn’t be higher as Kid Cudi has spent relatively two years without indicating a genuine interest in making another rap album. However, earlier this year, he did manage to collaborate with his former boss, Kanye West, which landed him a couple guest spots on The Life of Pablo (“Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” and “Waves”); and he was even featured on Travis Scott’s recent album Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (“way back” and “through the late night”). Aside from his guest appearances on Pablo and Birds, Kid Cudi hasn’t actually rapped anything since 2014 — which is when he released his Satellite Flight: A Journey to Mother Moon album; an album that I wasn’t incredibly in love with but still managed to find some enjoyable moments on. Rather than follow-up Satellite Flight with the highly teased and sought-after Man on the Moon 3 — a project that Cudi assured his fans would soon come after Satellite Flight — he decided to alter his trajectory to focus on rock music again. Yes, you heard me right; again would Kid Cudi fans have the onerous task of listening to another Kid Cudi rock album. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is what Cudi gave us last year. And truthfully, I was eager to listen to it. Cudi’s first attempt at a rock album was the faux-rock WZRD project which he produced in tandem with Dot Da Genius. I personally didn’t find SB2H very good — it was actually quite awful as far as rock albums go; however, it did leave an impression on me. I found it interesting that a household name rapper like Kid Cudi — who has proven to be an undeniably popular rapper — would essentially risk his entire rap career to pursue music of a different genre again — rock music specifically. He’s no stranger to using rock instrumentation and guitar samples in his music; some of his best songs have those rock/guitar-driven elements (“Pursuit of Happiness” “GHOST!” “Immortal”); but that doesn’t warrant the creation of a rock album. SB2H was definitely an anomaly (no pun intended), and hopefully the world won’t have to endure another rock album from Cudi again.
To supplement the delay of his new album, Kid Cudi saw fit to release an unheard new song that’s slated to be on Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’: “Surfin’.”
Sonically, “Surfin’” is musical ear candy: I love the rising horns on this track; the snappy percussion offers an upbeat and vibrant feel; I love the kicks and claps that are manageable to listen to; the bass even feels good to listen to — the track overall evokes great R&B vibes in the most stylistically way possible. Pharrell handles the production on this song. And you can hear that Neptunes percussion and influence all over “Surfin’.” But it becomes less enjoyable once Kid Cudi starts rapping his verses. I’m immediately reminded of how terrible a rapper he’s actually become over the years. The lyrics, aside from the hook — which is moderately catchy, and I do mean moderately — are nothing special and kind of underwhelming. Even the singing Cudi does on the hook is by no means good singing. In the first verse, Cudi drops this line: “I am on my Kubla Khan/Like a Spielberg Close Encounter form” which is just a reference. Simply referencing something doesn’t make it thought-provoking or enjoyable to listen to; nor does it exhibit genuine songwriting. It only serves as a substitute. But this doesn’t surprise me. Kid Cudi is the apotheosis of an artist who tries to push lazy songwriting as deep and artsy.
I also dislike the concept of this track. It’s obvious that “Surfin’” is Kid Cudi’s shallow efforts at making a diss record. Cudi’s assertion, as implied by the hook of this song “Now I ain’t riding no waves/Too busy making my own wave, baby” is that he isn’t riding off the success and name-recognition of other artists in the industry — except he is, on this very track, by name-dropping Pharrell, even though Pharrell isn’t actually performing on the song — and he has throughout his career, which is why he’s even famous. His entire professional music career and commercial successes are because of his relationships in the industry. Cudi became incredibly famous back in 2008 because of the success of his A Kid Named Cudi mixtape — a mixtape which featured proper artistic development from former Kanye West A&R Patrick “Plain Pat” Reynolds. Plain Pat is an industry guy. Cudi is delirious if he believes that his success is entirely because of his own efforts — it’s simply not true. A great deal of his success is also because of Kanye West. Kanye signed Cudi to G.O.O.D. Music, provided him with support, toured with him, and recruited him to work on [his] 808s & Heartbreak album. Time after time, West talked about Cudi’s music and style. He labeled Kid Cudi as his favorite artist ever. West even crowned and praised Kid Cudi’s debut commercial album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, affirming it was the new College Dropout. This attention and support that West provided to Cudi was unorthodox. So for Cudi to pompously tout on this song how insecure people in the music industry are and how he doesn’t need them — which is a message he’s put out there for years now — is highly hypocritical. The chorus of this song is a direct jab at Kanye West; the entire parallel to “waves” is obvious.
“Surfin’” isn’t the most lyrically compelling or introspective song, but at least he’s rapping on it. While he doesn’t exhibit high-level rapping skill like Eminem or punchy pop-rap charisma like Drake, Cudi’s delivery and ability to manipulate his voice appropriately has established an easily distinguishable sound unique to him. And this is him in his element. However, that doesn’t mean it’s great. Aside from the bombastic, well-groomed production from Pharrell, I didn’t find this song appealing in the slightest. I just hope the other seventeen songs (once released) aren’t as lyrically polarizing as this one was.
Give it a listen down below.