After a decade of anticipation, the final instalment in Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon trilogy is here at last, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. For many, the 36-year-old’s voice is akin to a warm embrace from an old friend; his raw, therapeutic musings on personal experiences of anxiety and depression have now soundtracked his listeners’ own ups and downs for over ten years, serving as a kind of shared cathartic release.
In essence, The Chosen is a concept album, picking up where its two predecessors left off. As its liner notes explain, Scott Mescudi is continually plagued by dark thoughts, which manifest themselves in the form of his imaginary nemesis, Mr. Rager. Segmented into four ‘acts’ demarcated by short bursts of noise, the album tells a story and increasingly rewards listeners for their patience, with Cudi “fighting to win back his soul” and gradually finding his stride over the course of the project. The heavy-handed opening chapter "Return 2 Madness" – formed of the first five tracks – lives up to its name. Largely zeroing in on current rap trends, this run of songs lacks individuality, with “She Knows This” sounding as though it could have been written for Travis Scott or Lil Uzi Vert.
Things get progressively better with Act 2, where he begins to take more risks and sounds more self-assured. On “Heaven on Earth”, the Cleveland singer, rapper and producer glides with ease over twinkling music box melodies, and on the electrifying “Show Out” (feat. Pop Smoke and Skepta), he tries his hand at drill, deftly weaving in and out of pizzicato violin passages. By Act 3, ‘Heart of Rose Gold’, he’s in his element. “Elsie’s Baby Boy (flashback)” sees him tackle an unconventional 6/8 time signature atop marching drums and glacial synth pads. Late highlights comes in the form of the unexpected and introspective Phoebe Bridgers collaboration “Lovin’ Me”, in which the song’s protagonists tread a path of self-discovery, and the equally invigorating “The Pale Moonlight”, which utilises sparkling arpeggios and hushed delivery at times to make for effortlessly gripping results. While it might take a few listens to make sense of the album's seemingly muddled introduction, one thing is clear: by the end of this hour-long journey, Cudi has reached his destination.