Our story starts out in New York’s South Bronx, where a young rapper named Scott Mescudi is crashing at his uncle’s place after arriving from the suburbs of Cleveland, OH, where he’d been trying, to no avail, to get the locals interested in his quirky, yet larger-than-life new persona he calls Kid Cudi. Like anyone who has ever heard the call––whether it be from Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five or Ben E. King––New York, NY, is the birthplace of hip-hop, and on Broadway is where you come to see your name in lights. Which is exactly what Mescudi, or Cudi, did in October 2004––with only a demo tape and five-hundred bucks cash in his pocket.
After getting a job at American Apparel he hooked up with Plain Pat and Emile and recorded “Day ‘n’ Night,” a single that would not only change his life, but the notions of what kind of artist he is. Hip-hop? Pop? EDM? That’s the way Kid Cudi likes it. And while he may brush off his collaborations, he earned a Grammy for his work on Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” (which also features Rihanna and Fergie).
Cudi was there for West, helping him in the studio on several cuts, and in turn West was there for Cudi when he signed him to his own G.O.O.D. Music label. But now the social media savvy rapper (according to The Hype Machine, he is among the top 10 most blogged about artists of all-time) has stepped out to release his third album Indicud (which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart) in conjunction with G.O.O.D. Music, Republic and his new imprint, Wicked Awesome Records.
We catch up Kid Cudi in between gigs as he winds down The Cud Life Tour, a spectacle that has Mescudi-cum-Cudi transforming into the “Moon Man,” who’s somewhere between David Bowie and Tony Stark.
Music Connection: Was there a hip-hop scene in Cleveland when you were coming up?
Kid Cudi: Yeah, there was a very small scene that was a dope collection of hip-hop heads, but you had to know about it and ask around. It was on the west side, and it was hard to get a ride over there, but I was always there trying to do these freestyle battles. [There was another competition where] you’d give them an original song and they played it with other original songs, and if you win that you get to come back next week and perform the song in a 15 minute set; so you know that was my goal: “Shit I gotta have this dope song, then I gotta go perform!”
MC: Did the scene take to you right away?
Kid Cudi: I would win some competitions and lose some, but when I lost everyone looked at me like I was fuckin’ crazy. They were like, “what the fuck am I listening to?” And, “Who is this dude?” I was always pushing the envelope and trying new things, I went out of my way to find my own voice, and I think that’s how I developed my sound. I was about growth and adventures and living life and seeing what was out there, but I always felt trapped in Cleveland. I’m gonna tell it to you like this, and this might come off crazy, but I was like, “This town ain’t ready for me. Who I am don’t fit here. I need to go where I fit, where I find inspiration.”