Kid Cudi has a knack for timeliness. For the last 12 years, the mush-mouthed Cleveland musician has always been a half-step ahead of popular music’s curve of influence. There are the obvious examples, like abandoning the classic strictures of mainstream rap for more melodic pastures, and harder-to-pin-down one, like his narcotized, diary-esque tales of intoxication and suicidal thoughts that turned out to presage hip-hop’s very depressing present. That’s what makes “Leader of the Delinquents,” Cudi’s latest major release since 2018’s Kids See Ghosts — and his first during a pandemic — feel like an outlier.
“Leader of the Delinquents” features very few of Kid Cudi’s codified music traits. There’s zero humming, harmonies, or melodies. Instead, Cudi decides to simply rap; it isn’t his best skill, but has often allowed the perennial sad boy to free himself from his more dour tendencies (See: 2010’s “Cudderisback”).
In spurts, “Leader of the Delinquents” is genuinely funny. During the song’s opening salvo, Cudi raps an appropriately dour couplet, “Hello friends, Cudder again / Gotta smack ’em with some shit before the world ends.” Granted, the lyric is very old, but it’s become more potent to hear in 2020 than it was in 2012. Stylistically, Cudi’s rudimentary flow sounds lifted from a late ’80s Will Smith song, and there are a couple of Chicken Soup for the Soul-style lyrics: “Fame and loneliness, the recipe for disaster.” Thankfully, by the second verse, Cudi bounces back reminding listeners he’s “been that nigga even back when I was trippin’ off that white.”
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