Only Built 4 Skinny Jeans Part 4 (The Search for 3)

Under no circumstances should Skinny Jeans and a Mic be better than Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon.  After all, Cudi has the co-signs (Kanye, Common, the uh, Black Eyed Peas)  the would-be indie...
By    September 17, 2009

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Under no circumstances should Skinny Jeans and a Mic be better than Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon.  After all, Cudi has the co-signs (Kanye, Common, the uh, Black Eyed Peas)  the would-be indie icons brought in for Aoki-crowd mustache cred (MGMT, Crookers, Ratatat) and the back-story: at age 11 loses father to cancer, makes the Bright Lights, Big City trek to New York, gets a job at the Bape store selling hoodies the color of skinned angel fish, etc. The New Boyz had one classic single, guest spots from a third-tier Young Money yokel and Brandy’s sex-tape making brother, and less than a month to record a quick cash-in album.

Somehow, things got mixed up faster than you can say Billy Ray Valentine. While Cudi decided to sink his putatively huge recording budget into warbling off-key experimental electronic ephemera, The New Boyz had neither time to contemplate nor the self-awareness to even attempt something that ambitious. Sometimes, the tinkering in the lab approach can yield you a Loveless or a Revolver and other times, it finds a young artist running up against the predictable pitfalls: pretentiousness, over-thinking, letting Lady Gaga infect their album. It’s unwise to bet against Cudi–he has the substantial fanbase in place to ensure that he’ll continue to receive label backing, his gestures towards the avant-garde seem sincere (even if he doesn’t really seem sure what the term means), and there are moments on Man On the Moon that justify the outlandish expectations placed upon him.

But the reason why the album ultimately fails suggests a misreading of history. Openly aping the Pink Floyd’s prog-opus ambition model, Cudi failed to realize that Dark Side was their eighth album. With goals as minimal as their stripped-down sound, The New Boyz merely reacted, falling back on what they knew: sardonic skinny jeans raps about their colorful clothes, skill at snagging girls, and a few diatribes pointed at rap’s William Kristol and William Safire (I see you Jay and Joell).  Skinny Jeans and a Mic isn’t deep because it doesn’t need to be. It sounds spontaneous and organic–two 17-year olds reminding you how much fun it was to be a teenager while eliding over the parts that remind you how much it sucked to be a teenager.

My full New Boyz review is at Pop and Hiss.  In short, their debut is no classic and gets bogged down in major label calculation in the second half, but its first side is skinny jeans rap done right–evidence that their career trajectory is more inclined towards Soulja Boy than Jibbs. As for Cudi, it’s premature to write him off. His last mixtape, Dat Kid from Cleveland is far better than his debut and displays that his chief faults aren’t a lack of talent but rather an absence of direction and willingness to accept criticism. Let’s hope that that Kanye really does decide to take some time off. He’s done enough.

Download:
MP3: New Boyz-“You’re a Jerk”
MP3: New Boyz ft. Tyga-“Crickets” (Left-Click)

ZIP: Kid Cudi-Dat Kid from Cleveland Mixtape (Left-Click)

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