When it comes to rapper and songwriter Scott Mescudi, better known by his stage name Kid Cudi, innovation and growth is the name of his game. He isn’t just comfortable staying in the realm of melodic rap. The man experimented with genres like psychedelic pop to alternative rock. Some of y’all may have grown up jamming to “Pursuit of Happiness” while on a late car ride to a party. Most of us were probably introduced to him through the “Moon Knight” trailers that heavily featured a remixed version of his debut track “Day ‘N’ Nite”. That being said, we’re not here to talk about his music.
The Leader of the Delinquents, in collaboration with Netflix, has been working on an animated musical special named after and inspired by his upcoming album, “Entergalactic”. Since 2015, the artist has been dabbling with more spacey psychedelic sounds and with the cloud rap genre. It’s a natural step for the artist seeing that his work has always been a bit more moody and introspective than the average R&B artist.
This special is meant to be seen as a companion piece to the album for all intents and purposes. So the question is: can his animated Netflix special stand on its own or will this be a prolonged, glorified promo? Will this be “Man on the Moon III: The Chosen” levels of good or “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven” proportions of disastrous?
For those coming in expecting to see Kid Cudi’s Jabari go on planet-trotting adventures to jam in sold-out alien concerts, sorry to say you won’t be getting that here. Ironically, the special tells a rather grounded story about an up-and-coming comic book artist whose moving up in life but is afraid that the past may be holding him back. His ex-girlfriend Carmen, like gravity, has a hold on Jabari and it’s one that he can’t quite shake off. Then, there’s Meadow, a beautiful young woman he meets at a party one night who also shares his passion for the arts. With the pressure from his work and the history of Carmen still lingering on, Jabari must learn to navigate through his tangled emotions to begin to love again.
A lot of the plot in the special is heavily inspired by Cudi’s album tracks like “She’s Looking For Me”, “Somewhere to Fly”, “Can’t Shake Her” and “Do What I Want”. Each is a window into the mind of an artist trying to find space to accommodate his many relationships, his work-life and his image. As a concept for an album, it works. As the premise for a Netflix show? It’s a little thin. The plot of “Entergalactic” doesn’t ever veer into the realm of self-serious naval-gazing with tawdry treatises on the price of success. However, we were hoping that “Entergalactic” had more to offer in way complexity beyond Cudi’s musings of how love, much like art or anything of passion, is chaotic and beautiful. For a runtime of a little under an hour and a half, the special’s pacing keeps light on its feet, managing to give some measure of closure to Jabari and Meadow’s story.
Thankfully, the cast of “Entergalactic” is able to inject a lot of humour and fun into the mix. Namely, Timothée Chalamet as Jabari’s best friend (and dealer) Jimmy and rapper Ty Dolla Sign as Ky who offer advice and humorous anecdotes along the way. Macaulay Culkin also makes a fun appearance as the street rat and sage Downtown Pat. For the most part, Cudi nails it as Jabari, capturing all the cockiness and insecurity of youth and all the anxiety and fears of age. There is a flatness in Cudi’s performance that does betray his inexperience in the field of voice-acting but still, a valiant effort.
One thing that cannot be denied is his chemistry whenever he and Jessica Williams’ Meadow is on screen. Between the two, there’s a connection yet also a hesitance that keeps them circling around each other while never truly landing on something concrete. Laura Harrier’s Carmen works wonderfully with Cudi as the romantic foil to Jabari and Meadow’s burgeoning relationship.
We would, of course, be remiss if we did not acknowledge the amazing work that studios Khalabo Ink Society, DNEG Animation and Mad Solar put into bringing Kid Cudi’s vision to life. The clearest inspiration for the show’s aesthetics is obviously its uncanny resemblance to that of Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”. Namely, in the way character models forgo photo-realism for a hybrid between the hand-drawn intricacy of 2D animation and the dynamic depth of 3D-CGI. What sets “Entergalactic” apart from Sony’s film though is its use of colours. In “Into the Spider-Verse”, the colours pop bright as they would in a comic book as if the characters are leaping out of a page and onto the screen.
In “Entergalactic”, though, it’s less reminiscent of a graphic novel and more of a moving expressionist painting. The earthy colours of the character models’ skin tones are contrasted with either the bold colours of their clothes, inspired by Fashion Designer Virgil Abloh’s chic taste, or the trippier cosmic sequences in which Jabari and the other characters are seen traversing across a sea of stars as the light of a myriad celestial of bodies brush across their acrylic flesh.
Much like “Into the Spider-Verse”, Cudi’s special includes some pretty impressive scenes that incorporate different art styles from graffiti-inspired surreal moments to anime cutaways. One minor flaw we noticed is that whenever models move in rapid motion, the colours and definitions of the character model tend to get muddied and blurred. As if a brief smear had splat on the screen before fading away. Overall though, it is a gorgeous-looking show!
Kid Cudi’s “Entergalactic” accomplishes its job in providing a visual medium in which the artist may articulate his vision to his fans. Its talented star-studded cast keeps the special’s brief and cliche plot afloat with energy and personality to spare. By far, the visuals are the highlight of the special, and for that alone, we believe it is worth a watch. We’re hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Cudi’s foray into the world of filmmaking.
You can now catch “Entergalactic” on Netflix today and check out Kid Cudi’s new album on Spotify!
Netflix's "Entergalactic" Review
Kid Cudi's "Entergalactic" accomplishes its job in providing a visual medium in which the artist may articulate his vision to his fans. Its talented star-studded cast keeps the special's brief and cliche plot afloat with energy and personality to spare. By far, the visuals are the highlight of the special, and for that alone, we believe it worth a watch.
- Netflix's "Entergalactic" Review