November 7, 2010

Icon in the Making

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Passing unprecedentedly long lines and heightened security, Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi) took the stage Saturday evening in one of the most monumental events in Cornell University’s musical history.

With the artist’s new album dropping Nov. 9 and the rare treat of a Saturday night appearance at Barton, it was expected that the show would be well attended. But on Saturday evening Cornell saw a surprising amount of energy and hype, even given these special circumstances. The unspoken acknowledgment of the performer’s imminent rise to iconic status was palpable throughout the evening. Buzz around the artist has been rampant since the show was announced and Cornellians of all sorts scrambled to get tickets. Fans of many different genres seem to have recognized that Cudi is responsible for pioneering a new crossover sound within hip-hop and they all got online for tickets. He is currently establishing his niche as not only a rap mogul, but also as a truly inspired musical prodigy.

Luckily for over-anxious fans, Cudi did not disappoint. If one was able to secure a reasonable space amongst the masses and peek his or her head through the crowd, he or she would have witnessed an absolutely astounding performance. Cudi is a rarity amongst hip-hop artists, able to command the stage with an impressive and dynamic live act.

When Cee-Lo Green, Cudi’s opener, entered, the crowd’s excitement nearly boiled over prematurely. Green, known for his solo work and his efforts with Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley, gave a solid performance dominated by his stoic stage presence. His powerful voice covered the crowd as he stood center stage and belted out to Gnarls Barkley’s hit “Crazy” or his newest solo hit “F*** You.” Surrounded by assorted backers, Green was a great crowd-warmer given the tremendous hype around Cudi’s performance.

Green parted and allowed for a short and suspense-filled intermission between the artists complete with a brief appearance by Cornell Concert Commission president Doug Durant. When Cudi finally took the stage and the spotlight dropped on the lonely stoner himself, the anticipation and suspense reached catharsis. With a fluorescent purple backdrop and a simple outfit consisting of a hoodie, t-shirt and jeans, Cudi belted out his first few harmonies and made clear to the crowd that he was well worth the anxious refreshing of the Cornell Concerts website, Craigslist frenzy and excessive scalping.

The most surprising aspect of the evening was definitely Cudi’s amazing voice throughout the show. Belting out a variety of huge notes over his track’s catchy hooks, Cudder proved once and for all his status as not only a talented vocalist, but also a truly unique artist. Switching from clever rhyme schemes peppered with brief freestyles to soulful bellowing all within the same songs, the sheer amount of talent Scott Mescudi possesses as a musician was apparent throughout the evening. During a brief a cappella version of “Dat New New,” Cudi even showcased his previously unknown beat-boxing ability. Kid Cudi is certainly one of few artists, especially in hip-hop, whose voice alone projected through a microphone is enough to command a crowd.

Also extremely remarkable was Cudi’s ability to span his diverse repertoire throughout the evening as well as introduce a few tracks from his new album. Cudi possesses a surprising vault of hits given his sole full studio album and he was able to switch from slow somber tracks to more high energy ones gracefully. When the instrumentals to “Soundtrack 2 My Life” resonated early on, it became apparent that the song was an instant crowd pleaser. That along with “Day n’ Night” and “Embrace the Martian” were some of the night’s favorite sing-a-longs, while a guest appearance from Chip Tha Ripper allowed Cudder to perform some of the older and less well-known work that led to his notoriety.

Interspersing new tracks with the old, songs from Cudi’s new album Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager were instantly well received by the crowd. On “Scott Mescudi vs. The World,” Cee-Lo Green came back on stage and sang the hook on what promises to be a future hit for Mr. Solo Dolo. He also performed his new single “Erase Me,” a track that has reached acclaim for being uncharacteristically pop-rocky given Cudder’s hip-hop roots. The artist’s second album is certainly a departure from the first, filled with far more slow melodious hooks and far less quick-witted lyricism, but is still able to showcase his unique abilities. The tracks performed live Saturday night show Cudi’s evolution from young rhyme-spitter to seasoned musician. Unafraid of bragging of the rave reviews his new album has already received and his steadily rising popularity, Cudi elucidated the unique appeal of his “swag” in a diatribe before “Mojo So Dope.”

The timing of Cudi’s first appearance at Cornell surely added to the colossal nature of the evening. In 2009, after the huge success of his first album and well-received collaborations with hip-hop legends Jay-Z and Kanye West, Cudi became an instant hit for fans of rap and pop alike, able to produce dance hits, hard-hitting raps and freestyles, and melodious hooks on a diverse array of tracks. Now that Cudi has produced what has already been deemed a second fantastic album and has put in strong features on an eclectic mix of other artist’s tracks, the emcee is making the shift from rookie phenom to clear heavyweight. Cudi’s impressive first performance at Cornell certainly lived up to its lofty expectations. Last Saturday night will likely be cemented in Cornell history as one of the finest shows this campus has ever seen.

Original Author: Adam Lerner