Kid CuDi Interview
|Next Project:||Man on the Moon: The End of Day|
|Twitter:||Kid CuDi on Twitter|
|Website:||Kid CuDi's Website|
A lot can change in a year. Just last summer, a recording artist named Scott Mescudi was a working a nine-to-five job to make ends meet and pursuing his musical dream in his spare time. Fast-forward to 2009 and the “lonely stoner” we all know as Kid CuDi has grown from relative unknown to unlikely pop megastar, thanks in large part to the breakout success of debut single and Billboard #3 hit ”Day N Nite.” Hailed by many as a musical game-changer, the Cleveland-bred singer/songwriter/emcee has distilled his genre-bending style into an outré debut album he hopes will be the “one small step” that spurs hip-hop to take its next giant leap forward.
Released on Sept. 15, via Dream On/G.O.O.D. Music/Universal Motown and available now in stores and online, Man on the Moon: The End of Day finds Kid CuDi chaperoning listeners on a guided tour of the vast expanses of space and the depths of his own psyche (with a little help from narrator Common). Fueled by the artist’s breakout hit as well as Booth-acclaimed follow-up singles “Make Her Say” (w/ Kanye West & Common) and “Pursuit of Happiness” (w/ Ratatat & MGMT), the album is a heady, intensely personal, THC-drenched journey that those who come along for the ride won’t soon forget.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Kid CuDi steps into the Booth to discuss his commitment to creative envelope-pushing, what inspired him to make that infamous ‘retirement’ announcement earlier this year and his powerfully intoxicating influence on female fans.
Listen to the Interview
Kid CuDi Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is an artist that LL Cool J might describe as”something like a phenomenon.” His much-anticipated debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, was released today. Please welcome Kid CuDi – how you doin’?
Kid CuDi: What’s up? How you feelin’, man?
DJ Booth: I’m feelin’ great, but here’s the thing: when I woke up this morning, I didn’t have a smile on my face ‘cause my debut album was out, but I’m sure you did.
Kid CuDi: Yeah, man – how’d you know? I did definitely wake up with a smile on my face, and put on my favorite outfit! [laughs]
DJ Booth: What’s that like, waking up knowing that so much hard work has finally paid off, and your debut is out, available to the masses?
Kid CuDi: It’s a great feeling, it’s a great sense of accomplishment, just one of the biggest things I’ve ever done in my life. This is, like, my graduation from high school and college all rolled up into one. I never got a chance to experience those moments, and so, for my mother, this an amazing thing to give her, and I’m really so happy right now.
DJ Booth: At your New York private listening session, which we were at, Universal Motown President Sylvia Rhone dubbed the album as a “seminal album” which had the “ability to change the sound of music forever.” CuDi, when you created the project, did you do so with the belief that this really could impact the future of music?
Kid CuDi: Yeah, that was the goal. My main thing was to just inspire people to push the envelope [creatively] and think outside the box, and really challenge themselves, and really put in that type of hard work towards the creative side of things, I did want to make something that would baffle the critics, as far as putting it in a certain genre; I wanted them to have a hard time doin’ it. I really wanted to trick the game and open up a lot of people’s eyes, and I think we’ve done it. I came through the underground scene, I worked a nine-to-five last summer. [To be] droppin’ an album a year later, it’s really a big deal, and I think the best part about it is people are really, really supportive and really ridin’ for me, and they’re gonna be around for my whole career.
DJ Booth: Without a doubt. You mentioned the album will make it hard for people to classify you as a specific type of artist, because it’s not specifically one genre or another. When someone listens to this album, who listened to your music before you were signed, do you think they would have a hard time because it is slightly different, it’s not that hip-hop feel?
Kid CuDi: Definitely with the mixtape and the other stuff I’ve done, a lot of people are ready for me to try to keep it movin’ on the creative side, to keep pushin’ the envelope. So, the mixtape was a really good taste-tester, and then the album was the full-on entrée.
DJ Booth: On the song “Soundtrack to My Life,” you say you’d like to experience quote unquote “carefree living like Jay-Z.” No matter how rich and famous an artist might be, I’d argue that there’s no such thing, ever, as carefree living. Do you feel like that aim is truly realistic for an artist?
Kid CuDi: I wrote that song from an ignorant standpoint, man – I wanted to have ignorance be the undertone of the whole song. And it really is to show what one thinks when his back is up against the wall. It’s really to flip Jay’s line and kind of use it in my favor. It worked – it’s the only way I could’ve explained the situation.
DJ Booth: Common narrates your story on Man on the Moon, and he refers to you by your real name, Scott. At the end of the day – pun intended – what separates Kid CuDi from Scott?
Kid CuDi: Well, Scott Mescudi seems to be alive the most in his music, and Kid CuDi is what I am 24/7, when people see me on the street, when I’m in the studio, creating, what I am when I’m on magazine covers – that’s Kid CuDi, And Scott Mescudi, the normal dude from Shaker Heights, Ohio, is only present when my songs are on, when I’m recording. Like, when my voice is bein’ laid down on those records, that’s Scott Mescudi shinin’ through. So I would definitely say that Kid CuDi and Scott Mescudi are one and the same, however Scott Mescudi is only ever really in the light when you’re listenin’ to his songs.
DJ Booth: Ever suffer from an identity crisis?
Kid CuDi: No, definitely not.
DJ Booth: All right, good. CuDi, earlier this year you posted a blog entry on your website in which you stated that, after this release, you had plans to retire. Obviously you’ve rescinded that statement since, but when you look back at how you felt at the time, how different is your life six months later?
Kid CuDi: It’s different because I really had to build some type of structure around my circle, the people I hang with, and that was the only difference. I know I’m here for a purpose and I understand my purpose moreso than I did then, so I understand that there’s kids that really support me and really believe in me, and I would have been a coward to fall back and leave them hanging like that, you know?
DJ Booth: So you’re saying that, at the time, it was a matter of self-confidence?
Kid CuDi: At the time it was a matter of just not wanting to deal with certain BS that came with bein’ famous. And I just felt like it wasn’t worth it. But then, as the days went by, I saw that a lot of my fans who hadn’t even been speaking up on my blog decided to have an opinion and let it be known how they felt about it, and a lot of cats were really disappointed, and it’s that thing where you’re like, “Really? People like me like that?” It was really an eye-opener.
DJ Booth: Your new single is the appropriately-titled “Pursuit of Happiness,” which based on our previous discussion, couldn’t be more true. At this point, would you say that you are, without a doubt, happy?
Kid CuDi: Yeah, definitely. I’m really one hundred and ten percent beyond happy. I have a nice album, people are understanding it. I feel like people are understanding me in return, and that’s always a plus.
DJ Booth: On the single, you worked with Ratatat and MGMT – what was it like to work with these artists who, up to this point, have never really collaborated within a hip-hop landscape?
Kid CuDi: It was a dream come true, and I was excited to be that artist to bring them together and really do it in the proper way. I mean the song, “Pursuit of Happiness,” is the epitome of what you would imagine a Ratatat-engineered Kid CuDi song would sound like. And these songs came about fairly quickly – we went in the studio for hours and hours and hours trying to just do this one song and figure out a first verse, I wrote it down really quickly, and that was the whole method behind the entire album, just movin’ off of that creative spark right away.
DJ Booth: From start to finish, how long would you say it took you to finish this album?
Kid CuDi: From start to finish, it took me about two years.
DJ Booth: Moving forward, do you anticipate waiting every few years to release a new album, or did you wanna take your extra time on this, your first project, to make sure it was the best?
Kid CuDi: Well, yeah, but I wanna put that type of effort into every album. [That’s how] you get the best result. If you’ve gotta push it a couple days back, so be it, but make sure you let the album get the the time it needs on the creative side.
DJ Booth: I did not get the chance to see you in concert when you were at Lollapalooza in my hometown of Chicago this summer, but I was out in Los Angeles in July, when you were with Asher on the Great Hangover Tour, and there were two things that stuck out in my mind after the show: first, several girls had a difficult time breathing when you made your way out onto the stage. Are you aware that you are a heartbreaker?
Kid CuDi: No, I’m completely oblivious. I really don’t see myself like that – that’s the most bugged-out thing I’ve heard all day!
DJ Booth: I’m tellin’ you right now, there was a girl right next to me, and she did the thing where you take your right hand and you turn it sideways and you put it up to your forehead; the only thing missing was her buckling her knees and going down to the ground.
Kid CuDi: Oh, wow, man, that’s overwhelming… that’ lets me know, like I said, I’m affecting people’s worlds in a way I didn’t even think was possible. Like, it’s way bigger than just helpin’ people groove when they’re chillin’, smokin’ some weed. There’s a whole ‘nother level that I just didn’t expect.
DJ Booth: The other thing I noticed from the show is, in between songs, you had a habit of cracking jokes and making funnies, if you will. I’ve seen a lot of shows, and artists in the past have told me that their talking in between songs is out of nervousness. Do you know where you’re going and what you wanna say in between songs, or is it a case of nervousness?
Kid CuDi: No, that’s kinda just to let the crowd know I’m with ‘em, to show my human-being side, let people know that I am human. And each night is different; I never have a routine, I’m not a stand-up comedian – I’m a comedian, but I’m not a stand-up comedian. That’s my time to relax and show them Scott a bit, show them how I speak when I’m just talkin’. That’s just something that I really want people to see: how human I am. So talkin’ in between the songs lets them know. I could just do all my sets and go from song to song and look like a machine and just be out at the end of the last song, and you ain’t heard nothing but my voice on songs, but it’s important for me to make that connection with the fans; I think that’s why my support system’s so strong.
DJ Booth: I couldn’t agree with you more. You are signed on to be part of an HBO program entitled How to Make It in America. If we spoke let’s say 10 years ago, and I asked you to describe how to make it in America, what would you have said back then, before all this happened?
Kid CuDi: I wouldn’t know what to tell you, ‘cause 10 years ago I was still tryin’ to find myself. So I don’t even know what I would’ve told you. I would have just said, probably, “Follow your heart and let your dreams be your guide.”
DJ Booth: All right, let’s fast-forward, it’s 2009. Knowing what it took to make it, what would you tell someone who’s in your position, like you said, just a year ago, the nine-to-five and that dream at the forefront?
Kid CuDi: Believe, believe and never stop believing, ‘cause anything is possible and I am a perfect, perfect example of that. There’s no reason in hell why, if you work hard at something, you can’t succeed. If you work on it and you perfect your craft, you can make it. That’s it. This whole thing is about dedication and doin’ your thing, and if you can do those two things, you’re fine.
DJ Booth: Playing off the title of this project, at the end of the day, how does Kid CuDi want to be viewed by both his fans and his critics alike?
Kid CuDi: I want people to just look at me as that big brother or little brother in their family, that just is tryin’ to become a man and figurin’ things out in life, when the fuzzy things happen and things get the most confusing. I want my fans and critics to look at me as their little or big brother and that’s all, man. And to understand me, and embrace that fact that I know I’m not perfect, and I’m puttin’ it out there in my music so other people can learn from it and learn from my ignorance, too.
DJ Booth: Life in general is a learning process, and you are certainly part of our family here at DJBooth.net. CuDi, give everybody a website, a MySpace page, a Twitter account, so they can find out more about you and, of course, the debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, out now.
Kid CuDi: Yeah, man, make sure y’all go pick that up. For any more information, hit me up at kidcudi.com. We’re workin’ on the site, gonna have some new features on there. So yeah, man, check me out. And I’ll be around; I’m gonna be in New York, shootin’ [the] show. If you guys see me, you know how to do it: daps and pound.
DJ Booth: I thank you for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJBooth and I wish you nothing but the best of luck. My dad cosigns your album – I know for a fact you are set, my friend; when my father likes something, it’s going places.
Kid CuDi: [laughs] Oh, man! Thank you for havin’ me, and tell your dad I said “I appreciate your support,” and I’m gonna hold him down no matter what. I just wanna tell you thank you for takin’ the time out to speak to me, and I’m really excited you guys are excited about the album. That makes me even more on-edge, but we’ll see what happens in a week, we’ll see how we do – I think we’re gonna be fine.
DJ Booth: It’s a good on-edge.
Kid CuDi: Yeah, it’s definitely that good on-edge feeling.