"WZRD," the experimental psych-rock collaboration between Cleveland rapper Kid Cudi and producer Dot Da Genius, notched the only top 10 debut on this week's Billboard 200, landing at No. 3 with 66,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. For Cudi -- who slammed his label, Universal Republic, on Twitter last week for shipping what he considered a low number of physical copies of "WZRD" in its first week -- the sales figure represents an affirmation that his departure in sound still had an audience.
"We were really hoping to have more [promotion], but at this point, it's a dead issue," says Cudi, who called Universal Republic a "weak ass label" on Twitter for shipping about 55,000 physical copies of "WZRD" in its first week (a Universal Republic spokesman couldn't be reached to comment on the album's prerelease rollout). "The numbers kind of speak for themselves. It lets people know that I'm not out here taking crazy pills. When I get passionate about something, and people hear me kind of outraged, it's not coming from a place of me being irrational, or being difficult to work with. I believe in something I've created."
Recorded in late 2010 and throughout 2011, "WZRD" marks Cudi's first project without longtime producers Patrick "Plain Pat" Reynolds and Emile Haynie, who formed their own record label, Dream On, with the rapper in 2009. WZRD arrived on Wicked Awesome Records, a new imprint Cudi announced last April in conjunction with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label and Universal Republic.
"WZRD" features heavy electric riffs, live drums and Cudi playing guitar for the first time, while drawing on influences like Pink Floyd and the Pixies. "Cudi picked up the guitar and we started exploring the instrument, and exploring the landscape of rock and alternative music in general," says Dot Da Genius, who previously helmed Cudi's breakout single, "Day 'N' Nite," which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Cudi adds, "We really wanted to make a traditional rock album - no programmed drums, nothing modern. I was just really worried that it would sound like Kid Cudi shit and people wouldn't be able to tell the difference with the music, but it got to a point where we were so inspired."
On March 6, Cudi and Dot Da Genius, billed as WZRD, performed the song "Teleport 2 Me, Jamie" on "Conan," and the following day the duo filmed a video for the track in Huntington Beach, Calif. Dot Da Genius says that he and Cudi are "working on the live show," and plan to tour behind the album later this year. "We're pretty much still putting it together," says the producer, "because it was first about getting the music out. So now we're trying to find cool ways for people to discover what we're doing."
Meanwhile, Cudi confirms that WZRD will release another album before he returns to his Man on the Moon hip-hop series, after promising to stick with the project on Twitter last week. "At this point, I'm more inspired to keep learning this instrument and getting better at it," he says of the guitar. "If I did just have this album as a one-off and didn't continue it, then people would look at it as a one-off. This is not a one-off. This is something that's real for me."