‘But do you know who is the greatest of us all? Who do you think?
Kid motherf*****’ Cudi.’
Those are the words of Kanye West. The same Kanye West with 21 Grammy Awards and multi-platinum selling albums. The same eccentric Kanye West, who refers to himself as a God. That very same Kanye West believes it is actually Kid Cudi who is the most influential Hip-hop artist of recent times.
Kid Cudi’s impact on Hip-hop is undeniable.
From a musical standpoint, Scott Mescudi, or Kid Cudi as he is commonly known, created a template for modern-day artists in his early works, the mixtape ‘A Kid Named Cudi’ and subsequent album, ‘Man on the Moon’. His ambient vocals and spaced out production forged a sonic universe and the likes of Kanye West and Drake took his blueprint and elevated it to another level.
However, what really separated Cudi was that his music focused on his mental illness. Everything he said and sung resonated with a generation of kids who were like him – attempting to find their purpose in the world while battling their greatest enemy – their own thoughts.
In his music, Cudi consistently revealed his raw thoughts, those of alienation and manic depression. Joe Budden was similarly revealing about his mental health in his music, but while Budden focused solely on his lyrical content, Cudi’s production created something that resonated much greater with people– a feeling.
Cudi was not the first Hip-hop artist to magnify his own mental imbalance, yet his transparency was on a level that was not seen before in the culture.
He aimed to build a connection with the listener, to give the dreamers and so-called loners a soundscape they could resonate with. In mainstream Hip-hop, which pushes through notions of sex, money and drugs, Cudi was unapologetically different. His humbled egoism and music, which created a cathartic mood, gained him a cult-like fan base.
‘All I wanted to do was help kids not feel alone and stop kids from committing suicide… I know what it feels like, I know it comes from loneliness, I know it comes from not having self-worth, I know it comes from not loving yourself. These are the things that kids don’t have music that can coach them and give them guidance. I didn’t have that. I had to listen to Jay-Z and take certain things from it and the other shit I just didn’t know what he was talking about.’ – Kid Cudi, 2014
Cudi’s creative bravery, not just sonically, but to directly address his mental illness and attempt to break down the stigma attached to it, has elevated him to a heroic status for many listeners.
Besides fans, today’s Hip-hop stalwarts, like Travis Scott, openly state Cudi’s influence on their music and the impact it had on their lives. Travis Scott shed tears upon meeting Kid Cudi, being so overwhelmed on meeting the idol that ‘saved his life’.
When it is all said and done, Kid Cudi will be an icon, for his work on mental health alone.
Written by Ali Humayun