Kid Cudi Saved My Life

How one artist changed mental health in pop culture forever.

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If you’ve paid any attention to hip-hop over the last decade, you understand the transcendence of Kid Cudi and his music. Unlike his contemporaries, Cudi’s popularity isn’t an offshoot of “hard raps,” fashion statements, or mainstream dominance. Rather, he’s made waves through sentiment, ethics, intuitions of originality.

Without question, he’s one of most influential artists of the 21st century.

The ‘Man on The Moon’ Series

From 2008–10, Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi) attained chart success and subtly pioneered his way to prominence. Amid a culture shifting musically, in terms of style and lyrical content, Cudi paved way for mental health’s inclusion in rap culture.

On his first album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, Cudi delivered a dreamy, space-like persona that was introspective, honest, and somewhat revolutionary for the genre. Thanks to tracks like “Day n Nite,” “Pursuit of Happiness,” and “Soundtrack 2 My Life” Cudi rendered a composite of artless feeling among listeners world-wide.

Success continued for Mescudi on his bittersweet sophomore album, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. This project significantly shifted to a darker, more vulnerable tone due to tribulations of an intense drug addiction — the man had fallen into a black hole. The album acted as his psychedelic synopsis of misfortune, sorrow, and rage.

It was an open confession to suicidal thoughts and depression.

Relation to Mental Health

Mescudi grew up an artsy, uncoordinated child in Cleveland, Ohio. On multiple occasions, he’s expressed moments in grade-school where he felt awkward and out of place. At times, Scott was bullied for being an outcast and, worst of all, his father died of cancer when he was 11 years old. His troubled disposition lead him to expulsion from high-school — he threatened to punch the principal in the face.

Childhood was not one of ease or popularity for the young artist.

His struggle and bereavement had notable effect on his personality and subsequently his music.

Majority of Cudi’s impact stems from his willingness to express the pain and emotion he’s felt in his life; it’s been a cornerstone of his sound since the beginning.

Contrary to rap’s narrative of “money, cars, and hoes,” Mescudi changed the game by filling a void in virtue. Through his authenticity and readiness to reveal himself, he’s manifested a sense of connection and understanding with fans. He’s always felt his purpose had meaning beyond just “making music.”

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Kid Cudi made it okay to feel sad, lonely, and depressed.

Since success, he’s recognized his responsibility to help others cope with mental illness. By transmitting his own struggles through music, he’s able to commiserate with listeners from all ages and backgrounds.

He’s changed the way kids address disorder of the mind.

Other Voices in Hip-hop

Scott Mescudi is not the “one-and-only” ambassador for concern of loneliness, self-destruction, and internal confusion. Since the inception of hip-hop, emcees such as 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G, and Nas have expressed sentiments of suicide and depression.

However, no one has matched the grandeur of Cudi’s impact.

On the cusp of internet and hip-hop prominence, Kid Cudi’s message had a never-before-seen cascade effect. By the grace of timing and technology, Mescudi resonated with millions of adolescents and young adults around the globe. For many, it was the first time hearing subject matter of it’s kind — for all, it was the first time hearing it expressed so vividly and honest.

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Influence

Inevitably, Cudi has influenced musicians superseding him, too.

It’s worth mentioning Cudi’s correlation to luminaries in hip-hop culture, Kanye West and Drake. 2008 was a special year — it permanently changed the soundscape for hip-hop and rap.

The mixtape debut, A Kid Named Cudi, dropped in mid-2008 which caught the interest of none other than Kanye West, who flew young Cudi out to Hawaii to work with him. The two collaborated on Ye’s latest album; one that would incorporate more melody and melancholy, something Mescudi owned at the time. 808s & Heartbreak released later in ’08 — in hindsight, a prominent influence for a new wave of thematic content among the genre.

Drake followed this mixture of singing and introspective rap on his break out tape So Far Gone, which released in early 2009. Without the previous upsurge of “new-found style” from Cudi and Ye, it’s hard to say Drake would have made a project so on par with that vibe. Smash hits such as “Best I Ever Had” and “Successful” arose from such sound and launched Drake into the musical stratosphere where he continues to move today.

Cudi, Kanye, and Drake — a brain trust of sonic influencers — forever changed the course of hip-hop. They opened so many avenues for artists to rightfully express themselves and their state of mind.

Today’s “new-age” rappers have built off of similar undertones in their music, as well. Rap culture is affluent with hints and references to psychological disarray.

Artists like Vic Mensa, Lil Uzi Vert, and XXXTentacion have openly expressed suicidal urges — it’s commonplace to incorporate notions of sadness and despair. The doors have opened for performers to let their emotions ring true.

Moreover, plenty of people in and around hip-hop have expressed their respect for Kid Cudi’s contributions. Travis Scott and Pete Davidson have both stated on cameraKid Cudi saved my life.

In 2017, Logic released the biggest song of his career, “1–800–273–8255;” a song titled after a suicide prevention hot-line. On Logic’s third album, Everybody, the 28-year-old touches an array of mental health issues spanning from anxiety and derealization to suicide and depression.

Can you guess one of Logic’s biggest inspirations?

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Difference Maker

What makes an artist like Kid Cudi so special is not simply the fact he’s open about his woes. The real reason he’s revered and regarded as a hero is because he makes all the struggle and emotion come full-circle — he’s a beam of hope.

Majority of the current artists rapping about poor mental health conditions do not come with the same level of gratitude as Cudi. It’s difficult to distinguish who’s truly battling a mental disorder and who’s putting on an act. Much of the newer artists appear to shout precarious claims for the sake of sounding precarious.

“Edgy” is very popular at the moment.

But, Mescudi handled it differently. He carried his troubles authentically and rewarded kids who listened. Kid Cudi didn’t just deliver dead-end motifs; he came with justification, which is largely why he’s different.

He delivered his distress and emotion with an aim for higher ground. Although hurt, as a listener, you felt a sense of redemption through his music; like there was light at the end of the tunnel. Even though tracks like “Heart of a Lion” and “Mr. Rager” revolve around internal strife, they give the impression contentment will return, despite how much fight it might take to get there.

Above all, Kid Cudi empowered and emboldened young minds to conquer intense mental convictions — not run from them.

He made it okay to feel those dark emotions deep down. He made it okay to say nightmarish thoughts out loud. He made it okay to fight for the will to live another day.

“Kid Cudi saved my life.”

A Tribute to Scott:

Long before we know ourselves, our paths are already set in stone.

Some may never figure out their purpose in life and some will.

There are a lot of us who are caught up in this hell we all live in, content with being blinded by rules and judgment.

We live in a world where it’s more okay to follow than to lead.

In this world being a leader is trouble for the system we are all accustomed to.

Being a leader in this day and age is being a threat.

Not many people stood up against the system we all call life.

But toward the end of our first ten years into the millennium we heard a voice.

A voice who was speaking to us from the underground for some time.

A voice who spoke of vulnerabilities and other human emotions and issues never before heard so vividly and honest.

This is the story of a young man who not only believed in himself, but his dreams too.

This is the story of The Man On The Moon.

— “In My Dreams” Intro to Kid Cudi’s debut album

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.

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