So Far Gone vs A Kid Named Cudi: Which One Was Better?
So this is something my friends and I have debated heavily. I won’t always divide these into sections but this topic has a lot to discuss so I will break it up to make an easier read.
We’re at the beginning of the blog rap late 00s boom. Artists are taking the groundwork that Soulja Boy laid out in 2007 and are using the internet and social media to help build their brands and fanbases.
On July 17th, 2008, Kid Cudi released A Kid Named Cudi, a project that was so wildly successful that it landed him a spot on the XXL Freshman 10 Class of 2009. The project was backed by streetwear brand 10 Deep, Plain Pat and Kanye West. Cudi stood with producer Emile by his side.
Coming off the mild success of his first two mixtapes Room for Improvement, Comeback Season and the single “Replacement Girl,” Drake was starting to make a name for himself as an artist. So Far Gone was released on February 13th, 2009. He had Trey Songz and Lil’ Wayne in his corner as well as producer Noah “40″ Shebib.
Both tapes produce an atmospheric, airy collection of music allowing for spacious sing-song rapping and introspective lyrics. Both Drake and Cudi do a great job at mixing in the rapping with the singing. Both rappers also have incredible flows. Cudi’s Cleveland flow bounces over the beats much like how he jumps around on stage rapping. Drake’s punch-in/punch-out flow in “Unstoppable” foreshadows what made “HYFR” an awesome song. He also shows to be as charismatic of a rapper as he is today. Cudi’s singing is infectious, and Drake’s is endearing.
On A Kid Named Cudi, each song takes the same elements of synths, pads, booming Hip-Hop drums and airy special effects and turns up one or two of those and creates an entirely different song. Take “Man On The Moon,” and compare the drums on that song to “T.G.I.F.” The rhythms are almost identical. Just replace the leads and plucks with brass and saxophones, then remove the pads.
However, if you change the drums to more of a Dance rhythm, bring back the synths and turn them up to 10, bring the pads back and arpeggiate the wiley lead synth from “T.G.I.F.,” you get “Embrace The Martian.” Strip all of your beats down to their bare elements and you get tracks like “Day N Nite” or “Cleveland Is The Reason.”
Noah “40″ Shebib handles a majority of the production on So Far Gone, with Boi-1da and D10 tagging along. The atmospheric chords are the most telling characteristic of the tracks. It’s as barebones as can be. “Houstatlantavegas” features filtered pads on top of a distorted, muffled beating drum. That’s really all there is to it. However the beats do an incredible job as remaining as dynamic as they are low brow.
“Lust for Life” remains my favorite of the lowkey instrumentals. “Let’s Call It Off” and “Little Bit” also remain the bravest of Drake’s efforts in Hip-Hop, sampling two Indie-Alternative favorite tracks without sounding like Chiddy Bang. When you listen to Drake go over “Say You Will,” you can pick out exactly what elements from 808′s permeated into So Far Gone. The filtered taiko like drums are pointed with sub bass hits just like “Houstatlantavegas.”
It was so hard to choose between this track and “Cleveland Is The Reason” but I decided to go with this one. It’s probably the track that was most influential to me as an artist when I had just started out making music. Ratatat’s “Tacobel Canon” is restructured to work as a backdrop for Hip-Hop songwriting. Cudi sings much of the song in a lower register until the chorus comes in and he harmonizes his entire vocal range together. It sounds so amazing to hear one person bring together that many different sounds together. It’s like people with all kinds of voices can pick out a part in the song and join in the sing-a-long. After listening to this, I started to dig into Ratatat’s music and they became one of my favorite artists.
This song was a MONSTER. I can’t even front and say that this wasn’t the biggest song of 2009. Shea Serrano’s book The Rap Yearbook also agrees, naming this song as the most important rap song of 2009. I don’t know why Drake’s success surprises people because as soon as this song came out, it was the biggest thing ever. Drake shares the likability that Cudi has in his voice. He’s not Trey Songz so it’s much more fun to sing Drake’s songs with him. Girls loved this song because it was a “keep doing you” anthem and guys loved it because Drake could say everything we couldn’t like a Hallmark card. I wonder how many couples out there claimed: “this is our song!”
While Kid Cudi’s success parlayed him into a spot on Kanye’s 808′s & Heartbreak production/songwriting entourage, Drake had the benefit of dropping his project post-808′s. I think this makes Cudi the influencer while Drake was a beneficiary. After Kanye established a space for thoughtful and reflective sadness in Hip-Hop, Drake’s ascent to the top was aided by the groundwork being laid for him and he’s been building his empire ever since.
How Much Did I Enjoy Them?
I have to say that I enjoyed the song on A Kid Named Cudi more. They were simply way more fun to sing and rap-along to and thus I played them more. But the key word here is enjoy…
I think these two mixtapes damn near are neck and neck at every little twist of the road. I have to say the decision between the two comes down to one very simple thing. As fun and ambitious as A Kid Named Cudi was, So Far Gone was much more polished and developed as a release. It ascended higher without trying to be grand, allowing Drake to become the monster he is today. It was often debated whether to call So Far Gone an album or a mixtape.
While both projects had misses, in my opinion the misses on So Far Gone (”Say What’s Real,” “Ignant Shit,” “Sooner Than Later”) fit in with the rest of the album better than the misses on A Kid Named Cudi (”Save My Soul,” “CuDi Spazzin’”). And thus, those tracks didn’t stick out as sore as the ones on Cudi’s tape. Aside from the mixtape narrative and the mixing of the tracks together, A Kid Named Cudi would’ve sounded like an incredibly cohesive mixtape nonetheless. So Far Gone, however, sounds like a great album.
So I’m going to say that So Far Gone was the better of the two projects. It was literally picking between two 9.2 vs a 9.3 rated mixtapes.