As a band’s first album it’s an intriguing debut, but for two established artists it’s a disappointing experiment. WZRD is an alternative rock duo comprised of rapper Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi and producer Dot Da Genius. It’s a very deliberate push away from their respective hip hop roots in a manner similar to Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak. Unlike West, WZRD is not just declaring it’s independence from hip hop; they’re specifically targeting a different genre.
Jumping from one box to another keeps things just as limited, unfortunately. Dot’s production here is interesting in its blending of indie melodies and hip hop beats, but his bag of tricks quickly runs out. The instrumentals on the album blur together once you get through the initial gist and it rarely risks going beyond. However, as a product of its own, it’s solid in execution. Dot pays clear and successful tribute to the sounds of groups like Nirvana, The Pixies with distorted guitar riffs and the punk influenced bass melodies. It’s not particularly original nor does it rise to the height of its influences, but WZRD is good and certainly unique in its own right. No matter how few and obvious the tools Dot uses in the production here may be, he wields them with deep understanding of each. Alternative rock riffs and hip hop percussion have never more cohesively mixed instrumentally.
WZRD‘s ultimate downfall then is Mescudi’s lack of vocal mastery. The “Cudi-isms” like his moaning and deliberate slurring of words drew both adoration and disdain amongst listeners of his hip hop efforts and he indulges in them here. They’re more at home with this type of album and at times Mescudi shows flashes of the type of raw emotional brillance he obviously admires in other alternative rock acts. Tracks like “Dream Time Machine” and lead single “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie” stand out for their naturalistic vibes and progression. These tracks are noticeably more eclectic and wouldn’t be too out of place on a Kid Cudi album. It’s when Mescudi tries to force the rockstar persona that the music suffers, and this happens more often than not.
The best moments on WZRD are when the duo stop thinking and just produce music. When it does click it is apparent that this is closer to the type of music both are best suited for, just not altogether perfect. Unfortunately these moments are few and far between, and instead most of the album comes off as concerted attempt at an experimental alternative rock album in a sea of better experimental alternative rock albums. Because of their appreciation of the genre, the duo have placed themselves in a box before fully understanding of their own sound. Ironically, despite putting so much public emphasis on being an alt rock act, WZRD are best when they break from the confines of it.
Favorite Tracks: “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie”, “Efflictim”, “Dream Time Machine”
Listen to more from WZRD now, via Spotify.