Kid Cudi's "Mr Rager" alter ego embodies a battle between good and bad, between instinct and impulse, that the rapper is still coming to terms with. For all of his success over the past year, Scott Mescudi has been steered more by his short fuse—and the fallout it's led to leaves him unsure of where he's headed. He's not just a lonely stoner anymore; one of the most surprising rap breakouts of the Internet era has more than enough war to go with his peace.

This feature appears in Complex's October/November 2010 issue.

Kid Cudi's "Mr Rager" alter ego embodies a battle between good and bad, between instinct and impulse, that the rapper is still coming to terms with. For all of his success over the past year, Scott Mescudi has been steered more by his short fuse—and the fallout it's led to leaves him unsure of where he's headed. He's not just a lonely stoner anymore; one of the most surprising rap breakouts of the Internet era has more than enough war to go with his peace.

The autographed picture of Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash in the lobby of the Sunset Marquis hotel in West Hollywood makes clear that more than a few rock stars have had more than a few crazy nights there. Tonight, though, the hotel is tranquil, and the star ensconced within is the same. Kid Cudi's demeanor on this summer evening in August is a far cry from what you'd expect, based on everything that's happened to the 26-year-old rapper since we sat down with him last year. Getting into scuffles with fans, being arrested in June for possession of cocaine and criminal mischief—true to his newest alter ego, Mr. Rager has indeed been ragin', though it's hard to reconcile that whirlwind of controversy with the leather pants-clad young man emerging from the lobby. We're going house-shopping with him in the Hollywood Hills (he ends up copping a plush two-story where Fred Durst and others have laid their fitteds), and he wants to confirm with a realtor that he can install custom lights. A successful album and an HBO show have treated him well, clearly.

Afterward, we settle back in his black-on-black SUV and go over everything: the good (his highly anticipated sophomore album, Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager), the bad (the night he spent in jail, which Cudi will explain was a far more serious wake-up call than he'd get at the Sunset Marquis), and the ugly (his drug use throughout the past year). As we talk, the tattoo on his forearm flexes occasionally; a person's head, split in two, divided into sides labeled GOOD and BAD. And given Cudder's year, we can't imagine a more fitting image. There's a rift between thought and action, ideal and real—and sometimes it threatens to grow so wide that a man can get lost in it. But we hope not.

Complex: Forgive me, but we gotta start with some controversy. In "Mojo So Dope," you say that you "live through words, not metaphors, so I pass to be the rest of the freshmen." What did you mean by that line?
Kid Cudi: I didn't want anybody to take it the wrong way, because it wasn't a dis. But most of the rappers that everyone loves are rappers that use metaphors. That's not my style of rap. I like to rhyme in a more poetic way. Sometimes you don't have to use these...witty ways of trying. It just sounds like somebody is overselling shit.

You're big on not having your music compared to anyone else's.
Kid Cudi: Did you see that Wale interview that he just did, comparing us to sports? Let me clear this up: I'm incomparable to anybody. I don't care how people take that. No one can compete with me. I'm unfuckwittable; no one can knock me off my shit. I'm an unstoppable force, I'm a bullet. My trajectory is to the sky. Niggas got to do something really spectacular to fuck with me and my realm, and niggas be so bitter that you hear it in their voice.

Speaking of Wale, when you hit that fan at your show last December, he came out with a line about it ["Throwin' 'round wallets like the dude that Kid Cudi hit," from "Thank You Freestyle"].
Kid Cudi: It wasn't a shot, it's just a simple-ass rhyme by a simple-ass rapper. You can't let that shit faze you. That's one of those raps that just shows the world that you wack. Why would you even use that as a metaphor? Everybody think they Hov. Niggas ain't got the magic like they think they do; there's only a couple of wizards in this game. I'm a wizard and I know it.

Are your peers not seeing that?

 

 

 

Kid Cudi: The last album, I let people dis me, throw out those jabs in their verses and have their little slick remarks. This time around, I'm not fucking around. I have no time to think about other niggas. These other motherfuckers like feeding off another nigga's energy, so they mention their name. You hear me talk about niggas? I don't even talk about Kanye, and that's my homeboy! They talk about Kanye like they're bosom buddies with this nigga. Talking about "I be in Hawaii"—man, shut the fuck up, why you got to tell everybody everything? Then people like Wale get mad that 'Ye ain't give him no beats—'Ye ain't give you no beats because we ain't fucking with your raps. It's not a conspiracy theory. We don't fuck with you musically, so we're not going to provide music for you. The shit is a service, it's a quality of a certain standard. Niggas are just so thirsty it's ridiculous. I've been eating humble pie forever, and people still call me an asshole. These people don't know my fucking life—now I'm going to give them something to talk about.

Is that the album's tone? Is it just about you going in?
Kid Cudi: It's explicit, but smart explicit. I'm not holding back. I have no regard for what people consider right or wrong. Some things I follow—like the law, from here on out. But other than that, I'm doing whatever the fuck I want to do. I'm not holding back. That's why I've been so excited about this move to L.A., because I just want to keep growing creatively, all over, as a human being.

And part of that is anti-metaphor.
Kid Cudi: I want my shit to be like you're reading a novel, not a Dr. Seuss book. I felt like the last album was too short. This one is a little bit longer, it's 18 tracks and counting. It's just ten times better on all levels. The story's deeper, darker, with no holding back. It's beautiful, man. It's an emotional album.
 

 

 

How do you feel about the "emo" label?
Kid Cudi: DMX is emo and he's one of the realest niggas in the game. Emotion is what hip-hop thrives on. Don't you want your music to have emotion in it? People like to always throw some negative cloud over it. Doesn't even make sense. Jeezy is emo. When that nigga be rapping, you feel it. You know that nigga's talking some real shit.

Do you think it keeps your songs from going as mainstream as they could?
Kid Cudi: People are quick to judge my singles one by one, and when the album drop, those be the assholes that are like, "Oh shit, I totally underestimated Cudi, this shit is crazy." I told you, dumbass: You can't look at snippets from an Oliver Stone film and be able to critique it.

Is that in general or talking about a song like "REVOFEV"? People heard "REVOFEV" and said, "This won't work on the charts."
Kid Cudi: When people heard "REVOFEV," it's like, "C'mon, that's not a rap song." I don't give a fuck. I don't make jams for the charts. My whole point is to make the music indescribable. I like baffling motherfuckers.

Speaking of which: Another song, "Wylin' 'Cause I'm Young," has crazy drug references.
Kid Cudi: Kids respect an honest motherfucker. I fuck up so I can show you about what not to do. I told you do blow? No, Cud did that, so hopefully you won't have to go through that. [Laughs.]

How heavy did the drug use get?
Kid Cudi: I started doing cocaine to get through interviews, 'cause people wanted to know a lot about my personal life and I wasn't prepared for a 60 Minutes interview every time. Doing bumps I was able to get through the day, but then I would smoke weed to calm me down—it was the only way I could get through the day without people noticing I was doing it.

Did you ever feel like you had a problem?
Kid Cudi: I never thought it was a problem, but I was definitely high-fiving death a couple of times. It took a lot for me to talk about shit like this on the album. I don't feel like I need to explain myself to anyone besides the fans. My fans don't believe shit until they hear me say it. And those are true Kid Cudi fans. I want them to know the story.

With all that's happened, do you feel like the full story still isn't known?
Kid Cudi: All they know about me is hitting somebody or being a maniac and being arrested. I never knew the media would be so interested in my personal life.

A lot of people jumped on you for hitting that fan, too.
Kid Cudi: Even Perez Hilton said some shit about me. He might be a good person and have a good heart, but he does a lot of fuckhead shit. Who are you to talk about people? That's not cool. That's why the world is so fucked up, because of hate. And he's gay? I just don't get that. The gay people I know are about peace and love and coming together. That shit doesn't register with me. He's a chump and a coward, and it's fucked up because I met dude so many times and he had nothing but love to show me. Then when that shit happened with Lady Gaga kicking me off her tour, he had to run his mouth and judge me on that shit.

Was that tough for you?
Kid Cudi: It was. I apologized to that young man I hit—we hung out, he's the coolest kid in the world. But she's going to kick me off the tour because she didn't want that negative type of energy at her shows? Word? I never did nothing to that girl. Every time I saw her I gave her mad respect, showed her mad love. It didn't matter, I still got paid. She spent all her money on her shows, so I probably made more off her tour than she did. That's the "ha ha ha, isn't it ironic?" moment.
 

 

 

 

That's a lot to go through.
Kid Cudi: There's another thing people don't know. I have a daughter, born March 26th of this year. Her name is Vada, and she's fucking awesome. That was eating me up, and it was stressing me out that nobody knew about her. I was trying to escape from that, too. Just trying to figure it out and make everyone happy, it's a lot for somebody my age to handle. I was manning up and dealing with it in what I thought was the right way, but it was the wrong way. I want to be around for her. I can honestly say she was the wake-up call. The reality that it's bigger than just you now—you have a responsibility and there's no more time for mistakes. It's time to stop fucking around.

That's intense.
Kid Cudi: I was scared as fuck. I need to be a dad now, and I'm not with the girl—how does that work? Because having money isn't it. I just wanted to be a great dad, and I didn't think I was capable. Then I thought: When she gets here it's either nut up or shut up. She's my best friend and she doesn't even know it. That's why I always told myself I'm going to make these songs for my kids, so they can follow along and know my story, if something was ever to happen to me. No matter what motherfuckers are saying or haters are putting in their ear. She can put on my records and be like, "Fuck all that other shit, my dad was like this." But I might make sure she doesn't listen to this album until she's 40. [Laughs.] I'm excited about watching her grow, I'm excited to be a papa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was getting locked up after the criminal mischief arrest another wake-up call?
Kid Cudi: The "new me" happened when I was walking out of court that day. It was really just like, "Man, you got it fucking going on, and you were about to piss it all away for some bullshit." Everywhere I go, people be looking at me like I'm some type of fucking crackhead now. Nobody wants to have their fucking name attached to a maniac, to a fuck-up, so everyone distances themselves. There are only a few motherfuckers that called and checked in on me. I can count them on my hand.

Who was there for you?
Kid Cudi: Besides the fam, and Yeezy and Don C, there's one artist in this game who has always had my back and had nothing but love to show, and that's Lupe Fiasco. Every time I see that man, it's nothing but love—I saw him a little after it, and he was like "I'm worried about you, man, just checking in." He's somebody who I know really genuinely gives a fuck. Noreaga also checked in.

So is that it for cocaine?

 

 

 

Kid Cudi: Yup. No more blow. People do drugs to camouflage emotions and run away from their problems. Now I'm going to deal with certain things as they come, prioritize shit—man up, so to speak. Just for the record, it bugged me out that people said it was liquid cocaine. No, I'm just fucking rich, and my blow comes in a jar. There was no liquid in it—that shit makes no sense.

Going back to the album, when did you decide to switch it from a collabo album back to being dark?
Kid Cudi: When I started making records like "Erase Me." I wanted this album to be fun, but the dark shit was my life at that time. I was fighting not to write that shit. It got frustrating writing a collab album—I just lost interest, and it became more of a task, rather than something I wanted to do. That's not how it's supposed to feel. The day it becomes work, you need to retire.

Is "Erase Me" a major departure from what you normally do?
Kid Cudi: "Erase Me" was fun as fuck to make, but it's just different. It was me fucking around, just to show people I can do whatever. That's my main goal now, just to show people no matter what I do, I'm going to make shit that's in good taste. Might not be your cup of tea, but it's going to be authentic, it's not going to be forced.

How do you feel about people saying it's radio-manufactured?
Kid Cudi: When I made it, I was like, "This beat sounds fresh as hell, I want to do some rock shit"—and I did it. I came up with that shit in 30 minutes. I was feeling it, and then I was like, "This shit ain't Cudder, it's just me fucking around, let me stop bullshitting."

It was a creative look for you and Kanye, though.
Kid Cudi: Can I be honest with you? I don't think anybody is fucking with what we—me and Kanye—got. Creatively, there's nobody. You can argue all day about who has the best album, there's never going to be an answer. There are other artists who are hot for God knows what reason. But as far as creativity, pound for pound, track for track, video for video, hands down, there's nobody fucking with me and 'Ye.

"Mr. Rager" is a song people will gravitate to, and it clearly means a lot to you. What's the full meaning?
Kid Cudi: This song is about someone who is fed up with reality, who looks for thrills and excitement by any means. It's just kind of how I was feeling at that point. I was just so angry. Doing coke revived me, and knowing I was so close to death every time intrigued me. I liked the thought of it.

Death is a recurring theme for you.
Kid Cudi: Yeah, but I'm at a different point in my life, and I don't even like talking about that. I've been thinking positive and keeping my mind out of the clouds. You can't take things so seriously, but I gambled for a long time. Shit was intense, it was a journey.

At the Converse show in July where you acknowledged using cocaine, you said you're going to be around until you're "old as fuck," and also said, "I'm sorry if I let you down, I love you." Did you feel like you let your fans down?
Kid Cudi: Every time I snap. I'm sitting there making songs like "Heart of a Lion" and talking about getting through anything, and rising up, and I'm up here snapping and letting people break my shell. I have to practice what I preach. I get strength, and the kids use it.

After all the shit you've been through, do you feel strong?

 

I'm maturing. A boy crumbles from stress, a man can take some punches. And I've been getting sucker-punched for a long time. Life's been beating the shit out of me, mentally and physically. But life is one big fucking joke, so I'm laughing inside.