WZRD – WZRD (Album Review & Full Stream)
Review by Naveed Ahmad (@NaveedMBS)
As 2007 came to a close, a curious-sounding song emerged on the Internet…
Sean Fennessey of SPIN Magazine would describe it as “…an alien outlier.” “It’s all bloops, astral synths, and a remarkable half-sung melody…like some evolutionary strand of new-age rap…,” he would add.
The song had been the product of a two-man, two-day binge in a Brooklyn apartment, creating the instrumental, recording the lyrics, and arranging the final cut. On one hand you had Oladipo Omishore, the producer, a college student, and a child of Nigerian immigrants. On the other hand you had Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, the hybrid rapper/singer, a film school dropout, and a transplant to New York via Cleveland.
That two-day exercise became known as “Day ‘N’ Nite,” and when the dust settled over two years later, “Day ‘N’ Nite,” had peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, sold over two million copies, and garnered two Grammy nominations for Mescudi and Omishore, artistically known as Kid Cudi and Dot Da Genius…
In 2012, Cudi and Dot have linked up exclusively as the rock duo WZRD, and their self-titled debut, WZRD, dropped on February 28th of this year. As a cohesive piece, WZRD is slightly above average, losing significant steam in its last third. However, coming from two artists with hip-hop backgrounds, WZRD also is a bold statement of artistic expression, with flashes of brilliance.
Just as “Day ‘N’ Nite” zeroed in on Scott Mescudi’s loneliness and insecurity, WZRD focuses in on Cudi’s emotions, his love life, and new found sobriety.
At times, it clicks. Accentuated by a raw guitar riff, steady drums, and smartly placed handclaps, “High Off Life” stands out as the first track with vocals. “Never thought the day would come for me/when I would be/high off life,” he says, straining his voice on the last part of the chorus. Vocally, Cudi also shines on the track “Brake,” once again expressing himself in a strained, moaning voice that works well with the spacey rock sound.
Other times, the album clunks. “What would you do if you found out from your friends that I was dead? Would you cycle through your mind/think of all things you should said/or coulda done differently/if I was dead?” Cudi incredulously asks on “Efflictim,” a stripped down, acoustic-like track, with Dot on the piano. At best, these types of lines are repetitive from his last album, Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager. At worst, they are pretentious and annoying. The last four songs on WZRD have these faults, and they all could have been merged into one song, or dropped altogether.
Yet there are moments of true magic on WZRD.
Purchase: WZRD (i-tunes)
For one, Dot is a great producer, and often his production shines on tracks, particularly towards the end of songs. “Love Hard,” breaks from a guitar riff into a smooth, electro instrumental beat for the next two minutes, before returning to the guitar riff for the last minute and a half. As the synths and bass hit your ears, it’s a great opportunity to close your eyes and crank up the volume. Dot switches it up on “Live & Learn” as well, as he lets the drums and bass take over the beat for the last minute-and-half, as the song dissolves into a delicious, grimy, industrial sound.
But the standout track on WZRD is by far “Teleport II Me, Jamie.” Brilliantly sampling “Under Your Spell,” a track from Montreal band Desire, “Teleport II Me, Jamie” is a song about yearning in every sense of the word. Cudi himself would describe it in an interview as “missing someone so bad that you wish they could appear in front of you.” It’s a fantasy concept, but Cudi does his best to make it a reality, calling out, “I want you girl/and I need your body/right here,” over and over again. You will be hard pressed to find a more real, beautiful track in music this year.
Many will point to Kanye West’s pop project, 808s & Heartbreak, as the piece that kicked off the dark, low-fi emotional revolution in hip-hop. However, with 2007’s “Day ‘N’ Nite,” and the brilliant summer 2008 mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, a strong argument can be made that Scott Mescudi is the true godfather, with Dot Da Genius as his right-hand man.
WZRD is a rock record, not a hip-hop one, but the parallel to 2007 is there. Dot and Cudi are once again trying something fresh, and while they don’t touch the trailblazing levels of A Kid Named Cudi, they should be commended for taking a chance.