“I don’t really give a fuck about if niggas think I can rap or not,” 25-year-old Scott Mescudi, b.k.a. Kid Cudi, assuredly told HipHopDX last Thursday (September 10th) during a press day in preparation for this week’s release of his debut album, the esoterically-titled Man On The Moon: The End Of Day. While debate rages online about whether or not Cudi is more stylized hook-man than lyrically deft emcee, the red hot rookie is sharing the studio and the stage with some of the biggest names in the game, unfazed by the debate raging between his supporters and detractors about his artistic value.
Cudi made it clear during his discussion with HipHopDX that he could care less what a hater got to say, as he is currently reveling in the success of what has been a whirlwind year for “the lonely stoner.” After hearing Cudi’s summer ’08 unofficial debut via his “Day ‘N’ Nite” anchored mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, fellow Midwest music risk taker Kanye West brought the former Clevelander (now Brooklynite) into his G.O.O.D. Music family where he was immediately put to work co-writing ‘Ye’s melodic smash “Heartless” just a few months before Cudi’s own hypnotic hit “Day ‘N’ Nite” rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and officially set off Cudi mania.
And although his rhymes don’t always rhyme, and are almost always delivered in an off-kilter sing-songy manner that almost eschews “rapping” atop Electronic dominated sounds whose closest Hip Hop kin would be the quarter-century old “Planet Rock,” there is absolutely no denying the potency of Cudi’s addictive choruses that stay stuck in your head long after the music’s stopped playing, as well as the power of his aural documents of battles with the rare night terrors and the much more commonplace struggle we all, whether admittedly or not, have in fitting in with our peers.
The avant-garde artist detailed to DX how his past personal darkness (following his father’s passing from cancer when Cudi was just 11-years-old) affected his current creative direction. The man Kanye and now Jay-Z have turned to for a creative jolt also explained how his unique music is actually comparable to Public Enemy. And most notably, Cudi shared his “moon” with DX about those attempting to spread their dark critiques of his style into the hater-proof “Cudi Zone.”
HipHopDX: “And I’m this close to going trying some coke/And a happy ending would be slitting my throat.” Holy shit, man! It can’t be that bad. You know the Cavaliers got Shaq now, so you got that to feel good about [Laughs].
Kid Cudi: [Laughs] Unfortunately we didn’t have Shaq when I wrote that rhyme.
DX: [Laughs] So where is that coming from? That’s like “Ready To Die” to the tenth power.
Kid Cudi: Well it's like, my main thing is to paint these pictures and thoughts from my mind and how I process certain things. And [that song], “Soundtrack To My Life,” is the perfect alley-oop for the whole album. It sets the flow. It kinda lets you know what we’re gonna be talking about. I wanted to say a lot of things that pop up in my brain and in my thought patterns that were gonna shock people. I wanted to immediately shock people right at the beginning of the album. So it was only right for me to just address those type of things and keep it all the way honest [from the beginning], and have people really ready for whatever. Because the rest of the album is you’re ready for whatever after that song, ‘cause it sets it up. And the rest of the album, it takes it there, it kinda explains everything that’s mentioned in that [song].
DX: On “Soundtrack To My Life” you note that, “Since my father died, I ain’t been right since.” And then on “My World” you also note that you, “took a turn to the worse when my father left me lonely.” I think it’s interesting that for maybe the first time in Hip Hop we’re hearing about the effects of an absent father, but not because of the usual "papa was a rolling stone" stuff.
Kid Cudi: Yeah, it’s definitely important to me to make mention of my father because I think that does play a major part in why I am who I am, like my character and how I think and how I move in life. And this album was my way of finally letting out a lot of feelings that I’ve yet to even mention to my mother.
DX: Speaking of, “but they all didn’t see the little bit of sadness in me.” Is what you’re speaking on in these songs gonna be a revelation to your family?
Kid Cudi: Yeah man, especially like my mom. She’s really ready to just sit down with the album and give it a good listen. She worries about me anyway, but I think the album is gonna open her eyes about a lot of stuff.
DX: What are night terrors?
Kid Cudi: It’s kinda like nightmares that are really intense, that feel real more than the normal nightmare.
DX: And this was something you really suffered with, or was just at one point in time or…?
Kid Cudi: Yeah, definitely when I was younger. It’s like, as a kid losing your father and having to deal with it, and getting older and not really being able to talk to anybody about it, it just ended up manifesting in these dreams in my mind. Yeah it was real bad but as I got older they went away slowly but surely.
DX: Does you speaking on these personal struggles, and consistently referring to yourself as a loner, automatically define your music as Emo Rap?
Kid Cudi: Um…I don’t know, man. I don’t make music for titles, so I mean like, whatever. Call it whatever you want, as long as people like it I don’t really care.
DX: I’ve seen the labels Alternative Rap, Stoner Rap [Laughs], Slacker Rap [Laughs] all associated with your music.
Kid Cudi: Yeah, all types of stuff, man. But that’s just people liking to categorize stuff that they don’t really know what to categorize it as. It’s cool.
DX: And I noticed you make a point of noting on “Heart Of A Lion” that you’re “not a loser.”
Kid Cudi: Yeah. When I was coming up you would think that I didn’t have any potential to be anything. I drew a lot, so people that knew me really well thought that I was gonna end up doing something with art or drawing or being a cartoonist or something like that. But to the outside world I used to get in so much shit in school, and I had very little motivation to do anything, you would think I was a completely worthless kid.
DX: I wanna switch gears…to the sound of the album, I just have to ask ‘cause people are asking, why the heavy Electronic, Synth-Pop vibe on a lot of the album?
Kid Cudi: Well one thing I wanted to do was combine sounds that really bring out intense moods. Like on “Heart Of A Lion” the synth is really intense during the “no, no, no” part, the bridge and even at the end. It just adds to the triumphant nature; it makes it more mean. And I wanted it to always have that mean undertone like, this is no joke, this is a serious thing. Even though “Heart Of A Lion” is kind of an uplifting joint, it’s [got] some seriousness to it. It's like, “Man, I’m not fucking playing.” The synth adds that really dope mean vibe. And I wanted that darkness on the album.
DX: Did you have big Hip Hop musical influences coming up?
Kid Cudi: Yeah man, I really was into – My thing coming up was like the [era of] Biggie, ‘Pac, Jay [click to read], Snoop [click to read]. And even more early on of course I remember the Run-DMC’s, Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, Salt ‘N Pepa, Queen Latifah [click to read], Kid ‘N Play, N.W.A. [click to read]. These are the people that I started seeing and growing to like as a kid. And one thing that’s important, that we can think about, is that back in the day Kid ‘N Play and Queen Latifah and LL and Heavy D and Flava Flav, everybody was cool. Naughty By Nature [click to read] and Onyx [click to read], everybody was cool for the most part. There wasn’t like any intense beef. It wasn’t about the media and all this crap. It was about the music and movements. Everybody had [their own] movement. Public Enemy [click to read] was a group that I [recognized] early on like, “Man, these dudes have a movement going. They’re saying something. They’re not just making these songs.” And back then people weren’t talking about Public Enemy is Emo Rap because they’re talking about how it feels to be a black man in America. Were mothafuckas calling it Emo Rap then? Just because it had a bad-ass nature doesn’t mean that they weren’t expressing their emotions. And that’s all I’m doing in my music. Sorry that it’s not like super bad-ass and I’m not talking about fucking rioting because it’s a different day and age now, it’s not like it was when Public Enemy was making records. Granted, there’s a lot of shit still going on, but it’s a different day and age and music is about the times. And the shit I’m speaking about is the life and times [in] my world, and what a lot of kids deal with today. There’s different things to talk about. We can’t all talk about the same things.
DX: Wanna jump back to the sound of the album a little bit. I personally love the Psychedelic Pop Rock vibe on “Up, Up & Away,” and that Electronic, Synth-Pop vibe I mentioned that’s heard on “Sky Might Fall” and “Pursuit Of Happiness.” All those records could easily be hits, but you and I both know that the Hip Hop heads may be left scratching their heads a little bit.
Kid Cudi: Yeah I mean, who cares. That’s how I feel man. It’s like, oh well, I didn’t make this album to cater to anybody’s liking. I just made it for myself first, and hopefully everybody else liked it.
DX: “Enter Galactic” is another record that I love, that could be a huge R&B/Dance hit, but might again rub some heads the wrong way. In that song you incorporate what seems to be your standard sing-songy flow. Now you probably already know that the haters are already out in full force online criticizing that. What do you say to anyone who says you can’t really spit and that you utilize the melodic sing-songy stuff to cover up that fact?
Kid Cudi: Um…thanks for asking me about a hateful comment on a blog. And my answer to that is "who cares." I don’t read blogs by the way, like the comments. So, you kinda just mentioned a negative comment that somebody posted on a blog. Thanks, now I know people think that I don’t know how to rap and I cover it up with my melodies. Thanks. [Laughs]
DX: If you had to direct the skeptics though to one verse or one whole song on your album that you feel undeniably proves your rhyme skills, which verse or song would you direct them to?
Kid Cudi: Um…I don’t know, it’s kinda like…I really don’t mind if people feel any type of way. I don’t care, man. It’s either you get it or you don’t. If you don’t think I can rap, cool. It’s alright. Fuck it, I get it. Niggas don’t think I can rap, that’s fine. I’m not gonna miss any sleep. I’m good. People like what I’m doing, and that’s all that matters. Not everybody’s gonna like your shit. As dope as Jay-Z is, not everyone likes Jay-Z. Not everybody likes Biggie. Not everybody likes ‘Pac. This is just how life is dude. Like, you [asking] me what I think and then [asking] me what song on my album would I say that’s undeniably rappin’, it’s like, man, I’m tired of trying to go out of my way to prove anything to anybody. I made this album, love it or hate it, fuck it. It’s like, whatever. There’s other shit I’m dealing with, man. I don’t really give a fuck about if niggas think I can rap or not. I’m taking care of my family. I’m not living in the place where I was mentally and physically I was last year. I’m in a positive place. And that’s how I look at everything around me. All that other shit is irrelevant. Either love me or leave me alone.
DX: So to punctuate that you would say you’re “Already Home” with the shit that you’re on [Laughs].
Kid Cudi: Yeah, you know what I mean? At the same time niggas be like, “Man, you can’t rap!” It’s like, man, stop the madness, I’m on Blueprint 3 [click to read]. [Laughs] I mean, I’m doing okay, man. Stop critiquing me so hard-body and just let me be an artist. There’s people that are amazing lyricists, like Jay, who just embrace me for who I am. Why can’t everybody else?
DX: Speaking of Jay, this may be a difficult question, but I’m gonna ask it anyway, are you, Kid Cudi, the person most responsible for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s recent shifts in sound? Not to bait you into an arrogant answer, but would there have been an 808s & Heartbreak or the experimental electro direction of Blueprint 3 if you never came into contact with ‘Ye?
Kid Cudi: Oh yeah, definitely. ‘Cause Kanye is always an innovative person. Great minds think alike, and that’s how I look at it. Me and ‘Ye, that’s why we hit it off so well when we first started working together, because we both think outside the box. We both are on trying to push the envelope of creativity. So it woulda happened regardless of whether I was in the equation or not.
DX: Speaking of Yeezy, are you and he currently cooking up his next full-length meal? If so, will it be in the same vein as 808s?
Kid Cudi: Nah, I haven’t heard anything about his recording. I think he’s kinda chillin’ out right now. But when he’s ready to work he knows how to reach me. He can hit me up on the bat-phone and I’ll be ready.
DX: At the end of your album, your LP’s narrator, Common, says that “A new challenge awaits” for you. What was he speaking of?
Kid Cudi: It’s kinda segueing to the next album. And I know that there’s gonna be a lot of challenges up ahead in my career, in my life, and there’s more to this story that just hasn’t unfolded yet. So I got a lot more living to do before I start working on the second album. But everything that I experience from here on out will be mentioned on the second album – not necessarily about dealing with fame or anything like that, just like my life and times.
DX: And there will definitely be a second album, no more retirement talk for Kid Cudi?
Kid Cudi: Nah, I’ma be creative for a bit. Whether its solo albums or collab albums, I’m really gonna be creating. And I even wanna do some executive producing work, helping out some artists, helping them push the envelope. I feel like some artists just need someone around to get them creatively on track, and bring that creativity out of them. So I wanna do that with a lot of artists.
DX: Have you signed anybody to your Dream On imprint yet?
Kid Cudi: We’re in the process of doing the Chip Tha Ripper deal. First off is Chip. So far, so good with that. He’s an amazing artist. He’s killing it. And he’s got so much love in Cleveland. I look at Chip like he’s the Cleveland Biggie, man. When he goes back there, man, it’s so much love. Everybody love him. And he’s an amazing lyricist. And he’s dope.
DX: Let me ask you this follow-up about Cleveland… “My world turns, flippin’ the bird /To the ones who figured /Me, Outkast, no not the duo / Back to Shaker Heights, where they knew…though little brother was a strange one, boo-hoo / Cry me a river, hey look who, traveled out an igloo / Cold, cold world, wasn’t fit for, me at all / Look at where I stand at, tall / Clutching my Kid Cudi bizalls / Mute muthafuckas back home, quick pause.” What were you trying to say about the ‘Land on “Solo Dolo”?
Kid Cudi: Well it’s kinda like there’s a nice amount of people that are just bitter at the fact that I kinda like left. I was in a cold place back then. It was like I wasn’t allowed to be myself. It was like my heart was frozen a bit. And it wasn’t until I left [that] I was able to reach and see who I really was, and really get a chance to spread my wings… It wasn’t [fit for me at all], like Cleveland not even [the music scene], Cleveland wasn’t fit for me as a city. A kid with big dreams I mean, there’s not much in Cleveland to do to accomplish all those goals that I had. So the town wasn’t big enough for my dreams… That’s what that verse is really talking about, the “Solo Dolo” thing. But it’s really important to like mention that type of stuff and break it down for people so they can get an understanding of the method to the madness.
DX: I guess this is obvious from the album cover art, but I just wanted to ask you specifically is the “moon” your bedroom, your mind, your hometown, all of the above?
Kid Cudi: Yeah man, the moon is pretty much my place of peace, whether it’s a room or my mind. It’s really your own personal space. It could be interpreted any different way. I didn’t wanna have it so literal. I want kids to interpret it and find their own moon in their world.