KID CUDI - A Kid Named Cudi

In the 2010's, rap's biggest mainstream star is Drake, undoubtedly. He understood how rap was had changed from a musical genre, into the very center of international pop. He abolished the borders with other genres, using singing tunes, and also, with Future and a few others, the melancholic synthetic sounds rap critic Jeff Weiss and rapper Nocando once called a "sad robot music". Before Drake, though, there were others. Kanye West, of course, whose 808s & Heartbreak was somehow the matrix of this kind of music. But also Kid Cudi, who had contributed to this album, and released before that his own manifesto, A Kid Named Cudi.

KID CUDI - A Kid Named Cudi

10.Deep :: 2008 :: download mixtape

Originating from Cleveland, Scott Mescudi had established himself in New-York by 2000, to work for Bape. This job would impact his career: through it, he met a client who became his mentor, Kanye West. And it was with the help of another street-wear brand, 10.Deep, that he released his mixtape. Supported for a certain time by Fool's Gold Records – a haven for hipster rap – Kid Cudi was influenced by people forgotten in the 2000 decade: alternative acts like A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde; and indie / backpacker guys like his Ohio pal Camu Tao. Kid Cudi, actually, would later on collaborate with the latter's Nighthawks colleague, Cage. No surprise, then, if A Kid Named Cudi didn't sound like contemporary hip-hop.

This project was a real mixtape: there, Kid Cudi rapped on songs from others. But he dug deeper than just rap music. "50 Ways to Make a Record", for example, was a new version of Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover". And "The Prayer" appropriated the music of "The Funeral", from the indie rock act Band of Horses. He also used the beats of underground experimentalists, J Dilla most notoriously, but also Nosaj Thing from California, a regular of the Low End Theory nights. Even when he used songs from real rap stars, he opted for people used to crossover adventures, like Outkast, Gnarls Barkley, or N.E.R.D, the rock side-project of the Neptunes. Later on, Kid Cudi would persevere with rock music, like with his WZRD project. But he liked IDM and other kinds of electronic music as well. He used these as soon as with A Kid Named Cudi: in a colorful way on "Maui Wowie", a weed anthem; or a strange one on "TGIF" and "Cleveland is the Reason". He would turn into drum'n'bass with "CuDi Spazzin", or ambient with "Pillow Talk".

Besides the eclecticism, the other peculiarity of Kid Cudi, after a full decade marked by the rap superheroes of G-Unit and Dipset, was his sad, vulnerable and emotional posture. The most striking example was "Day 'n' Nite". This would become a big success, and his defining song. But it was nothing usual in rap music: it was as much sang as rapped, and it was all about loneliness, and how to fight it with the help of cannabis. "Down & Out", was even more explicit, since Kid Cudi talked about drowning his unhappiness into drugs. And two other tracks, "Man on the Moon" and "Embrace the Martian", were about the rapper telling us he had no place in this world. Future, the rapper, was already there. And rap's future was, as well. Kid Cudi's strengths, though, were also his weaknesses. Predating Drake, his music would come very close to pop, for worse – it would inspire Black Eyed Peas' anthem "I Gotta Feeling", and actually, Kid Cudi would collaborate with the French antichrist, David Guetta – and for better: his good sense for melodies, his new and poignant confessions like "Save My Soul", and his pioneering spirit.

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