Kid Cudi has had a long year battling mental health issues, but in spite of his hardships, he's followed through on his promise to release his sixth studio album, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin'. The mammoth four-part, 19-track album offers an early Christmas gift for fans who hoped for a revival of the pre-Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven Cudi sound.
Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' features Pharrell, André 3000 (billed as André Benjamin), Travis Scott, Willow Smith and copious amounts of Cudi's signature humming. Although the lengthy project feels a little drawn out, Cudi's undeniable talent shines throughout; piano and violin melodies and fast-paced percussion electrify songs like "Rose Golden," "By Design" and "Does It," which are easily among the best tracks of the year.
Affirming, upbeat cuts complement Cudi's distinctive nihilism, setting this project apart from earlier works. On "Swim in the Light," an urgent, pulsating synth combines with a bass mimicking an irregular heartbeat to reflect a feeling of anxiety. Cudi's Auto Tuned voice dances over the production, expressing the inability to shake mental anguish despite attempts to numb it, but the album takes a number of positive turns. The aforementioned "Rose Golden" highlights Cudi's ambitious sense of purpose, and in "The Commander," a track written and produced solely by Cudi, he grasps agency over his psyche.
The project's significance is its vulnerability. Not only is Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin' loaded with hits, but it also draws attention to Cudi's renewed sense of self. Cudi has finally slayed his demons, and he sounds all the better for it. (Republic Records)