On the ninth floor of a luxury apartment building in NYC’s Tribeca neighborhood, the hallway is thick with the aroma of green. While a mix of young couples and well-off college grads populate the building, the reason for the heady atmosphere is a brand-new tenant. His mail comes to Scott Mescudi, but you know him better as Kid Cudi—rapper, Cleveland transplant, and all-around weirdo.
Yeah, we said it. Dude is strange. Case in point: Armadas, the giant wolf (OK, it’s a statue) that Cudi keeps in his crib to “hold him down.” Want more? He lives alone, but his kitchen table is meticulously set for four. Then again, it makes more sense once you give it some thought; Cudi’s always been somewhat of a solitary figure. He lost his father to cancer when he was 11, lashed out at school, and eventually left the only world he knew to come to New York by himself on a quest he wasn’t even sure he believed in. Now, at 25, his pain is still deep, although it’s hard to tell when in his company; spend a few hours with him and he’ll crack jokes, maybe talk in odd voices. He’s a bundle of contradictions, enough to make you wonder which side of him you’re going to meet next. The lonely stoner or the people person? The class clown or the prisoner of his own paranoia? Let the analysis begin...
After working a lot with Kanye, how does it feel to be focused on your own career?Kid Cudi:
Are you worried about recapturing the success of “Day ’N’ Nite”?Kid Cudi:
What kind of fears do you have about releasing your album?Kid Cudi:
What’s hell about it?Kid Cudi:
But do you feel like your own world is hell sometimes?Kid Cudi:Laughswouldn’tLaughs
Did you ever have an experience with a groupie that backs that up?Kid Cudi:Laughs
Has the girl situation really been that crazy?Kid Cudi:
So how do you deal with that?Kid Cudi:
Do you consider yourself a weirdo?Kid Cudi:
Is that a product of having your dad pass away?Kid Cudi:
You told me that you slept next to your mom until you were 12.Kid Cudi:Laughs
How does that loss affect you now?Kid Cudi:real
Speaking of your grind, when did you decide to move to New York?Kid Cudi:
Your uncle let you stay for free?Kid Cudi:Laughs
Compared to what you had been through, it must’ve seemed easy.Kid Cudi:
“Day ’N’ Nite” didn’t blow up at first. Even those fans new to the Cudi bandwagon know the song was written in 2006—and while it was racking up hits on MySpace, and eventually as a single on A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold label, radio didn’t get around to it until 2008. Thankfully, even in the survival-of-the-fittest cycle young rappers find themselves in, Cudi’s sense of self was healthy enough to wait for the world to catch up. And now, the world is waiting; after a few hours at his apartment, he abruptly mentions that we’re heading to Brooklyn to meet up with Kanye West, who’s in town shooting a video for Clipse’s “Kinda Like A Big Deal.” When we get to the set, Cudi yells out to Kanye—“’Sup, Chief Broski!”— and ’Ye reacts like he’s seeing a peer, not a protégé.
Kanye first called on Cudi to reference hooks for Jay-Z, and while in the studio, Cudi and ’Ye went from working on The Blueprint 3 to Good Ass Job (the working title for Kanye’s next album) to 808s & Heartbreak. There’s a theory, and it’s a good one, that Cudi’s melody-heavy singsong style inspired Kanye to do 808s in the first place. Cudi’s assistance on the album includes co-writing credits on “Heartless,” “Welcome to Heartbreak,” “Paranoid,” and “RoboCop.” West doesn’t hold back when giving Cudi credit. “Me and Cudi are the originators of the style, kinda like what Alexander McQueen is to fashion,” he says. “Everything else is just Zara and H&M.” And with Kanye in his corner, Cudi has a significant advantage over most of his fellow freshman MCs—the one exception being up-and-comer Drake, who was recently signed to Lil Wayne’s Young Money imprint. As easy as it is for one to compare the two, Cudi makes clear that he’s solely focused on his own career, not the next man’s. And when it comes to music, this moon-man’s focus is out of this world.