By now you’ve probably read our August/September cover story with Kid Cudi, and although it was Cudi’s most personal interview yet, there were a lot of other gems Scott gave us that didn’t make it into the magazine.
Let’s just say Cudi kept it 1-hundred with us, like all the way 1-hundred. Since the issue is now officially on newsstands everywhere (go cop!), we figured we’d share the bonus material that was left on the cutting room floor. In the uncut raw conversation, the kid from Cleveland talks about growing up in Ohio, his eagerness to join the Navy, run-ins with the law, and how he really felt when Consequence took a jab at him. Read on for the realness…
Complex: How vital was your mom to you growing up?
Kid Cudi: My mom was like my mom and my dad. Even though my dad was around, he just wasn’t in the house. She really was like superwoman. Recently I was talking to my mom and I was just like, “How did you take care of us?” It took me a lot for her to finally come out and say that there were some nights where she wouldn’t eat because there was only enough food for us. She didn’t have a bed, my mom didn’t sleep in a bed up until I was about 14. She always slept on the couch. We just couldn’t afford one. When she finally got one, she kinda just put it up in the living room. The first thing you saw in my crib was her bed.
Complex: So growing up, would you say that you guys were poor?
Kid Cudi: Back then I always felt poor because at the school that we went to, the majority of kids had money. It was like we got the ill Make-A-Wish Foundation dream—to live in a nice neighborhood with a shitty circumstance. It was sorta like, “Hey we’re gonna put you in this nice neighborhood but you’re still gonna be hood-esque!” So it was a mind-fuck going to school and seeing the kids that had shit like cars, and I couldn’t even get a bike. That’s why when people are like, “Oh man, you from the suburbs and shit,” I be like, “You don’t know what happened in my muthafuckin’ house.” It’s not about where you’re at, it’s about your life and what you’ve been through, what you’ve done.
Complex: When did you start rapping?
Kid Cudi: I started rapping when I was like 12, just around the neighborhood, just spittin’ little lines here and there with my homies. One of my homeboys Dennis—he tours with me sometimes—me and him used to always rap around the neighborhood with a couple other kids and we had this little group and shit and I was the only one who kinda stuck with it. When I was like 15, Hot Boys came out, and I remember seeing Lil Wayne and being like, “Aw shit man, this is a young dude representing for the youth and I wanna do that, but tell my story.” That’s when I stopped doing good in school—because I knew I was gonna be famous. [Laughs]
Complex: What was your journey like once you started rapping?
Kid Cudi: I used to do a lot of open-mic things and freestyle battles to better my raps. I looked at it as training for a bigger picture. I was going through a time right there where I wasn’t being myself in my music because I was too worried about people criticizing me about where I was from. That was just because at that time, rap was pretty much some gangsta shit. It wasn’t until I was about 18 when I started fooling around doing freestyles on CDs. When I went to college is when I started recording an album.
Complex: You didn’t graduate from college though, right?
Kid Cudi: I did one year of college and left school with a decent demo. I thought it was cool, but it wasn’t fresh fresh. I was always the type of person that I don’t want people to hear these half-ass records, so I never let people hear them. I used to work overtime at my job to get extra money to buy beats and these dudes The Kickdrums would sell me beats for like $200 a pop. I was really buying them. That’s why it’s crazy that we’re all coming up and doing things and I’m like, “Y’all remember me, ya’ll made me pay for beats you muthafuckas [Laughs]. Ya’ll made me work overtime just to get $200!” And I bought like 3 beats from them. The journey definitely started a little bit early on. After college, I took a year off. I was 19. That’s when I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do and the idea of moving out of Cleveland was there but it wasn’t a real solid idea.
Complex: What made you decide to move?
Kid Cudi: Before I decided to move I came up with the idea to go to the Navy. I watched maybe a little too much Antwone Fisher that month, I don’t know. However, I was inspired to be a better man. There was a moment in time where I was really focused on the Navy and I followed through with it, I passed the test. I was happy with myself because I was accomplishing something and I was really working towards a goal. That was the first true thing I invested my energy in. I was really excited about it, I mean now I look at it like, “I was fucking crazy.” But I was really excited about going to the military. When I got all the medical tests and everything, they said that they wouldn’t let me in because of my police record from when I was younger.
Complex: Why did you have a record?
Kid Cudi: When I was like 16, I went out with my friends after school to watch these kids fight. I was just standing around as a spectator but when the police came around some snitching was involved, [and] my name was one of the names that was brought up, like “Scott Mescudi was there!” It was nothing intense, no felonies, just knucklehead shit like that. Those muthafuckas filed charges and called them assault charges even though I never put my hands on anybody. But that shit was on the record—doesn’t matter what happened.
Complex: Was that your only run-in with the law?
Kid Cudi: Well, I got arrested for smoking. I was 17, had a cigarette on my ear, drunk at a high school football game. I was raging, ragetastic. The cops told me to come over and they cuffed me. Then, on top of that, I got arrested in University of Toledo for underage drinking at a party and I physically got into it with a cop. He cuffed me and punched me in the face and really brutally kicked my ass to the point where I could’ve pressed charges, but it’s like, we didn’t have money for lawyer fees and court fees and all that shit and it would’ve been a dead issue. That was early 2004.
Complex: You’ve managed to stay clean since being in the spotlight, aside from the infamous Reebok situation…
Kid Cudi: My argument never changed. People can say what they want, the topic’s been done, but I don’t give a fuck about anything other than right or wrong. They were wrong. I reacted. I might’ve been wrong for reacting so ridiculously over the top, but like I said, I’m a maniac sometimes. The dude who approached me in that situation, I haven’t had a dude approach me like he wanted to fight me in years. The last time I had a fight, I was like 16 or 17 years old. Muthafuckas ain’t been tryin’ to fight, especially where I was at in Cleveland. Niggas don’t fight no more, you get shot the fuck up. This dude just was up in my face aggressively, and I snapped. I didn’t know what to do. I’m not no tough guy, I’m not trying to be. Everybody has that angry emotion and mine just surfaced that night. I don’t regret that shit one bit; I did what I had to do.
Complex: We talk about this a lot, but you’re a big people person in the public, but also like to keep to yourself. How do you balance the two?
Kid Cudi: I’m a people person when I’m out, but I’m a homebody. I like my time and peace and quiet. I guess that stems from being younger; my siblings were older than me and once they hit a certain age, they couldn’t hang with me. So it was almost like I was an only child at some point. I was entertaining myself, playing with toys. I did this for a while until I was in my teens, just chilled and entertained myself. I would rap and dance in the mirror and shit like that and make funny faces. I was always good at entertaining myself; you could catch me doing it a lot. I just like laugh to myself and do a dance or some shit.
Complex: With your dad passing away at a fairly early age, what did you miss out on in terms of a father-son relationship?
Kid Cudi: Eleven is that age when you’re growing up and you’re learning about girls, and how to make that transition from boy to a man. I didn’t have that father figure there, all I had was my mom who was this caring, loving lady. I think that’s why I kind of have that loving piece of my persona, it’s from my mom. Also, I get that “I don’t take no shit” mentality from my mom, because my mom is the ultimate diva. She’s always been a strong black woman, and someone I admired. When my dad died, I had to look to her for inspiration and to make me learn.
Complex: Speaking of inspiration, I know “Day N’ Nite” was inspired by your uncle, who passed away from cancer. How did that affect you?
Kid Cudi: I was just dealing with so much. I’ve mentioned this in other interviews but not as detailed. Like, “Oh, I was going through a lot of shit at the time.” But it’s some real shit, man, muthafuckas were struggling. I almost didn’t get a chance to see my uncle before he passed. He was Muslim and his funeral wasn’t this big extravagant funeral, he just wanted to be in this pine box. We took him to the cemetery, we buried him, and out of all the funerals I’ve been to…like, we always left before they put the body in the ground; some people can’t handle that visually. But we just stood there like he wouldn’t want it any other way. And when they put the dirt on him I was like, if it wasn’t for this man I wouldn’t be here.
Complex: How do you keep all those emotions from affecting you emotionally?
Kid Cudi: As men, we tend to build up anger and all types of shit. Walking around with all that testosterone like, “Beat a muthafucka!” So you get angry niggas, just a bunch of muthafuckas who probably haven’t cried in a little while [Laughs.] Once I get angry, there’s no turning back, it’s sort of an on/off switch, good and bad, there is no in-between. A lot of people see that side and wonder if it’s cockiness. That’s why it’s really bothered me as of late, ’cause I hear a lot of people calling me cocky and conceited or a jerkoff and I’m really not. I don’t fuck around, though. The people that are saying that are muthafuckas who I cut business with—they didn’t do business correctly, and I had to snap on ‘em.
Complex: Fair enough…
Kid Cudi: What Bun B said is probably the realest shit I ever heard. When he was on MTV and they said give a little advice to Cudi and he said, “Make sure you can take what you can from a situation, ’cause there are gonna be a lot of muthafuckas who are gonna try to take what they can from you.” So the last thing I want to do is be suckered and bamboozled. My situation is set up so great at Motown and with Kanye that I can’t lose, but I have to stand up for my shit.
Complex: You’ve got a great deal, but other newcomers have pretty good situations too, like J. Cole at Roc Nation and Drake at Universal. Are you looking forward to any healthy battles with other artists?
Kid Cudi: Man, I don’t care about that shit. What music should be about is standing out on your own to the point where you can’t compare niggas. Like, “Man, you can’t compare Kid Cudi to anyone!” I’m incomparable. I’m in my own zone and I work hard to be in my own zone. To try different, experimental things but do them in good taste. Some people get caught up and are like, “Aw man, Kid Cudi is doing collabs with all these indie bands. Maybe I should do that too!” And then they put the wack-ass rap over some electro Justice beat and think it’s some new shit just ’cause Wale did it. You have to do shit in good taste. You can’t just rap over some electro shit, you have to understand that scene. I understand that scene because I came up in that scene. So all my shit is really experimental and I’m trying to keep my sound and stay in my own realm. Some people you can’t just put in a battle.
Complex: And the comparisons between you and Drake…
Kid Cudi: Everyone loves competition. Like when they tried to make it seem like Drake and I had a beef and I had to take it to my blog and be like, “I just talked to this dude, I have his cellphone number, we text sometimes, there’s no beef.” Maybe we’ll do a Best of Both Worlds type shit. Bring Canada and United States together, who knows.
Complex: You’ve managed to stay out of beef pretty well, but what about the whole Consequence situation that happened early on when you were signed to G.O.O.D.?
Kid Cudi: He took it like I gave him a dry “what up” at the Q-Tip party, like I was trying to play him. But I was just completely obliterated out of my skull. And what I found strange was that I spotted him and made my way through the crowd to see him so I don’t see where the confusion would’ve come from, but I just would’ve liked for him to hit me up first. We’re human beings and sometimes we move off emotion. He felt disrespected and he felt like he had to do what he had to do. Me, personally, I would’ve just called the man and said “What’s poppin?” I would think twice before saying some negative shit, because we’re all in the same fam and the alliances have been made. So we talked about it and you know he apologized and everything was kinda like whatever. I told him how I felt he told me how he felt; we respected each other’s opinions, and that’s why we were able to flip it and keep it moving so quickly.
Complex: It was odd for him to put out that video, no?
Kid Cudi: It was like, “I wish I could just talk to him and see what’s wrong,” but the video was so aggressive that it put me in the “fuck it” mindset. No sweat off my sack, I didn’t do anything wrong, God knows I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m a fan of Consequences’ work, so I’m glad we were able to talk and squash it and it was daps and pounds. And ever since then me and Cons’ been tight. Ya’ll seen it from doing records and shows together. I got a joint that I’m doin’ on his album which is really fresh; I did a hook for him and you know, G.O.O.D music is on the move. It’s an alliance.
Complex: Obviously your fame level has increased recently, what part of the celebrity life has taken you back so far?
Kid Cudi: The paparazzi.
Complex: Really? What’s that been like?
Kid Cudi: I was at this show in LA at this club called My House, and a lot of people were there—Jessica Alba and her husband, Rihanna, all types of famous people were there. When I left there were paparazzi everywhere, just swarming all over the complex and the parking lot with their cameras. It was just like roaches on a bowl of cereal, I ain’t never seen some shit like that before. It was so crazy ’cause they didn’t snap pictures of me ’cause they don’t know who I am. I’m not some super-duper-star. I’m not in the limelight like that… yet. It was just crazy to see it actually, ’cause you really don’t ever see it like that. You see everything the camera shoots, you don’t see behind the lens. How it looks having like 20 muthafuckas chasing you and shit. Behind your car on foot, on bike, in other cars. Just to get a shot of you, it’s crazy!
Complex: Are you looking forward to that day? When they’re snapping your picture?
Kid Cudi: Nah, ’cause I like my privacy. I’m looking forward to fucking around with them though. Just like joking around with them, ’cause I feel like if you build up a kind of cool relationship with the paps, they’ll kind of ease up on you a little bit. You show them a little bit of love, like “Hey man, I’m just trying to chill.” ‘Cause they’re all aggressive, they’re built to not give a fuck about what you say [Laughs.] They’re built to hear you ask to be left alone and they just say “but come on man, just take one picture!” They’re built to not give a fuck or understand your situation, to be very insensitive. So I feel like you just gotta be cool with them, and be a little bit chill.