“What you guys did for Sheck Wes with ‘Mo Bamba’? Do that for me,” Biral remembers Cudi telling them.
Easy enough. All they had to do was recreate one of their biggest hits in front of their childhood idol. At the time, the production duo was working with Cudi’s go-to producer, Dot da Genius, for tracks they assumed were part of Cudi’s long-teased Entergalactic project. But before long, they found themselves as integral members of Cudi’s creative team, first on “The Scotts” and eventually on Man on the Moon III: The Chosen. In a recent interview with Zane Lowe, Cudi explained, “Daytrip and Dot Da Genius pretty much produced this whole album.”
It’s difficult for Baptiste and Biral to put the experience into words. After all, parts one and two of Cudi’s Man on the Moon trilogy were formative to their development as producers and as people. For Dot da Genius, though, it’s a return to a series that he began working on with Cudi over a decade ago.
Man on the Moon III is a deeply personal album, not only for Cudi, but for the producers as well. “Tequila Shots,” for instance, was made on the day that “The Scotts” hit No. 1 on the charts. David and Denzel were hanging at Cudi’s house (“the nicest house we’ve ever been in,” according to Denzel) with Dot, and they all decided to celebrate with tequila shots. Drinks were had, food was consumed, and they hit the lab to create a song that’s already a fan-favorite.
It’s clear that Dot, David, and Denzel all take great pride in their work with Kid Cudi on Man on the Moon III. What began as an undefined collaboration aimed at a hypothetical album, quickly turned into the closing chapter of one of rap’s era-defining trilogies. When all was said and done, Dot Da Genius, who executive produced the album alongside Cudi and Dennis Cummings, earned credits on all 18 songs. Take a Daytrip, meanwhile, have credits on seven songs, joining other MOTMIII producers like Emile Haynie, Plain Pat, Anthony Killhoffer, and Mike Dean.
During our nearly hour-long interview, Dot, Denzel, and David riff on their relationships with each other, Cudi, and Cudi’s music. The conversation, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
You guys have the No. 1 album on Apple Music right now. What’s your first thought when you hear that?
Dot da Genius: It’s been pins and needles, just because we knew what we had for so long, and then we had to worry about, “Is it going to leak, or is it going to be ruined somehow?” Just to have it out and to see the people literally celebrate at the same time is incredible.
David and Denzel, how did you get involved in the album?
Denzel Baptiste [Take a Daytrip]: Dot has been our key proponent in this and so many things over the past few years. We’ve been working together since that time, maybe two or three years ago. But we’ve developed such a tight friendship that we’ll go over to Dot’s house or we’ll chill at our place and just hang out. We didn’t even know we were working on Man on the Moon. We were just working, and then a couple songs into the sessions, I see Cudi typing some names into his phone for the different tracks that we had at that point. He just looks at us and he’s like, “This is Man on the Moon III.” And we’re like, “Oh shit.”
Did that change your approach?
David: I don’t know if we changed our approach too much, just because the music we’d been making put Cudi into that mindset. It put Cudi into the zone, and it made sense for Man on the Moon III to be the project that this became. For me and Denz, just as kids coming from high school, we loved this music before getting into the studio with Dot for the first time, and before meeting Cudi for the first time. The idea of working on a project as legendary as this one is wild for us, because it’s something that touched my life so deeply and touched Denzel’s life so deeply. Growing up, I had dreams based on listening to Man on the Moon I and II. Seeing III in the world and seeing people react to it is a crazy feeling.
“The day we made ‘Tequila Shots’ was the first time the four of us had been together after ‘The Scotts’ went No. 1. We literally took tequila shots that day celebrating it. Something was in the water, man.” - David Biral
Did you feel pressure being in the studio with one of your heroes?
David: Before we started working on Man on the Moon III, Cudi put us on the spot. “Mo Bamba” was our big song at the moment, and Cudi was like, “What you guys did for Sheck Wes with ‘Mo Bamba’? Do that for me.” Later on, Cudi told us stories about moments where he was put on the spot by people that he looked up to. That was our first moment of having to live that.
Dot, why did you think David and Denzel would be a good fit for this project?
Dot: Well, first of all, I just know these guys. They’re genuine folks, and the track record is there already. It was a no-brainer to bring them aboard for this. And it really stemmed back to Entergalactic. We were working on Entergalactic and started thinking about who we could bring aboard to add some flavor, and their names came up a couple of times. I knew “Mo Bamba,” but we didn’t know each other. Since then, though, it’s been so easy. These are my little brothers, to be honest with you.
Dot, how do you think MOTMIII is similar to the first two projects? And what stood out as different?
Dot: The similarities are about the core: Me, Plain Pat, Mike Dean, and Emile [Haynie]. A lot of the music was done during other sessions. “Solo Dolo III” was something we did during the Entergalactic sessions. Me and Plain Pat repurposed it for Man on the Moon III.
Cudi was in a specific headspace to create. I’ve been working with Cudi his entire career, so every time we’re in the studio, it’s a familiar thing, but now we have new energy. There’s old energy with Mike Dean and Kilhoffer, and new energy with Teddy Walton and Aaron Bow. It was my job to mix it up and make sure we had all types of records on the project.
Did Cudi come to you with anything specific that he wanted to do differently this time?
Dot: He just wanted to get right back in his bag. For him, I think it’s more so about where he’s at mentally, emotionally. I think he’s been putting off doing Man on the Moon III because shit got better. The pain maybe wasn’t as in the front. As human beings, we go through ups and downs, and he has to be in a very specific space to do this. But honestly, it was natural for him, like what he normally does. Same old game.
Speaking with Zane Lowe, Cudi mentioned conversations he had with Travis Scott that inspired him. Did that happen when you guys were doing “The Scotts” together?
Dot: Well, he cleared that up with that tweet. I don’t think Travis inspired him as much as Travis expressed to Cudi what he loved about him. They discussed what drew him to the Man on the Moon series as a fan. I think that Cudi needed to hear that. He’s been in the game for so long, and he's just so unapologetically himself, that he might not know why the kids love him. He knows why the kids dig him, obviously, but he needed to hear it. Once he had that conversation with Travis, he was able to harness the energy. David, Denz, and myself were literally strategizing. We were being very fucking strategic with the music we were making. We loved the direction Cudi went with “The Scotts,” and we wanted to keep pushing him that way. That momentum carried itself to Man on the Moon III.
“I think he’s been putting off doing Man on the Moon III because shit got better. The pain maybe wasn’t as in the front. As human beings, we go through ups and downs, and he has to be in a very specific space to do this. But honestly, it was natural for him.” - Dot Da Genius
Denzel and David, how did you transfer the momentum from “The Scotts” to MOTMIII?
Denzel: I remember it was Cudi’s birthday, and he had a house that they invited us to. Dot built a studio downstairs and they extended the house. He just had us coming by, day after day. We had already been working with Dot a lot, and did a bunch of records, but coming in on a daily basis and building that creative momentum inspired how the project came out. Within the first three days, a majority of the stuff we were working on had already solidified, and Cudi was like, “This is it. This is the vibe. There’s chemistry going on right now, and it’s exactly what should be happening.”
David: We’d been working with Dot before for the past year and a half. We had already been practicing together, before “The Scotts” and before Man on the Moon III. We already did “Panini” with Lil Nas X and we made three other beats that same day. Every single time we got together, it was so locked in, but we had so much fun, too. Our chemistry was on lock.
Dot, what was it like having these new voices on Cudi’s production?
Dot: When you do music for so long as a profession, it ends up becoming your job, and a lot of the initial excitement and fun can be taken right out of it. These fellows have literally made it fun again. I love creating with them. When I pull up on them, I know we’re going to make music, but I know that it’s not gonna be stressful. I have the most fun when we're just nerding out over little things. Some artists will get annoyed, because we'll take time and really tweak things and make it right.
Like spending two hours on a snare sound or something.
Dot: Exactly. That’s what we enjoy. Having David and Denz on this project was crucial, because it also helped us extend ourselves to the younger generation. They are in tune with what the kids are feeling. I bring my vibe, they bring their vibes, and together, it becomes its own thing.
How conscious were you of bridging that divide, and connecting younger fans to Cudi’s sound?
Dot: I don’t think Cudi moves like that. He’s not like, “I’m going to strategically hit this person,” but I was thinking that upfront. [Laughs]. When he brought up Trippie Redd, he was like, “The Ohio connection. Yeah. Let’s do it for Ohio one time.” I’m a fan of Trippie's music, so when Cudi brought it up, I just gave him my extra thumbs up. I thought it would be tight, and Trippie fucking nailed it. WondaGurl is on the track, too. We took initiative, and we went over to WondaGurl’s place and recorded with her. When I say we’re being strategic, we took initiative and just cooked up. We pulled up to WondaGurl's house and just made a couple beats.
“When we started with Dot and Cudi, it was for Entergalactic. Dot’s advice to any producer that’s doing anything for Cudi with him is no hi-hats.” - Denzel Baptiste
What was the process like for bringing your guys’ ideas to Cudi?
Denzel: It was interesting going back and forth between cooking up with Cudi there, and doing stuff on our own. It’s super comfortable for Dot, because they’re really close friends, and for us it was like, “Oh, shit. We can’t fuck up. Cudi’s here!” At certain points, we were racing Cudi’s brain because of how fast he could come up with ideas. He’s starting to hum melodies and you're playing a chord. You hear Cudi hum, and you’re like, “Oh my God. What’s going on? It’s a Cudi hum!”
We would record for 20 minutes with all of us messing around on the keys, and then at some point Cudi’s like, “Boom. That’s it.” But we might have 15 tracks of different keyboards, with different ideas on different tracks, and then we have to cut it up. We just have to get it together as fast as possible and then give it to Cudi, because his brain moves so quick.
Not much can change once you give it to an artist like that, because they’re mind focuses so hard on what it is, so changing it from there will always throw it off. But when it’s just us and Dot, we're hanging out. We’re playing Call of Duty. If you want to take two and a half hours to make this beat, who cares? It was fun both ways, though. It was an experience both ways.
If you brought something to Cudi you had to make sure it was exactly the way you wanted it because if he locked into it it wasn't changing much?
David: Yeah. The approach to a session with Cudi and a session without Cudi brought different results. We communicated differently and that was reflected in the music. Listening back, I can hear the ones that were made with Cudi in the room and I can hear the ones that were made with Cudi out of the room.
When Cudi is in the room he’s right there, ready to record and the process changes. Whereas something with “The Scotts,” me, Dot, Plain Pat and Denz just had a jam session and we were able to cut it up later and make it as presentable as we wanted. Same thing for “Damaged,” same thing for “Rockstar Knights.” The process is different when we’re able to guide it and present it in a different way.
“Tequila Shots” is already a fan-favorite. When you’re in the studio, are you aware of which songs will hit immediately?
Dot: It’s crazy that you ask this question because when we make songs, we’re excited about all of them. They all sound great, but when we get a second to listen back to them is when the conclusion is made. “Tequila Shots” was always a perfect marriage between Cudi and the music around Cudi. The way he floated on that beat set the tone for why people are reacting the way they are right now.
When “Tequila Shots” was done, Cudi made his verse and Bill [William Sullivan, engineer] finished putting his touch on it. I was like, “This might need to be the single.” But the decision was made early on to make it the first full song on the album.
David and Denzel, what were the most surreal moments working on the album?
David: The day we made “Tequila Shots” and “Another Day” is definitely a super special day. That was the first time that the four of us had been together after “The Scotts” went No. 1. We literally took tequila shots that day celebrating it, and then named the beat “Tequila Shots.” Something was in the water, man. Making “Another Day” was so special, too. Before Cudi even started doing melody runs and all that, we knew that shit was special. It just sounded special out of the gate.
Denzel: Yeah. That was such a crazy day, because I think that was the first day we went to Cudi's house. It’s always different when an artist invites you to their house, because that’s their sanctuary. Even that gesture was huge to us. It was our first time in a house that nice. It was crazy. It looked like a movie. In the studio, the lights were dark, and Dot turned on these galaxy lights in the whole room, which gave it this wild look. The pool got lit up, too. I was like, “What's happening right now? This shit is crazy.” Then the music we were making was incredible, too. It’s just a testament to the kind of person Cudi is.
I remember when he walked in the room. He had his Murakami chain on, and he’s like, “My chef’s finished.” We’re like, “What?” Then we walk out to the kitchen and there’s a plate for each specific person. David’s vegan; there’s a vegan plate. Cudi’s engineer is vegan; there’s a vegan plate. There’s food for everyone.
David: Everybody eats. Essentially, Cudi is the greatest host of all time.
Denzel: Then he’s like, “Who wants tequila shots?” That’s the story.
Dot, you made “Show Out” with Pop Smoke before he passed. What was it like taking that from its original context and bringing it to Cudi?
Dot: Pop came to L.A. and Steven [Victor] sent him to me and Plain Pat. That was the first stop on his L.A. trip, and he came through with 30 [of his homies]. But it was all love, because they are all from Brooklyn, so I felt like I knew each and every one of them. It was just love off top. He laid a hook, and I remember it was pandemonium. My engineer couldn’t handle it at the time. It was like 30 people smoking, fucking around in the control room, and he bolted. That’s my guy, but it was just too much. Pop laid his hook. He came inside the control room and played me his album, and then went into another session.
Unfortunately, God rest his soul, he passed before we did anything else. So I just had his hook. I wanted to make a connection, so we shot it to Skepta for him to jump on, and he did his verse no questions.
I was at a studio working on my album, and Cudi pulled up and I played it for him there. We were working on Man on the Moon III at this time. We were finalizing it. He heard it, loved it, and wanted to be on it. Then he wanted it to be on the album. I can’t say no to my brother. I couldn’t be more proud. Cudi held his own on that. You would never think to hear Cudi on a drill beat, and he held himself down.
“Pop Smoke laid a hook, and I remember it was pandemonium. My engineer couldn’t handle it at the time. It was like 30 people smoking, f*cking around in the control room.”
How did Phoebe Bridgers end up on a Kid Cudi album?
Dot: I’ve got to give it up for Cudi here. Cudi is known to pull from the indie world, fucking with artists I’ve never heard of. I’ll be honest with you, I’d never heard of Phoebe Bridgers when he brought her up in the studio. I’d never heard her music. I had to do my research to learn more about her. But he’s like, “I think I want her on this record.” I’m like, “Okay, I don’t know her, but I’m going to look her up and shit.” But he went into the session anyway. He made his mind up. But if you look back, he also pulled guys like MGMT and Ratatat. He always reaches back and pulls them into his moments. I feel like every featured guest nailed their part on the album. Phoebe just came in and killed it.
You all worked on “Lord I Know.” Who has the insight on that last line where his daughter says, “To be continued?”
Dot: Cudi does things, and sometimes I don’t get around to asking him what he means by it. What I take from it is that we can expect more music from him. Just because this is the last album of the trilogy doesn't mean that he’s done and he’s done having things to say. That’s what I think.
We’re 10 years removed from the last Man on the Moon. How is Cudi approaching music differently in your mind?
Dot: I think he just has an openness about him now. He has an openness and a willingness to try things that he may not have tried before. As far as his creativity, though, he’s always been consistent. He always has something he wants to record. His method has been the same since the first couple sessions I had with him. The first thing he would sing would be the hook. Without question. The first thing that leaves his mouth is the hook, and it’s fire. His emotions and where he is in the world contributes to the music that he makes, which is why Man on the Moon III sounds the way it does. Man on the Moon II was a very specific era. That’s why it sounds the way it does. Man on the Moon I was wide-eyed. We didn’t know what the fuck was going on. [Laughs].
Was there anything you experienced while working with Cudi that surprised you?
Denzel: In the past few weeks, I’ve been doing more deep dives into I and II. When we started with Dot and Cudi, it was for Entergalactic. Dot’s advice to any producer that’s doing anything for Cudi with him is no hi-hats. That was always the funniest thing to me, because every song has hi-hats. That’s the hardest thing for most producers, because it’s everywhere in the past decade of rap music. But Cudi, Dot, and all those guys are incredible, because they’re able to go against what everyone is doing and make it their own.
Cudi makes his own genre of music, and what Cudi and Dot do together is their own thing. But for us it's like, “Okay, well, we can’t use hi-hats, and we can’t use certain kick patterns.” Cudi would be like, “Never do that. I don’t like that kick pattern because too many people have done that.” Dot is never going to pull up a generic sound. How do we find that balance between what we think is dope and what Cudi and Dot think is dope? That definitely stretched us as producers, trying to find that balance. I realized Cudi trusted us when we would use a hi-hat and he wouldn’t say anything. Then he’d be like, “Turn it up.” It was a really creative collaboration.
David: Those first studio sessions, you spend getting to know each other as human beings. There are things about Cudi that I didn’t know until I got in the room with him, like what sounds he was into. We started to understand the things that stood out to him, and the things that attracted him musically.
I went on a drive yesterday, the minute the album came out. I put it on in my car, because that’s what I used to do when I was in high school. I used to listen to Man on the Moon I and II and drive just to get away from shit. I dreamt of being like these guys one day. Fast forward 10 years later and actually being in a studio with him? It’s insane. I think one of the most amazing feelings is working with someone that you grew up on and them just trusting what you do. We were able to help craft this album based on the things that we were inspired by. We’re inspired by Dot, and we're inspired by Plain Pat, Cudi, Mike Dean. We’re literally kids of that era. We took what they did and tried to put our own spin onto it. Then it landed us with an opportunity to work on an album like this.
Have you three started strategizing on future projects together? Or are you just letting this sink in?
David: We’re definitely letting this shit sink in. I think we’re all just excited. We’re sharing updates back and forth to one another and everything like that, but at the end of the day, we talk about it all the time. Dot is pretty much in Daytrip. We’re all just a unit. We move together. We just come together to have fun and just think of some new shit. So whether it’s working with Cudi or working on anything else, we're just happy to be working together.
How’s Cudi feeling today?
Dot: He’s feeling great. There’s always some apprehension before an album drops, but as soon as it drops and the outpouring of love starts coming in, how can you not be happy? How can you not have smiles and feel good?
Each of you has to pick a favorite song on the album. What do you go with?
Dot: Shit. Okay. It’s so hard. This is the hardest question that I will ever get. Like I told you at the beginning of the interview, I knew “Tequila Shots” was going to be special. That song was what gave me confidence in the album. I’m like, “I don’t give a fuck. As soon as they hear this song, it should be a snowball effect.” I know I’m probably taking y’alls choices, but I’m going to go ahead and take “Tequila Shots.”
Denzel: Just the memories around working on “Tequila Shots” makes it a favorite. I'm sure I'm going to have a new favorite every day, but today that one's my favorite.
David: When I think of these songs, I think about the days we made them. “Tequila Shots,” “Another Day,” and “Lord I Know,” were all made a day or two apart. Thinking back on everything that we worked on together, each has a memory outside of just the song that we created.
“Tequila Shots,” aside from it being one that the three of us made together, has the best memories. Taking shots together to celebrate “The Scotts” was special. Those kinds of moments, especially when you think about how much Cudi inspired us as high schoolers, are so special. Fast forward 10 years and we’re taking shots with our idols? That’s crazy. There's so much of Daytrip that stems directly from those guys. To be able to celebrate a No. 1 record with your idols who have become your OGs, your mentors, your brothers, and your friends, is just too surreal.