After last year’s indie rock-influenced Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, while not a part of Kid Cudi’s alternative hip hop-centric Man on the Moon series in name, is a definite return to form. At a total running time of just under ninety minutes, Mescudi delivers nineteen tracks in a vein not dissimilar to the darkly subversive, neo-psych vibes he explored on 2010’s Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. And while MotMII’s blatant marijuana references may be missing from PP&DS’ lyrics, there’s plenty of the trademark introspectiveness, spirituality, sexuality, and celestial references Kid Cudi fans have come to expect from the tireless renaissance man.
Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is broken up into acts. Act 1: Tuned finds Cudi establishing a melancholic tone during the first handful of tracks. This tone is perhaps most evident on the song “Releaser”, a song that has Mescudi creepily whispering lines like, “You knew you’d find me, you knew just where to find me” before singer Kacy Hill enters, harmonizing with Scott during the eerie, ghostlike choruses. Outkast’s André 3000 (credited as André Benjamin) makes his first of two welcome appearances on the track “By Design”. Benjamin’s catchy hook, combined with steel drums and playful synths, makes the song the most memorable of the album’s first half.
Act 2: Prophecy provides five tracks that have Kid Cudi getting more introspective and psychedelic. The obvious standout in this grouping is “Rose Golden”, which features vocal assistance by Willow Smith who chant-sings lyrics about the importance of individuality. Travis Scott makes a solid appearance on “Baptized in Fire”, a track that sounds like it could have easily been an outtake from either one of Mescudi’s Man on the Moon LPs. Act 2 is concluded with the twin tracks “Flight at First Sight/Advanced” (featuring Pharrell Williams) and “Does It” which mimics its predecessor’s tempo and chorus and has Cudi brag-rapping lines like, “God has a plan for everybody, but I’m it, Chosen.”
Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’s second half begins with Act 3: Niveaux de l’Amour. This collection is the double album’s only feature-free set and may be part of the reason it’s also PP&DS’ weakest moment. “Wounds” has Scott attempting to sound impassioned while crying out lines like, “We all have times, when we weep, it’s a troubled life, traumatized psychologically,” but the whole exercise ends up feeling like dragged-out filler. Similarly, during a song titled “Mature Nature”, Cudi moans the words “Heaven” and “again” for four agonizing minutes over a string section and a tedious, wavy bass line.
The record’s second half is concluded with Act 4: It’s Bright and Heaven Is Warm. André 3000 makes his second appearance on the sexually edgy track “The Guide”. The song distinguishes itself with rhythmic footsteps and a spooky John Carpenter-esque synthesizer line. Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ is concluded with the celebratory “Surfin’”. Over a groovy bass, cheerful horns, and a stomp-along beat, Cudi wraps things up in fine form, repeating the lines, “I ain’t riding no waves, too busy making my own waves, baby, surfin’ on my own wave, baby” in between unapologetic, self-congratulatory rhymes. The song builds to the closing lyric, “Better get up off of my wave” repeated into oblivion.
While there are definitely more than a few tracks that will hook casual listeners instantly, Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ will be a grower for most. Hardcore Kid Cudi fans who follow Mescudi’s every move will get out of PP&DS what they put into it. Those willing to invest time with this concept album in its entirety will ultimately be rewarded with the darkly introspective reflections, philosophies of universal connectivity, and cryptic, interpretative revelations they’ve come to enjoy from past Kid Cudi releases. On the other hand, the aforementioned casual listener, who may lack the patience to sit through an hour and a half of such content, would be advised to instead seek out the album’s more immediately accessible moments.