Kid Cudi and Chip Tha Ripper played a rousing after-school special at a sold-out Williamsburg Waterfront Wednesday night.
It’s always fascinating to see which rappers end up achieving the kind of cult-of-personality success that Cudi has, and how it happens. Recently, we’ve seen Wiz Khalifa grow into the most relaxed rap star of our era, a dude who can be bothered only to disavow blunt wraps but is otherwise content to remind us of his possibly apocryphal million-dollar paychecks. Rick Ross, too, wrought superstardom with a definitely apocryphal kingpin persona and a particularly imposing grunt.
Of course, both of those guys are also passable rappers, as is Chip, a likable and energetic opener whose Gift Raps-heavy set garnered a surprisingly lukewarm reception. Cudders — whose fame derives from wearing skinny jeans, knowing Kanye West, and being super-duper sad, homes — is on record as a clunkier lyricist, a guy who mistakes egocentrism for loneliness and then wonders why no one wants to be his friend.
And yet, his success is evidence that this might be exactly what the late teen/early 20s set is looking for in hip-hop: someone as ostensibly self-conscious as they themselves, lamenting over spacey 808s and indie-rock signifiers.
In concert, he’s far less of a mope. He spent a considerable amount of time interfacing excitedly with the crowd on how great it was to be back in Brooklyn. He at one point urged his audience to “keep ‘party’ in mind,” though the lion’s share of his Man on the Moon albums is anything but party music. He shared that his third album was in the works, and targeted next fall for a release date. The crowd seemed pretty thrilled with all this. The projection screen behind him mainly showed concert footage, interspersed with montages of outer space.
Cudi’s tracks weren’t canned — his set includes live drums and guitar — but the piped-in vocals often dominated the real thing. MOTM: The End of the Day is still his best known material, and the majority of the crowd shouting along to his affectless singing voice on “Up, Up and Away” and “Cudi Zone.” The other stuff, like an a capella run-through of material from his A Kid Named Cudi mixtape and more languid Legend of Mr. Rager tracks like “We Aite” and “GHOST!" was warmly received by those at the front of the stage.
At one point, he brought Chip back out for the “Dance Yrself Clean” -- sampling “All Talk,” a highlight both for Cudi’s unusually nimble verse and for the moment when the synth dropped and the show briefly turned into an LCD Soundsystem dance party. At another, Cudi brought out Cage for his “MANIAC” feature and then talked up their upcoming short film of the same title, directed by (don’t laugh) Shia Labeouf.
Like any prospective festival headliner worth his salt, he bookended his set with hits like opener “REVOFEV” and closers “Day ‘N’ Nite” and “Pursuit of Happiness,” which got the biggest response of the night. The incongruity of 5,000 dependents singing along with the pumped-up “lonely loner” onstage went mostly unnoticed. Puzzling as it may be, Mr. Solo Dolo appears to be getting all the validation he would ever need.