Kid Cudi "INSANO" Album Review

BYGabriel Bras Nevares6.2K Views
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Kid Cudi INSANO Review Hip Hop News
2024 Republic Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.
While it's great to see Mr. Rager in a more energetic, carefree, and musically evolved place, the execution on his ninth studio LP leaves a lot to be desired.

Man on the Moon III: The Chosen (2020) was a great full-circle moment for Kid Cudi. He emulated Travis Scott (for whom he is a massive influence) and came through with psych-trap bangers, plus a versatile and emotionally powerful set of Cudder-style cuts. Unfortunately, on the Cleveland native's ninth solo studio album and final Republic Records offering, INSANO, this experiment repeats itself with less exciting results, more filler, and an overall missing vision that usually ties his projects together seamlessly.

While he framed this album as a dedication to his OG fanbase, this sounds like more catering to the contemporary popular sounds in hip-hop that he helped innovate. However, this is no empty desert: Mr. Rager still delivers a handful of tracks worthy of his celebrated discography. But perhaps INSANO's biggest flaw is how it's a pick-and-choose experience rather than a fulfilling front-to-back package.

What Makes INSANO Work?

If you're a big fan of Kid Cudi's hypnotic, dreamy, often cavernous, and entrancing style, or that of the artists he influences, then there's a great chance you'll like INSANO. "OFTEN, I HAVE THESE DREAMS," "ELECTROWAVEBABY" (which got a Ye "co-sign"), "BLUE SKY," and certain choruses, flows, and themes on other tracks are classic Cudi all the way. These are among the cuts that cohesively mesh his influences of hip-hop, pop, indie, and electronic, and this breaks up the track flow in the most engaging ways. "FRESHIE" also provides excellent flows and a structurally distinct song in comparison to the others, whereas "TORTURED" and "FUNKY WIZARD SMOKE" provide a strong focus on despondence and perseverance, respectively.

At first glance, or listening to any track out of context, there are always signs and displays of what makes Kid Cudi so great. Clean, crisp, but impactful production, engaging melodies across songs, carefree lyricism, emotional honesty and range, and an overall healing factor. On that last point, this is probably the 39-year-old's most joyful album. INSANO starts with more bangers and slowly morphs into more mellow fare, but there's a catch. By the time we finally leave the psych-trap lane in the tracklist, we've heard two or three of these records too many.

Where Did Kid Cudi Miss The Mark?

Kid Cudi attends the premiere of "The Book of Clarence" on January 05, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

While INSANO represents the WZRD artist's talents across the board, listening from top to bottom can be repetitive, vapid, and messy. He's always had jumbled and choppy flows, but these instrumentals require a strong melodic and structural focus that these performances never capture. "KEEP BOUNCING," "A TALE OF A KNIGHT," and "CUD LIFE" are examples of tracks that come and go with minimal impact. In addition, with few instances of memorable wordplay or phrasing, detailed narratives, or strong hooks, there's little to latch onto emotionally and lyrically beyond the basic descriptions we've heard so much in Kid Cudi's catalog. There are only so many times we can hear about blunts, baddies, fast cars, and being better than all the haters he claims not to care about.

Even the professional-grade production is too limited in terms of psych-trap aesthetics and structure. Beats like "MOST AIN'T DENNIS" and "FRESHIE" are amazing, but they're sonically not that different from the mostly passable and largely static pack of instrumentals here. Many of these songs needed more fleshing out and development to materialize fully, and to distinguish themselves from others. Meanwhile, the features range from very good to average, and most of them are too short to stun. A$AP Rocky shines on "WOW," Kid Cudi goes back and forth with Travis Scott and Young Thug on "GET OFF ME" and "RAGER BOYZ" respectively, and Lil Wayne provides a brief but fun set of bars on "SEVEN." Lil Yachty's vibrato does its thing on "TOO DAMN HIGH," Pharrell's okay on "AT THE PARTY," and the XXXTENTACION sample is well-treated. Alas, they don't astonish.

What's Next For Mr. Rager?

Kid Cudi performs at Rolling Loud Miami on July 22, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Jason Koerner/Getty Images)

Overall, INSANO feels like Kid Cudi just having fun for an hour, but without the focus and intent to translate that experience compellingly. With a deluxe on the way and his career in limbo thanks to possible retirement (though he's by no means slowing down beyond music), it's hard to tell where he'll go next. Still, there is one reason why this album should be celebrated that has nothing to do with its quality. Scott Mescudi's been through a lot: the loss of a father, mental health struggles, addiction, and the constant criticism, doubt, attacks, and misunderstanding perceptions that have plagued him throughout his career.

For this album, we can't say we don't see where the haters are coming from. Yet despite his overbearing references to them, it feels like he is happier and healthier than ever, allowing himself to bask in this blessing and triumph while still speaking on his demons. As such, INSANO may not reach the standards Kid Cudi set for himself, but it does represent personal growth and peace that no project's acclaim could amount to. So while this attempt was neither great nor terrible, we'll always be excited for whatever he does next, whether as the artist we grew to love or as the influential, multi-disciplinary creative he always knew he'd become.

About The Author
Gabriel Bras Nevares is a music and pop culture news writer for HotNewHipHop. He started in 2022 as a weekend writer and, since joining the team full-time, has developed a strong knowledge in hip-hop news and releases. Whether it’s regular coverage or occasional interviews and album reviews, he continues to search for the most relevant news for his audience and find the best new releases in the genre. What excites him the most is finding pop culture stories of interest, as well as a deeper passion for the art form of hip-hop and its contemporary output. Specifically, Gabriel enjoys the fringes of rap music: the experimental, boundary-pushing, and raw alternatives to the mainstream sound. As a proud native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, he also stays up-to-date with the archipelago’s local scene and its biggest musical exponents in reggaetón, salsa, indie, and beyond. Before working at HotNewHipHop, Gabriel produced multiple short documentaries, artist interviews, venue spotlights, and audio podcasts on a variety of genres and musical figures. Hardcore punk and Go-go music defined much of his coverage during his time at the George Washington University in D.C. His favorite hip-hop artists working today are Tyler, The Creator, Boldy James, JPEGMAFIA, and Earl Sweatshirt.