“Niggas thinking I’m living life paranoid,” Kid Cudi says early on his third album, Indicud. He’s done a lot to cultivate this perception: The rapper’s persona — solitary stoner-turned-cocaine-addict-turned-bedroom philosopher — has been delivered to us as one long-form soliloquy to a shrink. But if his 2009 debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, and the following year’s equally soul-spilling effort together form one long-winded tale of woe, the singing/rapping emcee’s self-produced new effort, teeming with guests, feels a deliberate attempt to show he’s emerged from the deep unscathed.
There are still classic Cudi confessionals here (“I just experimented and it helped me adjust” he says of his well-publicized drug troubles atop brooding bass on “Burn Baby Burn”), and stabs at musical innovation — see the puzzling four-song, mid-album instrumental interlude. But Indicud thrives when at its most forthright and simplistic: “Just What I Am,” typical weed-praising fare, bangs with Cudi’s best. Dude’s curatorial chops are also top-notch: Kendrick Lamar kills on the staccato-pulsating standout “Solo Dolo Pt. II,” A$AP Rocky and King Chip exchange biting barbs on “Brothers” and the HAIM sisters complement Cudi’s trademark catharsis-inducing moan on “Red Eye.” Kid Cudi remains hip-hop’s resident weirdo, albeit a noticeably more self-assured and socialized one.