Although it doesn’t yet have a release date, Kid Cudi’s Speedin’ Bullet To Heaven seems like it could arrive any day now. Back on the Fourth of July, Cudder said the album was 98% done, and with the first single (“Confused”) dropping last week, we’re now officially in #CudderSeason. Details on the album are scarce thus far, but the Cleveland MC has said that it’ll be largely based around live instrumentation and won’t have any featured vocalists. Basically, all signs point towards an even more psychedelic, rock-influenced jaunt than last year’s Satellite Flight.
Cudi’s been dealing with potential alienation of his earliest supporters with every release that followed his 2009 debut, picking up electric guitars, almost entirely eliminating rapped bars from his music, and making “mass appeal” the last thing on his mind, so he’s already an old hat at this, but we do still have a wish list for his new tunes.
At least a little rapping
“Confused” certainly isn’t Cudi’s first song that’s entirely sung, but as he’s been outspoken about the rock-influenced, decidedly un-hip-hop nature of the new album, it’s causing at least a bit of concern among his day one fans. Cudi’s definitely improved his vocal chops since the early days, with “Confused” being one of his better singing performances to date, but an album completely devoid of bars is still a tall order for him to fill. Ever since the whole nu-metal wave of the early ‘00s, merging the rock and rap worlds has been much more taboo than it was when Rage Against The Machine reigned supreme, but Cudi attempting a bars-and-guitars approach on this album might be our best hope for some revival.
Skilled session musicians
Cudi previously said that he played most, if not all, of the bass and guitar parts heard on the album. But after hearing the rudimental riff on “Confused,” composed of just four chords, we hope that he enlisted the help of session musicians for at least a few tracks. One of his go-to collaborators, Emile Haynie, is a skilled drummer and keyboard player, which should definitely help if Cudder is really doing away with traditional hip-hop sounds, but his limited chops on stringed instruments might not be able to carry the melodic backbone of an album on their own.
We already know that Travis Barker contributed drums to at least one song, so that should help. As far as bass and guitars go though, Cudi could probably swing collabs with Thundercat, Mike Dean or whoever did the dope guitar work on Miguel’s recent album. The question is, does he want to?
A Ratatat collaboration
Along with fellow indie rockers MGMT, instrumental two-piece Ratatat are partially responsible for the second biggest hit of Cudi’s career, “Pursuit Of Happiness” (“Day ’N Nite” still being number one). Since the release of that song in 2009, Cudi hasn’t collborated with MGMT again, but his second most recent song, “Love,” came in over a previously-existing Ratatat jam, “Sunblocks.” Saying that he got the duo’s blessing to release his version of the track, Cudi still appears to be in communication with the band. He did say that Speedin’ Bullet… wouldn’t have any features, but would a vocal-less feature from the guitar-rockers even count?
More poetic lyrics
Cudi’s never really been included in the conversation of “GOAT lyricists” in modern rap, with people focusing on his melodies, production and artistic vision as the main attractions of his music, but he’s strung together some pretty artful phrases in the past. Usually, these have come in the form of wise platitudes like “Running from your problems is a race you’ll never win” and ”Ignorance to cope man, ignorance is bliss / Ignorance is love and I need that shit.” Last year’s Satellite Flight felt a little short on the inspirational lyrics, though.
Songs like “Balmain Jeans” and “Troubled Boy” focused more on repetition than revelation, and although the album was clearly more about the music than the lyrics (that’s how we ended up with three instrumental cuts on it), it led to Cudi seeming uninspired throughout a lot of it. He recently shared a pretty intriguing poem that he had written, and it’d be nice to see him veering a little closer to that style of writing.
Some lo-fi experimentation
Since he first arrived on the scene, Cudi’s been pretty integral to mainstream rap’s continued flirtation with experimental sounds. While far from MF DOOM-level weird, Cudder has made it explicitly clear that he’s not aiming for the radio or trying to please his existing fanbase, instead opting to go wherever his ravenously creative mind takes him. In the past, this has meant aiming directly at rap fans’ opinions on singing rappers, electric guitars and indie rock, but with the internet’s rapidly-expanding musical underground, Cudi’s going to have to pull out some new tricks to stay ahead of the pack.
One of the most uncharted territories as far as sonics in hip-hop goes is low fidelity recording, referred to as lo-fi in the rock community. No matter how experimental the rapper, they always seem to aim for crisp, clear sonics that never forsake sound quality for arty endeavors (unless we’re talking about poorly mastered, leaked Chief Keef demos). Without lo-fi experiments in other genres, we’d never have indie rock, chillwave, black metal and crust punk rock— a sizable faction of influential genres— and so it feels like high time that rap ventured into the lo-fi world.
A demo that Cudi shared a few months ago was exactly this: a shadowy, muffled oddity that certainly sparked conversation among his fans. While assumed unfinished at the time, the song presents an intriguing rendering of Cudi’s voice and guitar. Purposefully lo-fi music was pioneered by people who didn’t necessarily have godlike instrumental prowess, and instead used unique recording techniques to make their music sound like nothing else out. Cudi’s far from a classically trained singer or guitarist, so this approach might benefit him.