Charismatic, musically gifted, and wildly ambitious, Kid Cudi has all the trappings of a crossover star. But Cudder refuses to play that game. And consequently he wins at his own.

This feature appears in Complex's October/November 2011 issue.

Kid Cudi loves Walk Hard. So much. So much, in fact, that the 27-year-old musician says that he uses the slept-on Judd Apatow mock-rock biopic to chart his career trajectory. However, the fact that he’s wearing real-deal shit-kicking cowboy boots (!!!) at this very moment, seated in his Tribeca apartment (which looks like Tom Hanks’ loft in Big, reimagined by Nigo), is purely coincidental. But I digress. Back to Walk Hard. What makes this whole comparison to the rock-n-roll cliché kinda crazy is that young Cudder has done in three years what it took that flick’s Dewey Cox 25 years to do. Seriously. You know Cox’s story: rise from obscurity on the back of a signature hit, have a kid, go psychedelic, party out of control, get arrested, break up the band, get cleaned up.

Cudi did all that. Blew up off “Day N Nite,” made a psychedelic masterpiece with Man on the Moon, partied waaaaay out of control (check TMZ for the evidence), got arrested for kicking down a woman’s door with a jar of coke in his pocket, had a baby girl, quit the coke, fired his managers, and then quit the weed. In three years. If he were Dewey Cox, that would put him in the mid-’70s, hosting a TV show and struggling with sobriety-induced writer’s block. Hmm.

Ironically, that’s not too far from where Cudi finds himself. However, where Cox was at a washed-up crossroads of middle age (with only about 15 minutes left in the movie), Cudi is squarely in his prime and undeniably at his career’s zenith. He’s starring in the acclaimed HBO drama How to Make It in America and putting out a Shia LaBeouf written and directed short, Maniac, inspired by his song of the same name. Having picked up the guitar during his recovery, he’s working on his rock-themed side project, The Wizard (while struggling a little, he admits, with sober songwriting).

Cudi is going to have to find a whole new career trajectory to use as a benchmark, ’cause he’s entering uncharted territory. Complex caught up with Mr. Solo Dolo before he jumped to the other side of the pond to tour and discussed all of the above, plus why he hates doing features, how he’s his own best manager, and what he’s learned about love.

 

There’s no way to slow somebody when they’re speeding down a path of destruction.

 

So, that last interview you did with Complex was...explosive. [Laughs.]
Yeah, it was a doozy! [Laughs.] You know, I was clean then, but I still had, like, a drug hangover.

Is that drug hangover why you disappeared after you released your second album?
I wanted to clear my head, besides detox. I had to look at the root of the whole problem, and that was work and the business.

How so?
I wasn’t trying to hear it from nobody. I’m not even going to attack the people in my life that didn’t step in and try to stop it, ’cause I was just so bullheaded. There’s no way to slow somebody when they’re speeding down a path of destruction.

I thought I was dealing with it in the proper way. I was in the moment. And when you’re that young, with that opportunity, all that money, and all that respect and power, sometimes you run with it. ’Cause I was like, “Man, you don’t know if this shit’s gon’ be here tomorrow.”

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