At the beginning of the year, Kid Cudi threatened to quit the music industry because "the drama that comes with it is more overwhelming than the shit I was dealing with when I was piss-poor broke," he wrote on his blog. He says he felt pressured to top the success of his introductory single, "Day N Nite," which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- and the expectations weren't helped by reports of a beef with fellow rapper and labelmate Consequence.
But times have changed. On the eve of the release of his debut album, "Man on the Moon: The End of Day," due Sept. 15 on G.O.O.D./Universal Motown, Cudi, born Scott Mescudi in Cleveland, has made peace with his situation by putting his frustrations down on vinyl.
"Early on, before I even had a deal, before shit was poppin' for me I felt some pressure," Cudi says. "But after people started responding to my mixtape, it made me more confident. When you see you have people supporting you, it makes you comfortable. Fans really helped me open up a lot more than I thought -- they are who really gave me the confidence to do what I do. I could've just made another 'Day N Nite,' but they gave me the confidence to tell my story instead."
With the help of producers Plain Pat, Ratatat, Kanye West and Emile and collaborators like Ratatat, West, Common, Chip the Ripper, Billy Cravens and MGMT, Cudi takes his listeners through a dark, ambitious, self-reflective 15-track set -- broken down by acts and narrated as dreams and nightmares -- revealing his deepest fears, hopes and dreams.
"I really wanted creative records. I knew what I was looking for when I listen to beats. I knew what I needed and how many tracks I needed just like that," Cudi says of the "nice collection of new-sounding shit," as he refers to the album. "I went off instinct a lot, which made it easier for me to put together. This album wasn't hard at all."
The best examples of his storytelling ability come courtesy of tracks like "Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music)," which finds Cudi rhyming, "At the end of the day, my momma told me/'Don't let no one break me,' " over drums and synthesizers; "Cudi Zone," on which he raps, "When I'm zoned, I'm feeling all right/I forget about it all," over violin strings; and "Pursuit of Happiness," with lyrics like "I'm in pursuit of happiness/I'll be fine once I get it/I'll be good," atop electric guitar riffs. "Pursuit" is slated to be the third single off the album.
Other standout tracks include the piano- and drum-laden "Enter Galactic," the bass-heavy "Sky Might Fall," the anxious "Solo Dolo," the thoughtful "Soundtrack 2 My Life" and the second single "Make Her Say," which reached No. 43 on the Hot 100.
Cudi recently wrapped the Great Hangover tour with Asher Roth and is slated to start filming the HBO show "How to Make It in America," executive-produced by Mark Wahlberg ("Entourage"). Additionally, Cudi is set to host a listening at the Bape Store with designer Nigo (Bathing Ape) during fashion week this fall; a collaborative shirt design is in the works.
Online, according to Universal Motown Records Group senior director of marketing Bill Zarro, Cudi recently unveiled the artwork -- which he personally sketched -- and the track list to the album on his Twitter page. As for the album itself, there will be a deluxe version available with a DVD containing concert footage, a poster and lyrics, Zarro says. Cudi is also involved with Activision's upcoming "DJ Hero" videogame.
Yet with fame comes not only drama, as Cudi says, but comparisons. So far, "Man on the Moon" has been compared to West's "808s and Heartbreak," while Cudi has been likened to West and another newcomer and labelmate, Drake.
But Cudi takes the assessments in stride, calling them "a compliment." He says, "To be in the same category with great people of great talent is amazing. But, my mission statement is to change things and make shit better. I want to make music that inspires motherfuckers to feel like they are me, that they can do what they want if they believe in themselves. I don't know another artist that makes music with that type of motivation."