Kid Cudi is severely underappreciated—let’s make that clear. Since the release of his critically acclaimed 2008 mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, Scott Mescudi has been an integral part of the industry through his innovative style and his contributions to works by artists such as Kanye West. From the experimental nature of his albums and the manner in which he conveys his insecurities through music, Cudi comes across as truly different—and that’s what draws so many people to him.
Start with Man on the Moon: The End of Day, his debut album. Split into five acts, the record covers issues such as depression, anxiety, nightmares, and Cudi’s use of drugs to cope with these struggles. Unlike a number of other artists, particularly rappers, Cudi lays bare his problems, from stating “I am happy, that’s just the saddest lie” in “Soundtrack to My Life,” to discussing the life of a lonely stoner on “Solo Dolo,” to lamenting night terrors on “Pursuit of Happiness.”
In a hip–hop genre where a large number of the most popular artists have built their career on braggadocio and the “tough man” personality, Cudi is a rarity because his music deals largely with his experiences with mental illness and drug addictions. This has held true through later works, including Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin’ and Indicud. For instance, Man on the Moon II contained songs regarding his infatuation with marijuana, including “Marijuana” and “Ashin’ Kusher,” as well as tracks about overwhelming loneliness such as “All Along,” “Ghost,” and “Trapped in My Mind.” Both Indicud and Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin’ included singles that built on these topics, such as “Just What I Am,” “Frequency,” and “Wounds.”
There’s a distinctive value in having a well–known musician visibly express this level of emotion. It allows fans to idolize someone who experiences the same struggles as them, creating a situation in which listening to their songs becomes almost like a cathartic experience. As he discussed in 2014, Cudi’s goal is to provide guidance for young listeners, and “help kids not feel alone, and stop committing suicide.”
He’s also been open about his personal issues in interviews. In a 2016 Billboard piece, he discussed how his short exploration into indie rock with the poorly received records Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon and Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven came during a particularly dark period of his life. He also mentioned how raising his daughter has helped him overcome his addiction and depression and begin to live a better life.
Cudi’s melodic, introspective delivery has helped popularize more “emotional rap” that has been the staple of artists such as Drake, Childish Gambino, and Lil Uzi Vert. With the impact of his vulnerable approach and the stark realism of his lyrics, he is truly unique in this day and age. There’s a reason I always have the Man on the Moon albums on repeat. I look forward to his next release, and you should too.