In the often macho world of hip hop, Kid Cudi stands as a strange customer. The 26-year-old Cleveland rapper is, to all intents and purposes, an introverted gawky, geek.
Having seen Kanye West open all the genre's dorm-doors with The College Dropout half a decade ago he set about chiseling his debut album Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009). It was one of the most ambitious, challenging hip hop albums of recent note.
However, slow to come to the boil (there were a lot of Cudi's now trademark sallow beats), impatient critics dismissed it as over-cooked whilst fans expecting an album of Day N' Nite's (his international hit after production duo Crookers remixed it) were left scratching their head by an hour-long concept album narrated by Common which didn't, shall we say, exactly skip along. It was a dark, winding, slow-rollercoaster through his inner-consciousness.
Now it's clear the man born Scott Mescudi doesn't really do festival-slayers like Jay-Z, Kanye et al; instead, he makes hip hop sound like it was discovered on the surface of the Jupiter. A tribute to his tenacity, here Cudi has stuck to his promise and returned with part II of a trilogy of albums. And once again it's not an immediately engaging listen.
Cudi's penchant for wintry, bleak beats and lurching, frosty melodies remain. Following the pattern of his debut, the poppier highlights - such as Scott Mescudi Vs. The World (featuring Cee-Lo) and Erase Me (featuring friend and mentor West) - are infrequent jewels tucked amongst 17 tracks. Sadly, their irregularity only serves to exaggerate their position as high-points.
Beyond that, the concept falls down. Part I at least felt like a whole body of work. Hard work yes, but rewarding. This just feels like a never-ending chore. The woeful Marijuana ("it's the only thing which keeps me level"), MANIAC and Ashin' Kusher in particular are tiresome, half-hearted and directionless.
Considering some of Cudi's non-musical controversies (punching one of his own fans and being sentenced for cocaine possession, plus his candid comments about other rappers), and his warping the genre's traditional boundaries, ...Mr. Rager can only be heard as a drab disappointment. No doubt he has more between his ears than many others in his field, but when Drake, Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa are teaming new ideas with headline-stealing hits it makes Cudi's personal challenge look all the more difficult.