Early last month, the pressures of the music industry seemed to overwhelm Kid Cudi. On his KidCudi.com site, the Cleveland-born rapper blogged about retiring after the release of his debut album.
"I am falling back on being an artist," he wrote. "The drama that comes with it is more overwhelming than the shit I was dealing with when I was piss-poor broke."
But Cudi's perils were temporary—he retracted his statement a few days later during a South by Southwest performance—and they didn't stop Universal Motown from signing him just last week.
"I was looking at another act on Fool's Gold by the name of Kid Sister," Universal Motown president Sylvia Rhone says. "At the time they also had Kid Cudi, but I thought it was an album deal. We didn't sign Sister, but [Universal Motown A&R manager Nigel Mack] brought me Cudi early last year and I was immediately engaged."
Cudi, who is currently recording with Kanye West in Hawaii, shifted his focus back on his debut album, tentatively titled "The Man on the Moon With the Guardians." It's slated for a late-August release through Dream On -- Cudi's own label which he will officially launch later this year --G.O.O.D. Music and Universal Motown.
The first single, "Day 'N' Nite," which Universal Motown purchased from Fool's Gold, is No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has sold 540,000 digital downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Mack hopes Cudi's vulnerability and authenticity will continue garnering fans and selling tracks. "He speaks to the average person," Mack says. "It's not about putting up a front—it's about who he really is. He puts his heart on his sleeve and lets people in his world. People connect with that."
In fact, according to Billy Zarro, Universal Motown senior director of marketing, the album's rollout campaign is based on making similar connections between Cudi and his fans, while linking his online presence with his live shows.
"He has loyal fans throughout numerous genres, and we want to hear from them," Zarro says. "He's real, he says how he feels, and you can feel the genuineness about him."
Cudi recently appeared on DJ Angie Martinez's show on R&B/hip-hop WQHT (Hot 97) New York and will soon visit top 40 WHTZ (Z100) and rhythmic AC WKTU. Also in the works is a partnership with Vibe complemented by dates at Bamboozled, the Rothbury Festival and Lollapalooza. He will appear in a new HBO show called "How to Make It in America," produced by Mark Wahlberg, and wants to do more acting in the near future.
"He has a real relationship with fans that goes far beyond the music," Rhone says. "That's the reason I competed and worked for the deal for eight months. He's the future of hip-hop and the future of music; an artist who has no bounds when it comes to genre, format, race, color, topic or emotion. Those are the kinds of artists I love to be involved with."