|Not the actual album cover. Created by u/LivingComfy on Reddit.
For many, the Kid Cudi story is simple. The platinum-selling hip hop singer Kid Cudi, who blew up in popularity in the late 2000s with hits including Day N’ Nite and Erase Me, made two of the greatest albums ever, Man On The Moon I and II. Then Cudi decided to take a little break in 2011, and he returned the following year with some of the worst music imaginable. Then after another hiatus in 2017, he made one of the greatest albums ever, Kids See Ghosts. In reality, it’s not that simple. What the average listener forgets is that many albums of different, unique sounds were released in that middle period from 2012 to 2016- WZRD, Indicud, Satellite Flight, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’.... Of all of these albums, the 2015 release of Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is by far the most controversial of these albums. However, I am going to argue that it’s also the most important of the bunch as well. It’s the most important album for Kid Cudi, it’s the most important album for those that relate to its ideas, and it’s the most important album for the music landscape of the years to come.
So what is Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven? For those unaware, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven was released in place of the highly anticipated Man On The Moon III, which, as Cudi stated in an interview at Billboard Winterfest earlier that year, had supposedly been in the works for a long time. This album is very different from previous Kid Cudi albums. Where most previous releases feature very atmospheric and melodic hip hop production underneath soft, sweet vocals, Cudi scraps everything and builds nearly every track with heavy guitars and near-shouting of the lyrics. Every single aspect feels much more blunt and heavy. The album is over 91 minutes in length too. Even if you aren’t that familiar with Kid Cudi, it’s not hard to see how Speedin Bullet is truly the black sheep of the collection because of this new sound.
The album was met with near universal backlash from critics and even from Kid Cudi fans. It wasn’t just because it wasn’t Man On The Moon III, either. Instead of releasing another great hip hop album, Kid Cudi had sold his fans a messy grunge rock project. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is loud, messy, and full of crazy ideas that don’t sit right with the average listener. The guitars are obnoxious, sometimes seeming as if they were done in a single take. Cudi’s wailing voice is nearly intolerable on most songs. The drowning vocal effects on many tracks only make for a more difficult listen, since Cudi sounds like he’s in the other room while singing. The lyrics themselves are at times either much too personal or just regrettable, both of which are the case for Adventures. And why are Beavis and Butthead here between the songs? These skits are dumb, and they go on for too long. All that can be said before getting into the messy demos found on the second disc. Most people can’t even stomach this album in one session. My English teacher went so far as to comment that it made her want to kill herself. The popular music website Pitchfork gave Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven a 4/10, and Anthony Fantano of Theneedledrop gave it a rare score of 0/10. It’s something you truly have to hear yourself to understand just how flawed it is.
So if Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is so terrible, why is it so important to the Kid Cudi discography? What is there that I see in this album that nobody else sees? Who even cares about Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven?
Well, first thing’s first. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is highly important to Kid Cudi. This project is a very personal, inward looking album. The lyrics often touch on ideas of suicide, loneliness, and misery. Cudi screams on the song CONFUSED!, “I might go losing it and drive off a cliff, fall into the void.” Kid Cudi was very unstable in 2015. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven must be very important to Kid Cudi if he’s willing to cancel Man On The Moon III, the conclusion of a popular trilogy, in favor of it. On Twitter on November 7th of last year, Kid Cudi said that Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is his darkest album yet, even more so than Man On The Moon II, with its utter despair. Cudi howls many times on Fade 2 Red, “We are born in the dark, born into pain.” All the while you can hear the exhaustion in his voice. Kid Cudi is not only miserable, but he’s just tired from all he has to do. The sense of hopelessness he feels is very well-conveyed.
Kid Cudi needed to make Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven. Often, one’s emotions are so powerful that he can’t focus on anything until he overcomes them. This album was his attempt to do just that. On November 7th, 2019, Kid Cudi tweeted that releasing such a project was the only way he could express how he was feeling at the time. Creating Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven was his escape. This was his self-expression. This was therapy for Kid Cudi in a time when he needed it most. According to a CNN article, Kid Cudi had checked himself into rehab for his depression and suicidal urges the following year, in 2016. While Cudi may be in a better state of mind today, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is a remnant of a darker time in his life. Kid Cudi isn’t ashamed of the album to this day. He has gone on record multiple times defending its sound and its ideas. So while the album itself is far from good, I can still respect it for what it has done for Cudi.
Kid Cudi sees Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven as a heavily respectable musical work in its own right. But so what if Kid Cudi needed to make bad music? Couldn’t he just keep it to himself? I would argue that it wouldn't be a good idea. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is very important to those that find comfort in its sound. Like I said earlier, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is a very sad album. The 26 songs on this project are full of different emotions that people with depression or anxiety can relate to personally. That seems to be the trend among Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven apologists. Lonely people can relate to the Adventures lyric, “Inadequate, feeling so unwanted; make him want to disappear.” Those in failing relationships might feel close to the Wedding Tux lyrics, “She push & pulls, uses me for what she needs.” These lines from the album’s tenth track, “Everywhere he goes, loser little kid…. Look at you, dumb punk loser kid” might strike a nerve with those who feel like outcasts from our society and make them feel as if they aren’t alone. If you’re tired of existing, the song Embers has the lyric, “Drown in a sea of emotions taken over by fatigue.” If you just feel hopeless, the same song just may get you with its message of mortality when Kid Cudi croons, “I really don’t want to leave, I realize there’s no answers to rid me of this cancer. Still, I really gotta leave.”
That’s just some of the different emotions on display throughout Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven. These lyrics may be clumsy to you or me.. However, those that relate really found a hidden gem. From start to finish, there’s a lot of material for those that feel they aren’t valued. My point is, the biggest fans of Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven are miserable. This album was with them during a low point in their life, and now those people feel a strong affinity for it. On Metacritic’s user review board for the album, user Maul_Waul points out, “The singing that Cudi does really sends a message of pain and fear, which is what I believe Cudi wanted to show. It's easy to tell that at the moment he's at a low point and doesn't know where to go.”
Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is truly something of its own. For many fans and apologists, there’s nothing out there as relatable and comforting as the sound it brings. These people need this album. Everyone deserves something they can truly feel in touch with. For a select few, this is it. This album is very important to those who can find the diamonds in the rough of the project and see it as a one of a kind gem.
Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is important to Kid Cudi. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is important to those who need its message. But even if you’ve never heard of Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven before today, this album still affects you. Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is important to the musical landscape of the future. See, this album was part of a large movement in the musical landscape back when it was released. The whole world was seemingly sick of the happy songs that dominated in 2015- Trap Queen, Cheerleader, and Hotline Bling were all on the tail end of a dying sound. That year, the new sound was somber and slow. This movement was seemingly headed by The Weeknd, who grew rapidly in popularity that year with hits such as Worth It and The Hills. But it’s hard to deny that Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven certainly helped with the push forward. While it didn’t initially sell very well, the album’s infamy helped it find a fanbase which propelled it further into the music scene. Endorsements from industry giants like Andre 3000 and Erykah Badu certainly helped as well. Just a few years later, XXXTentacion surged in popularity with his sad songs of loneliness, making it big in the mainstream with his albums 17 and ?. While XXXTentacion’s music is certainly different from Kid Cudi’s music, X’s music is seemingly inspired by Kid Cudi with its lonely wailing vocals and its clearly unpolished guitars. Juice WRLD strays further from this sound, but still featured ideas of it on projects such as Goodbye & Good Riddance. All while this is happening, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is slowly but surely gaining fans. In recent years, reception to this album has been slowly growing more and more positive in the mainstream. Even with its harsh initial reaction, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven has inspired some of the biggest and most important musicians of recent years.
Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven may have just been a big therapy session for Kid Cudi to sing about how he’s feeling. Maybe it was made for a niche crowd of people that felt there was no other music they could truly appreciate. Maybe it was made for the sad kids that would end up liking XXXTentacion, Juice WRLD, and others later on. But regardless of why it was created, it shouldn’t be hard to see now that Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is one of the most infamous, influential, and important albums ever made. In May 2016, Kid Cudi tweeted that 5 years after release, people will finally understand the impact of Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven. Now that time has passed, we can see how correct he really was. Whether you’ll find it good or bad, it truly is something to experience for yourself.