Cudi speaks on his musical rebirth.
Interview by Joe La Puma (@JLaPuma)
It's 11 p.m. on Monday night, and Scott "Kid Cudi" Mescudi is an hour away from releasing his fourth studio album, Indicud. The self-produced set leaked over a week ago, and like everything Cudi, it's not what you'd expect from a "rapper." Indicud features a blend of singing and rapping, as well as tracks where Cudi's contribution is mostly the instrumental he concocted. This has been a trend in Cudi's music lately: more than ever, he's doing things his own way.
Last week Cudi announced his departure from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label. Sure there were some hints, but the news came as a shock to many since Cudi’s been so closely associated with West. If you’ve been paying attention, you know Cudi's never been one to fall in line with what anyone else was doing. For better or worse, he’s always had a strong sense of self, and he’s bringing that energy to his new label, Wicked Awesome. Just before Indicud hit iTunes, we had a quick chat with Cudi from his home in L.A. to get his thoughts on the reception of his album, dig a bit deeper into his exit from G.O.O.D Music, and find out how he's reinventing himself all over again.
Now that you’re producing, is that just as gratifying as rapping three verses?
Oh yeah, definitely, because it’s still a part of me. It’s still my creative energy. I just want to make good songs. It doesn’t always have to be me on it and that’s what the idea was behind Indicud: to show my songwriting capabilities as well as my production.
How different is Indicud from the Cudder album we were going to get a couple of years back?
Very different. And I try to tell people this: The album is whatever I say it is. This could easily have been Man on the Moon 3. I think kids need to let go of titles and stuff and just embrace the music because at the end of the day it’s still me being extremely creative and trying to push myself and challenge people’s imagination. What people think is a solid hip-hop record in 2013, it just needs to be revamped. We just need to rewire their minds and that’s what Indicud is [doing].
I can’t listen to [my old] songs now. It was so real and open and raw and that if I listen to them I start feeling bad for myself because that was such a sad, sad life I was living.
On Twitter, you said people shouldn't compare Indicud to your past two albums, and that you were in a bad place before but now you’re not. Do you feel that you’re the voice for the people who are sad and lonely?
Yeah, because I couldn’t be the voice of the sad and lonely if I was still sad and lonely. You got to survive this shit first. How am I going to be a leader if I’m still fucked up and miserable? How can you believe and listen to anything he’s saying if he’s still fucked up like us? It’s like with the first solo dolo, who would listen to the words of my songs?
I’m really happy with all my previous work. Those albums were supposed to bring you into the moment of that place in time I was at, my head state. I can’t listen to [my old] songs now. It was so real and open and raw that if I listen to them I start feeling bad for myself because that was such a sad, sad life I was living. I was really sad kid. It kind of bums me out. I don’t ever want to look back and listen to those records. At my shows is the only time I get into that space and think about those songs. I don’t dwell on what happened in the past. Those songs are out, those albums are out. When people need them, they will be there to guide them. When they’re ready to catch up to the Indicud mind-set then they will catch up. Indicud is definitely a state of mind and it’s going to take a strong person mentally to be able to embrace it, and I just hope that all my fans that knew me since day one have grown with me. That’s all I ever wanted. I wanted us to all grow and reach a place of peace.
Does revisiting songs really have an affect on you?
Yeah, because I was writing about the present. I’m in happier space. To hang onto those records and revisit them, it’s just bonkers, and I just don’t want my mind on that right now. I need to be thinking about the future and all the great things to come. I’m excited and I’m hopeful that the rest of my life ends up being wonderful.
You've portrayed the “rager” personality in the past, and many people assume you're always angry. On “Burn Baby Burn,” you seem to be saying the opposite is true.
Yeah, this is a reminder that I’m not this fucking stressed out maniac anymore. I’m so confident in who I am. I love who I am as a person and that’s really what it is. The whole aspect of Indicud is to show my new confident self. I don’t think any of my other albums had that confident tone. I wanted to express the new head space I was in—stronger, more confident, more positive and just like a leader. I’m in a fucking position of leadership. I’m way stronger. And then “Burn Baby Burn” comes on and now it’s time to watch them burn, baby, burn. I think that ties the whole thing together. If you didn’t get it then, that will put it in perspective for you there. After that, "Lord of the Sad and Lonely" is like my speech. First, my rise to leadership, and then my speech. That’s my mission statement.
I don’t look at myself as a rapper. I look at myself as an artist. But when it comes to that skill of rapping I’m nice and that’s just what it is. Especially with flow patterns. I pride myself on my flow.
What I like about that song is that you’re not making broad statements. You’re addressing specific issues, like the term “paranoid.” Was there ever a point in your life when you were paranoid?
Yeah, I think it wasn’t paranoia in a sense of extreme paranoia, like I couldn’t go out in the world. But more paranoia of not being sure who’s around who I can trust, not even knowing who I am—as opposed to me feeling like somebody’s about to get me or anything like that. I’m not scared about my safety or about the future. I always worried what was going to happen. I’m kind of just going with the fucking flow. That’s what I meant by that.
The last time I interviewed you, we spoke about your lack of involvement on the G.O.O.D. Music album Cruel Summer. I don’t know if everybody caught it but in “Cold Blooded,” you talk about being the “black sheep of G.O.O.D Music.” Is that how you felt?
Yeah, I definitely did. I’m different than everyone else on the label in an extreme way. That line isn’t directed towards anyone at the label, it’s more like the critics and naysayers saying, “Aw, man, you’re only good for a hook.” It’s been years since I dropped a hip-hop record, so I have to remind these muthafuckas: Don’t get it twisted! I rap my ass off. I’ve been rapping since I was 14. I know how to rap and I don’t care what anyone says. I can do it on demand, whenever I feel like it and “Cold Blooded” was my way of just ripping that beat to shreds and just showing muthafuckas. I don’t look at myself as a rapper. I look at myself as an artist. But when it comes to that skill of rapping I’m nice and that’s just what it is. Especially with flow patterns. I pride myself on my flow.
I think once Watch the Throne came out, everybody started ripping off 'Ye and Jay’s flows. Even now I hear rap records and they’re just so blatant, people ripping off Hov and Ye’s flows from Watch the Throne. Another thing I always take from Jay-Z and Kanye, every project they establish new flows. I’m doing my own plus I’m doing up-tempos now with new energy behind the records. And I was really excited to do that—that creativity to come up with a way to deliver raps.