Kid Cudi's come a long way since his beginnings here in Cleveland. Since leaving Cleveland in 2003, the rapper joined the ranks of Will Smith, LL Cool J, Mos Def and a host of others in the prestigious "rapper/actor" club. Releasing outstanding rap albums like his debut Man On The Moon: The End Of Day, the rapper turned to Hollywood for films like Need For Speed. While not completely inaccessible, strange takes on production styles and just enough weirdness make the albums more intimate experiences not necessarily for everybody. This is until recently. Cudi's new album, SATELLITE FLIGHT: Journey To Mother Moon, comes off more as the equivalent of an attempt at a big budget sci-fi blockbuster.
When the curtain (literally) dropped last night at Wolstein Center, the stage revealed a space age, rocky fortress straight out of a '60s B-movie that included Cudi's recent album cover as a lit up icon. Amongst a barrage of lights and the womping bass and synths of his album's instrumental opener "Destination: Mother Moon," Cudi appeared. His suit that looked like a combination of Tron and Iron Man came complete with a glowing arc reactor where the heart of his music should be. He started out singing his track "Unfuckwittable" off of 2013's Indicud, and when he performed other tracks like "Soundtrack 2 My Life" and "Immortal" the crowd enjoyed it.
Because of the spectacle of the show — the spacesuit, the kitschy moon rock set — the performance felt contrived, and everything felt forced. With no band or DJ to interact with, Cudi was forced to dance alone amongst moon rocks. It conjured up images of a hapless girl sewing together a shoddy prom dress ("Aww, well, she tried..."). Sometimes, a rapper in a space suit doesn't work. And so, Cudi Stardust proceeded to remind the audience countless times that he was from Cleveland — a fact that was almost certainly not news to anyone. "Ohioans have this unspoken code," Cudi said. "To live rightly." By the time he got to tracks like Crookers remix of "Day 'N' Nite," the energy was thoroughly sucked out of the show. Whether it was because of the arena's natural booming reverb or his endless rants about being true to yourself, the show was exhausting.
What opener King Chip lacked in musicality, he made up for in hyped up showmanship. And yet his stage presence couldn't save him from committing every single rap concert cliché: stopping tracks at seemingly random, anti-climactic points in a song; rapping on top of a track with the original vocals on it; a DJ that obviously doesn't know the music; a dozen people on stage who appear to have no reason to be there; constantly referring to himself as the "OG" (sure, the artist with a relatively short career is the original gangsta in as much as the Original Pancake House is the first ever house of pancakes). On top of that, he repeatedly asked, "Who here is from Cleveland?" I don't know, local-Cleveland-artist, who at this Cleveland-area show, at a Cleveland State University owned arena, featuring two Cleveland native performers, is from Cleveland? May I take a guess? Or can we stop pandering to the audience with needless local references?