When you quit smoking weed, was it because other artists were making a big deal about it?
It was a lot of things that factored into the decision. The main thing, like I said, was for my child, just to handle my business. It was also like, yeah man, I didn’t come into the game being Mr. Weed Boy. [Laughs.] I didn’t ask to be dubbed the lonely stoner. I just had this jam. It just happened to be the first song people heard. It started to get too gimmicky and it was a scene now. That’s what I felt. It became a scene. For a while I felt it and I was still doing my thing. I felt it around the time I was doing Man on the Moon II. I was like, “Man, I’m going to make a song called “Marijuana.” I felt it would put me deeper in that little pocket. If you ask me, that’s the best smoking song ever made. I went out to achieve and accomplish that.
I just wanted people to see me as an artist. People kept calling me the “Stoner MC” and this guy who always related back to marijuana. Marijuana was something I did as a hobby. I just didn’t like being categorized as that because it was such a small part of me and doesn’t define who I am. I hated that. I think all those things fueled the decision to just be like, “Fuck it.” Then it worked. It fucking worked, didn’t it? It separated me from that madness, like that [Snaps fingers.]. Even when I’m coming back now with that “Just What I Am” shit. I’m still separate. Because that trend has faded. That trend is gone. Making a song about getting high is just, you better do it in a cool way, like “Just What I Am.” Just quality.
How do you feel about cliques in rap now?
I think it’s dope. I like to see posses, man. Unity, but I’m such a loner. [Laughs.] It’s weird but I like that. I like seeing niggas just getting it and coming together. I’m not as judgemental as I was early on in my career. I like seeing niggas shine. It was always very competitive for me early on, but now I’m kind of more relaxed because I’ve solidified myself as an artist and what I want. I’ve had complete control over everything and am happy with the course of my career. I think it’s dope to see niggas posse-up and hold each other down. You see that energy—that’s what hip-hop is all about.
Kid Cudi’s brain is wired differently.
That’s not to say the human brain doesn’t differ from person to person, but a unique set of circumstances has shaped both the career and circuitry of 28-year-old Scott Mescudi, one of hip-hop’s most cerebral artists. Cudi’s trials and tribulations have been splashed all over these pages throughout the years: the come-up, the drug use, the birth of his daughter. As the Cudi cycle has played out in the public eye, it’s become a rinse-and-repeat formula: drop an album, take a few acting gigs, disappear until it’s time for another album. But Cudi is far from formulaic. Where many rappers and actors pursue endless press exposure, Cudder prefers seclusion. Where others are uncomfortable discussing depression and death, Cudi fluctuates between dark thoughts, funny voices, and laughter.
A visit to Cudi’s newly purchased luxe bungalow in the relatively sleepy L.A. neighborhood Los Feliz—far from his previous digs in the celebrity-stacked Hollywood Hills—reveals Cudi’s muted mind-set. Tall opaque windows line the exterior so that Cudi can see out, but onlookers can’t see in. Once you get past his bulldog, Freshie, the interior yields more clues to Cudi’s psyche: A framed hologram of Jimi Hendrix hangs on a wall near the front door. In the living room, an easel holds a white canvas with the word “immortal” painted in bold, capitalized, black letters. The word is both the name of the second single from his forthcoming release, Indicud—his fourth album in five years—and a signpost for the themes of mortality that have always been undertones in his music. Yet as brooding as one might expect Cudi’s home to be, the mood inside is bright. His protégé King Chip and another friend sit on the couch as he clicks through beats he’s created. Time is split between discussions of crafting the Cudi sound and Googling YouTube clips of Chris Farley, until a decision is made to watch Norm Macdonald’s ’90s cult-comedy Dirty Work. The night ends with an episode of AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead.
I said, ‘Something’s wrong with me. Why do I feel like I want to punch an elephant? Why am I so irritable?’ I finally got off the pills and then I started feeling normal.