The realm of the US has constantly propagated emotions from outrage, to hopelessness, to depression within the black community- emotions that get buried for sake of survival, and mental health has only recently taken a seat at the table. It has often been deemed a “white problem,” and so, collectively, we turned our heads to the issues, dismissed them or tried to pray them away. Generations of survival numbed us to our identities within mental health advocacy. Survival over restoration. And we continue to prioritize factors outside of self. But many solutions come from asking “why?” so many times that you discover your own inner secrets and reveal your own internal layers, as Cudi does. The current “woke” movement (along with countless other factors- globalization, Donald Trump, social media etc.), has opened the door for an expansion and uniting of black self-expression and love. We must be #unfuckwittable in our expression to free ourselves from our demons. Cudi approaches his mental health with agonizing honesty- a true reflection of self to learn and grow from.
Cudi openly faces theme’s we tend to internalize, rather than confront. He takes on rage, fragility, loneliness, depression, fear, revenge and defeat and meets them at crossroads with his lion-heartedness, resurrection, freedom, power and immortality. Honesty is #unfuckwittable. Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is an emotional breakthrough from the morosity of Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven- a lyrical sigh of relief. He takes inspiration from each previous album, to transport us in four #unfuckwittable parts:
Act I: Tuned
In Act I, Cudi tunes us into what he calls frequency. It’s a vibration- a level of harmony which translates to ‘love’. We get a breakdown of how be to #unfuckwittable and how that mindset will lead one to the frequency. We must be transparent, find ways to release negative energy, trust the universe and devote ourselves. “Swim in the Light” pulsates against the fervent warning that numbing the pain won’t make it go away, it just silences it temporarily. He reminds himself and us to swim in the light- and be transparent. Self realization and dreams of his past draw him toward a universal trust that is expressed on “By Design.” We tap into universal power and the concept of a self-prophesized destiny.
“The choices you make, is all by design”
Cudi decides to live in the moment and seize moments as they become available to him. Andre 3000 makes his first of two prized appearances. His animated alliteration and word dissecting flow urges us to keep moving through life, and don’t get stuck!
“Stuck inside a statue, look at you…”
Act I concludes with “All In.” Gentle waves greet the track, and we’re driven into another iteration of the frequency. Cudi reveals his vulnerability in his relationship. He describes himself as exposed and pure, and it’s relieving to hear that kind of candor. Black men are described as and often feel obligated to subject themselves to the stereotypes of masculinity. This sense of obligation often plays out as a strong opposition to attributes that are stereotypically feminine. The opposition breeds a toxic foundation that lacks balance and respect for balance. So when Cudi describes himself as “exposed and pure” (or “fragile and delicate,” as heard on Speedin Bullet), he’s openly embracing emotions that are often saddled with the opposite sex- being #unfuckwittble in the face of his own masculinity. He reminds himself that he needs to face the man he was to make space for the man he is becoming. Ultimately, he surrenders to the frequency, trusting the fact that “whatever happens, happens.”
Act II: The Prophecy
In The Prophecy Cudi reflects on his life and the times he took control of his destiny. He opens with “Rose Golden,” where he humbly praises his mother for having faith in him, and reminds himself of his own greatness. It’s an uplifting track with Willow Smith haloing over the hook as Cudi looks back on his life, surprised at how far he’s made it. He prides himself on harnessing his will-power and honors his mother for being the one constant of support. Beyond her support wasn't a powerhouse of supportive friends and family. It was of fake friends, gossip and jealousy, but his willpower put him above these forces, and helped him distance himself from those who weren’t truly on his team.
Throughout the act Cudi is upbeat and self assured. We end with, “Does It,” a wizard-talking, bass-pounding, negro spiritual of vicariously living #unfuckwittable, “wit two t’s nigga”. There are zero fucks left, as he asserts his (often unacclaimed) accomplishments with aggressive confidence. Cockiness is something that black people have often been told to tame or tone down. We are expected to be humble and modest in the face of success. Athletes like Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali and Kobe Bryant, though the best at their art, have been told they are too full of pride. Fans have turned their backs to athletes at the top of their game for lack of a polite enough victory. Cudi gives a middle finger to the idea of being humble in your achievements.
“If I piss people off along the way, bonus!”
Act III: Niveaux de l'Amour (Levels of Love)
We reach the climax in Act III, where he reveals the levels of the frequency. Trust is the elemental struggle, but on “Dance for Eternity,” he accepts the inevitable and choses to enjoy life rather than dwell on an unchangeable fact. Track by track he releases old emotions to make space for happiness, confidence and acceptance. “Wounds” is a graphic forewarning of the necessity of self-healing and delving into deep personal truths. These painful truths open the door to trusting in his “Mature Nature.” We then level up one last time for my favorite track of the album, “Kitchen.”
"Kitchen" comes in triumphantly, with strings jutting joyously. It’s a marvelous arrangement of melodies, instruments and tonal hums. He’s “punch drunk love annoyed,” and warns that to have him, you must be able to withstand the heat of his love. The underlying love story we’ve been audience to, has a seemingly unending cycle of issues. But on “Kitchen,” trust is what breaks the cycle. The repetitive production and lyrics, echo this sentiment, as Cudi speaks to his intergalactic, star-crossed frequency. The only tragedy would be to abandon it. The track makes us feel just as transported as him. We feel lifted by the frequency.
Act VI: It’s Bright and Heaven is Warm
The final act is packed with self- prophecy, taking control and riding the wave of originality. The transposed nod to DMX’s 1998 album It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, makes for a promising conclusion. “Cosmic Warrior,” is his battlefield proclamation of self-greatness, “The Guide,” speaks to the women who know what they want and “The Commander” sees Cudi taking full command of his life and future.
The last track on any hip hop artists album usually is key to mindset, theme or ultimate love. Often reflective of love for mom, family or anecdote of personal growth. Speedin Bullet 2 Heavens’ conclusion burned into us as Cudi drowned in his hopelessness- ultimately surrendering to the contentment of loneliness. We conclude Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ with Cudi manifesting his ultimate #unfuckwittable attitude, on this joyous track, outro’ed with his renowned yodeling and African inspired drum work. Surfin’ has us clapping and swaying in bliss as Cudi reassures us he’ll only be surfin’ on his own wave of originality with prideful confidence. He gives a necessary nod to his Blackness and success.
“Feelin' awesome to be black, and I'm murkin' all competition”
My friend once told me that Kid Cudi saved his life. He isn’t the only one who shares this sentiment. Fans everywhere give thanks to Scott for helping them through their bouts of depression and personal strife. It was the connection through pain and triumph that gives Cudi fans a sense of resilience and empowerment in their hardest times. We listen and remember that demons are everywhere but we need to be on our own personal pursuit of happiness. Like Cudi, we must be open to accept our personal truths and ride the wave of self-awareness. Cudi doesn’t blind us with ego or a false sense of his reality. We don’t feel fooled or abandoned by him, and so we continue to surf with him 6 albums in.