To The Moon: Flying High with Rapper & Actor Kid Cudi
Any artist worth his microphone has his share of mental issues to battle, suppress, and finally divulge to their public, and Kid Cudi has enough mental gymnastics going on upstairs to guide him well past the first wave of hype (which, not incidentally, has reached fever-pitch). After a childhood spent entertaining himself, the complicated creative has transitioned into an adulthood dedicated to entertaining the masses, but strictly on his own terms. Though he’s admittedly lost in a self-constructed mental haven, it’s impossible not to feel his presence, as he continues to make waves in music and film, working with the likes of Kanye West and Mark Wahlberg at the onset of his career. Headstrong, but lost in his head — Meet Kid Cudi, Mr. Solo Dolo.
Your life’s goal is to go to the moon—why is that? That’s a goal that could be very much possible in the future. I’ve got this whole “man on the moon” theme and it’s definitely metaphorical, but one day I should really just go to the moon. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to buy a ticket—you can buy a ticket for a space shuttle—it’s a crap load of money, but hey.
What does the metaphor mean? Why is the upcoming album titled Man On The Moon? I feel like I’m in a place all by myself. When I’m thinking a lot or even just moving around day to day, I feel a sense of isolation within myself. I feel like I’ve built barriers in order to stay sane. I’ve always felt like that; when I was younger, I had to entertain myself a lot because my siblings were older. I’ve always been a by-myself type of dude, so even when there are people around, I just feel like I’m solo dolo.
Is that what the chorus in “Day ‘n’ Nite” refers to? Yeah, you’ll hear that on the album, a lot of things in “Day ‘n’ Nite” will be explained on it.
You think that acting was your first true talent; how’d you make that discovery? When I was young, I always did impressions around the house and made little silly voices. I’ve even noticed myself doing it recently, looking in the mirror and just singing songs and being goofy. I used to do that a lot when I was little and my mom would get pissed because I would be in the bathroom for hours, but there wasn’t a lock on the door, so at some point my mom would come in and catch me doing this shit and I’d be all embarrassed. Because it’s crazy: a little kid talking to himself in the mirror, like some scary movie-type shit. I’ve always had a crazy imagination and I think that actors—great actors—are the ones who have great imaginations.
By great imagination, do you mean “out of your mind”? Definitely. I have all the traits of a successful actor. I’m definitely fighting some demons inside that I want to bring out in a couple of roles.
How much effort are you going to dedicate to acting since you’re still fairly new in the music scene? I already have a lead role in a new HBO series that airs next year, and we start shooting it in August. It’s called How To Make It In America, from the same people that did Entourage, so Mark Wahlberg is involved. It’s based on three friends in present day New York, trying to achieve success, whether it’s by starting their own business or trying to open an art gallery. They just all have the goal to be successful, but their schemes are really funny and there’s a lot of comedy in it. It’s a really dope show about 20-somethings in New York on their grind, so to speak. It’s something I definitely experienced when I came to New York, so I relate to the character. And How To Make It In America is probably just the best title ever.
How did acting and singing in the mirror evolve into hip-hop? My mom is a singer and she was a music teacher for about 35 years, so she made sure that we all were in tune with music. I tried to play about three instruments before I finally realized I’m just not the dude to play instruments! I still hate the fact that I can’t make beats. I’ve made a couple but I would never call myself a producer because I feel like that’s an art that I’ve yet to jump into. But it was definitely early on when I noticed that instruments weren’t really my thing, but instead I was really in tune with just good music — good sound. So when I was 12 or 13 I started writing raps and then at 15 I started to pursue a career. How did you end up working with your manager and DJ Plain Pat, and then Kanye? When I moved to New York, I met Plain Pat and we became cool. I didn’t have anybody representing me at the time, because I didn’t feel like the people I was working with before really understood where I was trying to go. When you’re in a position where you don’t have shit, sometimes you’ve just got to stick to your guns, believe in yourself and believe in what you’ve got. I had “Day ‘n’ Nite,” I believed in it, nobody else did and I said, Fuck that, I’m going to move with it and Pat was the only one that got it. Here’s a dude that’s accomplished so much with Kanye, so you know he has a good ear. We decided to form the partnership and eventually he would play my stuff for Kanye, like, “This is the artist I’m working with,” but Pat never really pitched me to him. We just pushed “Day N’ Nite,” shit blew up, and Kanye kept hearing the Crookers remix and he reached out to Pat and asked if I would help work on The Blueprint 3 with him and Jay-Z.
You’re working on one of the most anticipated albums of the year, without having even released your first official album. What’s it like working on The Blueprint 3? That was the first time Kanye asked me to work with him and it was really dope but it was strange, because it was like, Hey, I have to think like I’m like Jay-Z and write these hooks. It was really intense, so I was drunk and high the majority of the time.
You’re aiming to do something unique with your music but you’ve also said that you’re never trying to be political or witty, so how exactly would you describe your lyrical content? That was pre-“Day N’ Nite,” and before I realized that my voice was powerful and I needed to start saying meaningful shit. That was just, “Hey, I’m making these cool sounding songs and I have little messages in them.” That was my M.O. at the time. It was still very much Kid Cudi, but now my focus is on the message, more so than just making dope music.
Where are you now mentally? Each song is a message. All the hooks are stadium-worthy, crowd sing-along, powerful joints that I can’t wait for people to hear in stadium magnitude. My album definitely needs to be heard loudly, but it’s also a great album if you’re smoking and you need to go to sleep. So far I have the lineup of how I want the first seven tracks on my album and if I play the first seven from the beginning to the end, I’m zoned out and it’s the best trip ever. You need to be high to appreciate the instrumentation and how everything is put together on the album—but you don’t have to be high just to enjoy it in general.
Even with a message in each song, are you still conscious of staying away from dense lyrics? Yeah, because I don’t speak like a fucking nerdy guy; I speak like a regular dude. I’m not going to write something that I wouldn’t speak. A lot of people find these ill witty ways to rap, but when you speak to them there’s ignorance and no type of common sense, just blandness. It’s important to be true to yourself on all levels; don’t talk about something you don’t know about. When I listen to someone like Lupe Fiasco, I think, “This dude is so smart,” and when I met him I thought, “Man, this dude is so smart!” He speaks very intelligently and he’s actually intelligent in person.
You’re a musician, you’re an actor—was your blog just the last piece of this artistic trifecta? Yeah, my assistant at the time who started the blog for me kept saying, “Cudi you need to talk to the fans!” But I was like, man, they don’t want to hear from me, those kids aren’t gonna check out my blog. Kanye’s blog is massive, it’s not gonna be like Kanye’s. But they set it up and when I got my computer, I finally sat down and made my first post and said, “Alright, I have a confession, all those other posts weren’t me, but it’s really me now because I have a computer!” I try to put stuff on there that doesn’t pertain to my music, just shit I think is funny or think about. You can find my music on some other blog, but on my blog, be prepared to just see some random shit that you aren’t gonna see anywhere else.
There’s so much camaraderie in hip-hop right now between young artists like you Asher and Wale. What’s keeping you guys so close? It’s pretty much the common bond that we’re all important. Wale is important, Asher is important, I’m important, Drake is important. We all speak on behalf of a whole new generation that hasn’t been spoken for, so I think that mutual understanding amongst ourselves is what bonds us. Wale was one of the early believers in my stuff; last year at SXSW is when we got a chance to talk and two days later he pulled me onstage at his show and it was the first time I got press, in the L.A. Times, I think. It was the first time I was ever acknowledged by that type of publication.
Now, real talk: What’s the deal with you and cheeseburgers? Are you a connoisseur of all things cheeseburgers? I love all cheeseburgers! I want to go on a cheeseburger tour and see who has all the best cheeseburgers in America. I really love cheeseburgers and fries, the whole combination.
What’s the best cheeseburger you’ve found since you moved to Brooklyn? I would have to say Ruby’s—well, that’s not a cheeseburger, and I’m going to tell you why. The Bronte Burgers at Ruby’s shouldn’t be considered cheeseburgers because it’s an Australian burger and that’s a whole other level of deliciousness. I love Fat Burger for fast food but you can’t get that over here, so I like Pop Burger and I love a Big Mac—you can’t front on a Big Mac.