Kid Cudi: The Dark Side Of The Moon
Cudi made it clear during his discussion with HipHopDX that he could care less what a hater got to say, as he is currently reveling in the success of what has been a whirlwind year for the lonely stoner. After hearing Cudis summer 08 unofficial debut via his Day N Nite anchored mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, fellow Midwest music risk taker Kanye West brought the former Clevelander (now Brooklynite) into his G.O.O.D. Music family where he was immediately put to work co-writing Yes melodic smash Heartless just a few months before Cudis own hypnotic hit Day N Nite rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and officially set off Cudi mania.
And although his rhymes dont always rhyme, and are almost always delivered in an off-kilter sing-songy manner that almost eschews rapping atop Electronic dominated sounds whose closest Hip Hop kin would be the quarter-century old Planet Rock, there is absolutely no denying the potency of Cudis addictive choruses that stay stuck in your head long after the musics stopped playing, as well as the power of his aural documents of battles with the rare night terrors and the much more commonplace struggle we all, whether admittedly or not, have in fitting in with our peers.
The avant-garde artist detailed to DX how his past personal darkness (following his fathers passing from cancer when Cudi was just 11-years-old) affected his current creative direction. The man Kanye and now Jay-Z have turned to for a creative jolt also explained how his unique music is actually comparable to Public Enemy. And most notably, Cudi shared his moon with DX about those attempting to spread their dark critiques of his style into the hater-proof Cudi Zone.
HipHopDX: And Im this close to going trying some coke/And a happy ending would be slitting my throat. Holy shit, man! It cant be that bad. You know the Cavaliers got Shaq now, so you got that to feel good about [Laughs].
Kid Cudi: [Laughs] Unfortunately we didnt have Shaq when I wrote that rhyme.
DX: [Laughs] So where is that coming from? Thats like Ready To Die to the tenth power.
Kid Cudi: Well it's like, my main thing is to paint these pictures and thoughts from my mind and how I process certain things. And [that song], Soundtrack To My Life, is the perfect alley-oop for the whole album. It sets the flow. It kinda lets you know what were gonna be talking about. I wanted to say a lot of things that pop up in my brain and in my thought patterns that were gonna shock people. I wanted to immediately shock people right at the beginning of the album. So it was only right for me to just address those type of things and keep it all the way honest [from the beginning], and have people really ready for whatever. Because the rest of the album is youre ready for whatever after that song, cause it sets it up. And the rest of the album, it takes it there, it kinda explains everything thats mentioned in that [song].
DX: On Soundtrack To My Life you note that, Since my father died, I aint been right since. And then on My World you also note that you, took a turn to the worse when my father left me lonely. I think its interesting that for maybe the first time in Hip Hop were hearing about the effects of an absent father, but not because of the usual "papa was a rolling stone" stuff.
Kid Cudi: Yeah, its definitely important to me to make mention of my father because I think that does play a major part in why I am who I am, like my character and how I think and how I move in life. And this album was my way of finally letting out a lot of feelings that Ive yet to even mention to my mother.
DX: Speaking of, but they all didnt see the little bit of sadness in me. Is what youre speaking on in these songs gonna be a revelation to your family?
Kid Cudi: Yeah man, especially like my mom. Shes really ready to just sit down with the album and give it a good listen. She worries about me anyway, but I think the album is gonna open her eyes about a lot of stuff.
DX: What are night terrors?
Kid Cudi: Its kinda like nightmares that are really intense, that feel real more than the normal nightmare.
DX: And this was something you really suffered with, or was just at one point in time or?
Kid Cudi: Yeah, definitely when I was younger. Its like, as a kid losing your father and having to deal with it, and getting older and not really being able to talk to anybody about it, it just ended up manifesting in these dreams in my mind. Yeah it was real bad but as I got older they went away slowly but surely.
DX: Does you speaking on these personal struggles, and consistently referring to yourself as a loner, automatically define your music as Emo Rap?
Kid Cudi: UmI dont know, man. I dont make music for titles, so I mean like, whatever. Call it whatever you want, as long as people like it I dont really care.
DX: Ive seen the labels Alternative Rap, Stoner Rap [Laughs], Slacker Rap [Laughs] all associated with your music.
Kid Cudi: Yeah, all types of stuff, man. But thats just people liking to categorize stuff that they dont really know what to categorize it as. Its cool.
DX: And I noticed you make a point of noting on Heart Of A Lion that youre not a loser.
Kid Cudi: Yeah. When I was coming up you would think that I didnt have any potential to be anything. I drew a lot, so people that knew me really well thought that I was gonna end up doing something with art or drawing or being a cartoonist or something like that. But to the outside world I used to get in so much shit in school, and I had very little motivation to do anything, you would think I was a completely worthless kid.
DX: I wanna switch gearsto the sound of the album, I just have to ask cause people are asking, why the heavy Electronic, Synth-Pop vibe on a lot of the album?
Kid Cudi: Well one thing I wanted to do was combine sounds that really bring out intense moods. Like on Heart Of A Lion the synth is really intense during the no, no, no part, the bridge and even at the end. It just adds to the triumphant nature; it makes it more mean. And I wanted it to always have that mean undertone like, this is no joke, this is a serious thing. Even though Heart Of A Lion is kind of an uplifting joint, its [got] some seriousness to it. It's like, Man, Im not fucking playing. The synth adds that really dope mean vibe. And I wanted that darkness on the album.
DX: Did you have big Hip Hop musical influences coming up?
Kid Cudi: Yeah man, I really was into My thing coming up was like the [era of] Biggie, Pac, Jay [click to read], Snoop [click to read]. And even more early on of course I remember the Run-DMCs, Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah [click to read], Kid N Play, N.W.A. [click to read]. These are the people that I started seeing and growing to like as a kid. And one thing thats important, that we can think about, is that back in the day Kid N Play and Queen Latifah and LL and Heavy D and Flava Flav, everybody was cool. Naughty By Nature [click to read] and Onyx [click to read], everybody was cool for the most part. There wasnt like any intense beef. It wasnt about the media and all this crap. It was about the music and movements. Everybody had [their own] movement. Public Enemy [click to read] was a group that I [recognized] early on like, Man, these dudes have a movement going. Theyre saying something. Theyre not just making these songs. And back then people werent talking about Public Enemy is Emo Rap because theyre talking about how it feels to be a black man in America. Were mothafuckas calling it Emo Rap then? Just because it had a bad-ass nature doesnt mean that they werent expressing their emotions. And thats all Im doing in my music. Sorry that its not like super bad-ass and Im not talking about fucking rioting because its a different day and age now, its not like it was when Public Enemy was making records. Granted, theres a lot of shit still going on, but its a different day and age and music is about the times. And the shit Im speaking about is the life and times [in] my world, and what a lot of kids deal with today. Theres different things to talk about. We cant all talk about the same things.
DX: Wanna jump back to the sound of the album a little bit. I personally love the Psychedelic Pop Rock vibe on Up, Up & Away, and that Electronic, Synth-Pop vibe I mentioned thats heard on Sky Might Fall and Pursuit Of Happiness. All those records could easily be hits, but you and I both know that the Hip Hop heads may be left scratching their heads a little bit.
Kid Cudi: Yeah I mean, who cares. Thats how I feel man. Its like, oh well, I didnt make this album to cater to anybodys liking. I just made it for myself first, and hopefully everybody else liked it.
DX: Enter Galactic is another record that I love, that could be a huge R&B/Dance hit, but might again rub some heads the wrong way. In that song you incorporate what seems to be your standard sing-songy flow. Now you probably already know that the haters are already out in full force online criticizing that. What do you say to anyone who says you cant really spit and that you utilize the melodic sing-songy stuff to cover up that fact?
Kid Cudi: Umthanks for asking me about a hateful comment on a blog. And my answer to that is "who cares." I dont read blogs by the way, like the comments. So, you kinda just mentioned a negative comment that somebody posted on a blog. Thanks, now I know people think that I dont know how to rap and I cover it up with my melodies. Thanks. [Laughs]
DX: If you had to direct the skeptics though to one verse or one whole song on your album that you feel undeniably proves your rhyme skills, which verse or song would you direct them to?
Kid Cudi: UmI dont know, its kinda likeI really dont mind if people feel any type of way. I dont care, man. Its either you get it or you dont. If you dont think I can rap, cool. Its alright. Fuck it, I get it. Niggas dont think I can rap, thats fine. Im not gonna miss any sleep. Im good. People like what Im doing, and thats all that matters. Not everybodys gonna like your shit. As dope as Jay-Z is, not everyone likes Jay-Z. Not everybody likes Biggie. Not everybody likes Pac. This is just how life is dude. Like, you [asking] me what I think and then [asking] me what song on my album would I say thats undeniably rappin, its like, man, Im tired of trying to go out of my way to prove anything to anybody. I made this album, love it or hate it, fuck it. Its like, whatever. Theres other shit Im dealing with, man. I dont really give a fuck about if niggas think I can rap or not. Im taking care of my family. Im not living in the place where I was mentally and physically I was last year. Im in a positive place. And thats how I look at everything around me. All that other shit is irrelevant. Either love me or leave me alone.
DX: So to punctuate that you would say youre Already Home with the shit that youre on [Laughs].
Kid Cudi: Yeah, you know what I mean? At the same time niggas be like, Man, you cant rap! Its like, man, stop the madness, Im on Blueprint 3 [click to read]. [Laughs] I mean, Im doing okay, man. Stop critiquing me so hard-body and just let me be an artist. Theres people that are amazing lyricists, like Jay, who just embrace me for who I am. Why cant everybody else?
DX: Speaking of Jay, this may be a difficult question, but Im gonna ask it anyway, are you, Kid Cudi, the person most responsible for Kanye West and Jay-Zs recent shifts in sound? Not to bait you into an arrogant answer, but would there have been an 808s & Heartbreak or the experimental electro direction of Blueprint 3 if you never came into contact with Ye?
Kid Cudi: Oh yeah, definitely. Cause Kanye is always an innovative person. Great minds think alike, and thats how I look at it. Me and Ye, thats why we hit it off so well when we first started working together, because we both think outside the box. We both are on trying to push the envelope of creativity. So it woulda happened regardless of whether I was in the equation or not.
DX: Speaking of Yeezy, are you and he currently cooking up his next full-length meal? If so, will it be in the same vein as 808s?
Kid Cudi: Nah, I havent heard anything about his recording. I think hes kinda chillin out right now. But when hes ready to work he knows how to reach me. He can hit me up on the bat-phone and Ill be ready.
DX: At the end of your album, your LPs narrator, Common, says that A new challenge awaits for you. What was he speaking of?
Kid Cudi: Its kinda segueing to the next album. And I know that theres gonna be a lot of challenges up ahead in my career, in my life, and theres more to this story that just hasnt unfolded yet. So I got a lot more living to do before I start working on the second album. But everything that I experience from here on out will be mentioned on the second album not necessarily about dealing with fame or anything like that, just like my life and times.
DX: And there will definitely be a second album, no more retirement talk for Kid Cudi?
Kid Cudi: Nah, Ima be creative for a bit. Whether its solo albums or collab albums, Im really gonna be creating. And I even wanna do some executive producing work, helping out some artists, helping them push the envelope. I feel like some artists just need someone around to get them creatively on track, and bring that creativity out of them. So I wanna do that with a lot of artists.
DX: Have you signed anybody to your Dream On imprint yet?
Kid Cudi: Were in the process of doing the Chip Tha Ripper deal. First off is Chip. So far, so good with that. Hes an amazing artist. Hes killing it. And hes got so much love in Cleveland. I look at Chip like hes the Cleveland Biggie, man. When he goes back there, man, its so much love. Everybody love him. And hes an amazing lyricist. And hes dope.
DX: Let me ask you this follow-up about Cleveland My world turns, flippin the bird /To the ones who figured /Me, Outkast, no not the duo / Back to Shaker Heights, where they knewthough little brother was a strange one, boo-hoo / Cry me a river, hey look who, traveled out an igloo / Cold, cold world, wasnt fit for, me at all / Look at where I stand at, tall / Clutching my Kid Cudi bizalls / Mute muthafuckas back home, quick pause. What were you trying to say about the Land on Solo Dolo?
Kid Cudi: Well its kinda like theres a nice amount of people that are just bitter at the fact that I kinda like left. I was in a cold place back then. It was like I wasnt allowed to be myself. It was like my heart was frozen a bit. And it wasnt until I left [that] I was able to reach and see who I really was, and really get a chance to spread my wings It wasnt [fit for me at all], like Cleveland not even [the music scene], Cleveland wasnt fit for me as a city. A kid with big dreams I mean, theres not much in Cleveland to do to accomplish all those goals that I had. So the town wasnt big enough for my dreams Thats what that verse is really talking about, the Solo Dolo thing. But its really important to like mention that type of stuff and break it down for people so they can get an understanding of the method to the madness.
DX: I guess this is obvious from the album cover art, but I just wanted to ask you specifically is the moon your bedroom, your mind, your hometown, all of the above?
Kid Cudi: Yeah man, the moon is pretty much my place of peace, whether its a room or my mind. Its really your own personal space. It could be interpreted any different way. I didnt wanna have it so literal. I want kids to interpret it and find their own moon in their world.