Label: Universal Republic
Released: February 28th

The whole "rapper makes a rock album" thing has been done many times before, usually with extremely corny results. So why does WZRD—Kid Cudi's guitar-driven album with longtime producer Dot Da Genius—work? Well, for one, despite being identified as a “rapper,” Kid Cudi's strengths have always been as more of a melodic songwriter than as a lyrical MC. And for another, Cudi and Dot take rock's D.I.Y. aesthetic to heart, foregoing superstar producers for the simple solace of the home studio.

The duo clearly culls influences from all eras, spanning '70s art rock, '90s grunge, and modern indie rock. But Cudi never sounds like he's wearing a costume, grounding the lyrics in themes that have run throughout his career. Whether he's making sobriety kick-ass on “High Off Life” or yearning for his long-distance lover on “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie,” this is vintage Cudder that feels right at home with the rest of his catalogue.

Even when exploring more cliché rock topics, like on the haunting suicide dream “Efflictim,” Cudi's enigmatic personality sells it in a convincing way. Truth be told, if this album was branded as another Cudi solo album instead of a rock side project, it probably would have been heralded as a creative triumph. Despite an uneasy critical reception, WZRD is proof that Cudi's talent as a songwriter can take him anywhere he damn well pleases.