First off, let’s all breathe a sigh of relief that Kid Cudi gave up trying to be Kurt Cobain, like he did on his last album, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, and actually made a hip hop album.
Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ focuses on the same lyrical tropes that the Man on the Moon series, such as the use of psychedelic mushrooms to help Cudi cope with his depression. He has, however, updated his sound since 2009 and is back to redeem himself after his last couple of releases fell flat.
Kid Cudi has always liked to use poppy synths and this album is no different. This time around, however, he pulls more influences from other genres. Similar to a lot of hip hop in 2016, Cudi infuses alternative R&B into his verses and low frequency synthesizers with a crisp, crunchy and distorted sound into his production.
While his sound has certainly been updated, it’s not exactly reinventing the genre. Because of that, this album feels like an attempt to imitate something that’s already been solidified by other rappers. Fortunately, he didn’t have to innovate to create a pleasurable experience, and Demon Slayin’ certainly has some nice tracks.
The best songs on this album were the ones with dark, brooding and atmospheric production. In particular, “The Guide” most accurately portrays the mood he’s going for. Andre 3000’s guest verse is one of the best here, perfectly fusing his own ’90s Southern sound with a modern flow.
These highlights are few and far between. The consistency of the tracks doesn’t warrant the album’s 90 minutes. Cudi repeats a lot of lyrical themes and the production is also spotty, often sounding like the Kid Cudi of 2009. The album should appeal to existing fans, however. Call it a failed attempt to modernize himself and his sound.
— Michael Massaro