Kid Cudi is one of the pioneers of modern rap music. He was one of the first rappers to rap in-depth about depression and personal vulnerability, inspiring the current generation of emo rappers such as Drake, Travis Scott and Lil Uzi Vert. He’s never been the strongest of rappers, but has showcased a unique musical talent with the sort of production used in conjunction with his space themes and blend of rapping and singing. With the assistance of his stellar hookwriting, Kid Cudi has continued to push boundaries by trying something new, even though it has not always been well-received.
Out of nine albums and one mixtape, here’s Kid Cudi’s best projects ranked worst to best.
10. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven (2015)
The infamous Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven was an experimental failure with too many flaws to mention. Cudi continued on 2010’s WZRD route by releasing a totally rock-inspired album, resulting in his worst album to date. The Rockstar Rager drowns himself in 26 tracks of cheap guitar riffs, off-key wailing, and worst of all, Beavis and Butthead skits. Its 18-track side is backed up by an additional 8 tracks filled with unpolished rehearsal demos, tracks that only prolong the conclusive mediocrity of Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven.
Best tracks: “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven”
9. WZRD (2012)
WZRD represents the first attempt at Cudi experimenting with his love for rock music. With the assistance of Dot da Genius, WZRD‘s amateur take on rock is pulled off much better than Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven‘s. The electric guitar on “Love Hard” is hard-hitting, backed up by an infectious chorus, and “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie” is a standout for its emotional tone. Aside these highlights, the content of WZRD is not all that memorable.
Best tracks: “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie”, “Love Hard”
8. Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon (2014)
On Satellite Flight, the space themes of Man on the Moon return, deeply embedded in the production. The title track is a heroic anthem for the summoning of the Moonman, who shows that he can also get sensual (“Balmain Jeans”) and introspective (“Too Bad I Have to Destroy You Now.”) The drawback for Satellite Fight: The Journey to Mother Moon is the four instrumental songs that take up nearly half of the album’s runtime. Their inclusions is what makes Satellite Flight a forgettable album, proving that Satellite Flight would have been better off as an EP. Context is also important for Satellite Flight, as its release was to serve as a precursor to the now-extinct Man on the Moon III. If the album was released, the placement of Satellite Flight could’ve been much different.
Best tracks: “Balmain Jeans”, “Satellite Flight”, “Copernicus Landing”
7. Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ (2016)
Cudi’s most recent solo album leaves much to be desired, despite packing in a lot of material. The lack of brevity is what pulls back Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. It takes time to get through the full 90 minutes, and songs like “Does It”, “Releaser” and “Distant Fantasies” are forgettable tracks that could have easily been left off. There’s a minimalist sound to the album which successfully creates that typical moody Cudi vibe that you expect, but the lyrical concepts and verses get really repetitive, with the production falling flat in certain segments as well. While it is a satisfactory album, trimming a handful of songs could have resulted into a stellar Cudi project.
Best tracks: “Wounds”, “Mature Nature”, “Frequency”, “By Design”, “All In”
6. Man on the Moon III: The Chosen (2020)
The rager’s long lost album ascends from the ashes to sweetly tie up the greatest hip hop trilogy of the generation. The Chosen bears its previous instalments in mind, but is mindful of becoming a mere replication. The conscious focus on rapping leaves no room to disappoint, as Cudi sharpens his pen and leaves the corny bars behind. But the melodies remain in abundance, with no single song forgetting to leave an infectious hook. The raps, vocals and hums are all there, presenting exactly what is expected of Kid Cudi and more.
Best tracks: “The Void”, “Sept. 16”, “Show Out”, “Rockstar Knights”, “Sad People”, “Lovin’ Me”, “Tequila Shots”, “Lord I Know”
5. A Kid Named Cudi (2008)
A Kid Named Cudi was the perfect introduction to the musical styles that helped build Cudi’s loyal fanbase. It was the start of the space concept, left-field production and melodic performances. There’s classic Cudi tracks such as “Down & Out”, the mellow ballad “The Prayer”, the upbeat “Embrace the Martian”. It was arguably one of the most unique tapes to come out in 2008.
Best tracks: “Down & Out”, “The Prayer”, “Man on the Moon”, “Embrace the Martian”, “Heaven at Nite”
4. Indicud (2013)
Many fans of the Man on the Moon era may disagree with the following statement – Indicud is Cudi’s most unique release to date. 2013’s Indicud turned out to be Cudi’s most successful experimental album. It stands out in his catalogue because of it’s consistently unusual electronic beats, such as the slow psychedelic synths on the extremely catchy “Just What I Am”, one of the best songs on the album. It’s anthemic, as is the upbeat and uplifting “Immortal”. Cudi sticks to his rap shit on the majority of the tracks, bringing the best of his bars on “King Wizard”, “Cold Blooded” and “Solo Dolo, Pt. 2”. The only clear flaw on the album is the 9-minute “Afterwards”, which is unfortunately one of the most bullshit and unnecessarily long songs of Cudi’s career. Indicud is an underrated project that deserves more praise than it gets.
Best tracks: “Just What I Am”, “Unfuckwittable”, “King Wizard”, “Immortal”, “Brothers”, “Red Eye”, “Girls”, “Cold Blooded”
3. KIDS SEE GHOSTS (2018)
It took Kid Cudi over a decade to release a collaborative project with GOOD’s very own Kanye West, and the results do not disappoint. The concise, 7-track Kids See Ghosts sees Cudi reentering Man on the Moon territory while maintaining his experimental edge. With the guidance of Kanye West, Kid Cudi’s experimentation hits much more successfully than his solo efforts, with both artists bringing out the best in each other. The rapping of Indicud, moon-man of MOTM and rockstar of WZRD are all present on Kids See Ghosts, adding up to a true return to form for Mr. Rager.
Best tracks: “Cudi Montage”, “Feel the Love”, “Reborn”, “4th Dimension”, “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)”, “Fire”
2. Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (2010)
Cudi’s second album is a borderline-classic. He continued to push boundaries, providing luscious, almost Kanye-sounding production and catchy melodies, particularly on “REVOFEV”, “Mojo So Dope” and “Ashin Kusher”. The hypnotising “Marijuana” showcases Cudi’s talent at creating a psychedelic thematic song, which is conveniently 4 minutes and 20 seconds long. “Erase Me” is the album’s best offering at a pop rock song and the discussion of mental state continues on “Trapped in My Mind”. The consistency in the quality of hooks, song concepts, melodies and production makes Man on the Moon II a timeless album with insane levels of replay value.
Best tracks: “Mr. Rager”, “Marijuana”, “REVOFEV”, “Scott Mescudi vs. The World”, “Erase Me”, “Mojo So Dope”, “Ashin Kusher”
1. Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009)
Man on the Moon is Kid Cudi’s classic album. His first album showcases everything that was so unique and brilliant about his sound. The slow and dreamy opening track “In My Dreams” shows careful consideration for song concepts because he sounds like he is literally going to fall asleep. “Soundtrack 2 My Life”, the best song of his career, is extremely catchy while remaining confessional at its core (“I’ve got some issues that nobody can see”). There’s a distinct contrast between uplifting songs and mellow, depressive songs, which represents the inner conflicts within Cudi’s mind.
Tracks such as “Up Up & Away” possess a triumphant sound, while “Solo Dolo” and “My World” make you feel the pain that Cudi is feeling. There’s also the psychedelic, head-spinning drug-inspired cuts such as “Enter Galactic” and “Hyyerr” which are more easy-going. Cudi’s singing is another strength of the album. The hook on “Sky Might Fall” is elevated because of his deep, distinctive voice. It’s not like he’s hitting any notes or anything but the uniqueness in his vocal delivery makes it very catchy. After all those songs there’s also “Day n Nite” but I can’t be describing every single song.
There’s a variety of feelings across Man on the Moon but they all integrate together to accurately become a musical showcase of Kid Cudi’s mental state. Every single song is melodic and enjoyable. It’s one of the most unique albums in recent times and went on to be highly influential, specifically for artists like Drake and Travis Scott. So Man on the Moon is a classic album and also Cudi’s best album. He hasn’t been able to top this one and I doubt he ever will, because it’s one of a kind.
Best tracks: “Soundtrack 2 My Life”, “Pursuit of Happiness”, “Sky Might Fall”, “Up Up & Away”, “Heart of a Lion”, “Day N Nite”, “Solo Dolo”, “Alive”
This article was updated on 17 December 2020 to account for the release of ‘Man on the Moon III: The Chosen’