Kid Cudi: Life After Death
Issue: February/March 2013
Photographer: JUCO (Julia Galdo and Cody Cloud)
Written By: Joe La Puma (@jlapuma)
Noah's idea was from a comic book cover showing Spiderman crawling out of a grave. Cudi was really into it.
Brent Rollins: "So Cudi, Joe, Noah, and I went to meet Cudi at some recording studio, and he played us some music. We were tossing around ideas, and Noah had one that he's always wanted to shoot based off of a Spiderman comic book cover. Basically, we wanted it to be like Cudi's rebirth, because he wants to reassert himself in hip-hop. Also, he had been going through all this dark stuff in his life, and now he's clean and feels like a new person.
The idea of him coming back to life was a thought, and Noah's idea was from a comic book cover showing Spiderman crawling out of a grave. Cudi was really into it. We wanted to do a whole futuristic-type thing and were thinking about that one part in Star Trek with the space pod. We got JUCO to shoot that in LA. They were really excited and ended up coming up with more ideas. Cudi has this sci-fi thing as part of his whole character, so we had a lot of ideas coming from different places. They found all these other references with robots and embryonic fluids—all these crazy, related things that they were trying to tie together.
JUCO found all these other references with robots and embryonic fluids—all these crazy, related things that they were trying to tie together.
We got to LA, and they built the set for the grave. Cudi got in the dirt, and we took some great pictures of him there. They had built an acrylic coffin that they were going to fill up with liquid, so it was kind of this weird birth/death-type thing. At first, Cudi wanted to do it naked, but he kind of went back and forth. It's a little weird, because he has shoes on, but it's all these different metaphors about life, death, and being reborn that make it so unusual. It's not so 'on the nose,' but it touches all these different points. It's far too compelling and very unexpected but also super simple."
Gina Batlle: "We couldn't decide and brought in other editors to look at the final shots, and they thought that it maybe went too far. For us, if something is compelling, we go for it. Sometimes when you go in too hard with a specific idea, you'll miss something better that might happen. What's cool about photo shoots is that you have an idea, but you don't actually know what you're going to get."
For us, if something is compelling, we go for it. Sometimes when you go in too hard with a specific idea, you’ll miss something better that might happen.
Brent Rollins: "There are several different shots of Cudi in water, and then they added milk to the water. It's so crazy, because Cudi has tattoos of his wrists slit, so there's all this morbid stuff going on. He's definitely got that sort of Latin death fascination. They put that colored syrup on his arms and then in the water. Then he started getting in all these embryonic positions, and there was all this crazy shit with the coffin and being in the fetal position. The final shot is probably truer to his persona and a lot more unexpected and unique, so I think that's why that cover won."
Gina Batlle: "It's really shocking and weird; you're not necessarily sure how to feel when you're looking at it, which is cool because you don't want someone to look at a photo and say, 'I get it.' It's also great to work with people who trust you, and Cudi is one of those people who really trusts Complex, Brent, and Noah to have awesome ideas and to make sure things are going to look cool. He really trusts what we do."