This first appeared on on May 1 2009.

Kid Cudi Talks Wale, Reebok & Being Bigger Than Lil Wayne

When it comes to young rappers, it seems like Kid Cudi might be a bit better off than the rest of the gang. Not only did Cudi just ink a deal with Universal Motown, but he also has music’s biggest star, Kanye West, in his corner. Cudi and Complex have long had a relationship (he actually modeled for us back in 2006), but after we tapped him and his homies in a blog post and he responded, we weren’t sure if things were cool…

That is, until Cudi came through the eckoplex yesterday for his first press day, and he kept it realer than most. In this exclusive interview, the Double-O representer talks about how he wants to be bigger than Kanye and Lil Wayne, the screaming match he had with Wale last week, and that rumored Reebok situation that went down in Phoenix. Yup, we back friends like Puffy and Steve Stoute…

Complex: Obviously there was a little push back from the blog post we did about the new rapper retail deals…

Kid Cudi: Even in my post I said I have no problem with Complex. It’s been my favorite magazine. On one of my songs, “Cleveland is the Reason,” I actually shouted you guys out and I recorded that song in 2006. So when I say “I want my closet Complex like the magazine,” I was really dreaming of getting fresh. And I remember always looking in Complex and looking for the fresh shit. But when I saw that, it was kind of brought to my attention…like, I’m all good with jokes, I like cracking jokes, I’m a silly dude, we all know that, but I didn’t feel too roasted. I was like, that was an attempt to be funny but it just wasn’t funny. I was just standing up for my homies that were on the list. It wasn’t really like I was standing up for myself, and I wasn’t really attacking the magazine. I was just attacking this kid that thought he was being witty. But I wasn’t shitting on him. I was just like [silly voice] mannn you know…that’s not right man, that’s not cool.

It’s definitely a mind fuck. Literally, since I’ve had “Day N’ Night,” it’s been bong, bong, bong. I know some people are like, man he blew up over night. Those muthafuckas ain’t follow my career.

Complex: Fair enough, we cool, ha. How crazy has the past year and a half been for you? I remember watching you at the T-mobile event and not many people knowing you, now you’re fresh off from shutting down SXSW with Kanye…

Kid Cudi: It’s definitely a mind fuck. Literally, since I’ve had “Day N’ Night,” it’s been bong, bong, bong. I know some people are like, man he blew up over night. Those muthafuckas ain’t follow my career. It was always a steady little pace from giving “Day N’ Night” to A-Trak at the “Stronger” premiere video release party, to having him play it twice, to ‘Ye standing there talking to people, and me from a distance trying to get his attention and pointing to my ear and saying “yo listen, that’s my song,” and him nodding back and giving me the smile like “yeah that’s what up.” He was like, “Yo, you have a lot of shit I’ve heard that I fuck with,” but nothing came out of it, but it was letting me know that I was on the right track. After he came back from Australia, he contacted Plain Pat and say he wanted to fly me out to Hawaii to work on the Blueprint 3. So literally, in my brain, I feel like I’m on this rollercoaster that’s not ending anytime soon and it’s just fresh as fuck.

Complex: So you talked about working with Kanye, how much of an advantage do you think aligning yourself with him gives you over other young rappers like Charles Hamilton or Mickey Factz, who might not have that major co-sign?

Kid Cudi: Basically Kanye is probably the biggest fucking artist in the universe right now, and me being with such a dope tastemaker complements my taste in music. Whatever he does and whatever he touches is amazing and being a new artist and having that person say, “Hey everybody, this muthafucka is dope.” I mean, the talent was already there of course, “Day N’ Night” was already established and shit like that, but at the same time, it definitely turned the right ears to it. So it’s definitely an advantage for me.

Complex: The Universal deal. Why did it make sense for you to sign with them?

Kid Cudi: It wasn’t about the money, because I really don’t give a fuck about the money. Honestly, I don’t even have to do music anymore, I can just live off of 808′s and Heartbreak checks and “Day N’ Night” checks and be good. Then I have the HBO show in August. I went with Universal Motown because I know Sylvia Rhone believed in my vision. Like, Sylvia is going to go hard for me and I know it. She was ready to put her career on the line for this stranger, ultimately because she believed in my shit, not because I had this big song. Because she already told me that it’s about longevity. There are artists like a Lil Wayne that’s just going to blow the fuck up and just kill shit. And she knows that I can play the role of a Lil Wayne, or a Kanye and be as equally successful and that’s why she was like, I don’t give a fuck about what anybody else is talking about, I want this kid to do this. And that’s why I was with the deal.

My whole thing is to not to be as big as Kanye or Lil Wayne, but to be bigger. It’s all about progression. If I just set the goal to want to be like Kanye and Lil Wayne, that’s setting my shit to a limit and it’s selling myself short.

Complex: What kind of expectations do you have for your career? Do you think you can be as big as Wayne or as big as Kanye?

Kid Cudi: My whole thing is to not to be as big as Kanye or Lil Wayne, but to be bigger. It’s all about progression. If I just set the goal to want to be like Kanye and Lil Wayne, that’s setting my shit to a limit and it’s selling myself short. I’m pretty sure when Kanye was aspiring to do his music, he wasn’t like, I want to be as big as Jay. He was like, Nah, I want to be bigger then Jay. It’s not necessarily saying that you are better than them, it’s just setting that bar. If I never am better then Kanye, in my brain, I’m always going to be trying to be, forever and ever until the day that I die.

Complex: That’s a good way to stay motivated…

Kid Cudi: I don’t want this to get misquoted that I’m trying to be better than Kanye or anything like that, it’s just a mental memo in my brain to keep me turbo charged to accelerate my shit, to make me think on grand scales. To tell you the truth, no one can catch up to Kanye, that muthafucka is gone. It’s just like a muthafucka saying that he wants to be a god amongst men. It’s never going to happen but its just you raising the bar, you know what I mean?

Complex: In the blog post where you announced your mini-retirement, you brought up the video with Wale where he and Joe Budden and everybody else was talking about you in the studio. How did that make you feel?

Kid Cudi: After I saw that video, Wale and I got into an intense screaming match on the phone. But, that’s what friends do. We yelled at each other, and after all the yelling was over we spoke and then it was basically down to “Yo man, come on, you know me, I know you, you my nigga.” If you felt that way, just tell me. But he had been trying to reach out and granted, I felt like I should of reached out to him sooner. Every time I would try to talk to him, it was on the go. Also, I don’t want to get into sensitive deep conversations about stuff that’s just not important. You know, if somebody feels a certain way about me and I feel like they’re misunderstanding me, I don’t need to explain myself. I just try to shy away from it and just pretend like it never happened, and try to rekindle the friendship and let him know that its not like that.

Complex: What about the comments other people made who were in the room?

Kid Cudi: I definitely sensed a little bit of “I don’t understand Cudi” in that room. Not from Wale, but from everybody else because Wale understands me. Everybody else, I don’t expect them to understand it. I don’t even know half of the people in that room. I know Joe Budden. I’m a fan of Joe Budden. Will I expect Joe Budden to understand me? Maybe. If not, oh well. No sweat off my sack. Does 9th Wonder understand? Maybe. Do I like his production? Yeah. Would I love for him to be on my album? Yeah. But if he doesn’t get it, oh well. No sweat off my sack. It’s not something I’m going to cry over. The only reason why I reacted off of that video is because of Wale. But I didn’t solely decide to fall back on music because of that video. If niggas wanna have a team summit about Kid Cudi, I must be popping, to even be the subject in a dope conversation. Or I could be like, “Man, muthafuckas don’t need to be speaking my name if they ain’t got anything positive to say,” ’cause I don’t do anything wrong to anyone. I wouldn’t harm a fly, I’m not trying to be tough, and I’m not trying to pull nobody’s card. I’m already a person that is very reserved’that lonely stoner shit isn’t just a song. I’m reserved.

Complex: Where does that part of your personality come from?

Kid Cudi: My family is all reserved types of people. One of my cousins, I spoke to him a week ago, and he was talking about how everyone in the family is distant, but there is still a mutual respect there. My uncle just passed away last month and it has been really hard for everyone. I flew my brothers in, I wanted all of us to get together. I haven’t seen my older brother since 2004. It was crazy to bring everyone back, and the last thing you want to do is have to see your siblings that you haven’t seen in a while, for a situation like a funeral. My mom is a single parent, raising four kids, my dad was involved up until he passed away in 1995′and we saw him on weekends and he would pick us up from school somedays’but it was really my mom in that house 24/7. There was a lot of shit happening that I didn’t know until recently that was going on while I was a kid.

Complex: Like what?

Kid Cudi: My mom missed meals on several occasions because there was only enough food to feed all of us. My mom didn’t have a bed until I was 15 years old. She slept on a couch. I remember one Christmas going to the tree and seeing her on the couch next to the tree. I remember laying with her, like I used to sleep with my mom until I was like 12. I was a big baby; I’m a momma’s boy. But my mom is my best friend, and never let me down, ever.

C: Wow, that’s deep. On a lighter note, were you ever opposed to Jim Jones hoping on the “Day N Night” beat?

Kid Cudi: I was opposed to muthafuckas saying it was Jimmy’s single, because that’s not true. People didn’t have their Google game up. You got to Google it, baby! The track record is there. That song has been out since February 2008, and it’s been leaked online since 2007. I think Angie Martinez was the first one to say, “This is Kid Cudi’s record.” The song had legs before Jimmy jumped on it. I was never opposed to him jumping on it, it was an honor. But that was my baby, and I let him baby-sit for a weekend [laughs].

Complex: So, the Reebok situation. There were a lot of rumors about you getting tasered by the police after wearing Jordans to a Reebok party. You never really addressed it outside of a blog post…

Kid Cudi: It was never about Reebok, the brand or anything like that. Nike don’t always make the dopest shoes, no brand makes dope shit all the time. I was opposed to the shoes they tried to give me’I didn’t like them. I didn’t get into because it was Reebok people, I got into it with one individual who approached me the wrong way. I’m a man at the end of the day. I’m not a fighter, I don’t like violence’hell, I don’t even know if I know how to fight. I’m not a strategic fighter, that’s not my steez. I don’t know how to work a gun if you gave me one, I wouldn’t want to fucking touch it. But at the same time, I ain’t no sucker and I was in a situation where a dude was trying to test me as a man. I let it get to me, but that will never happen again. A nigga want to test me? So what. I will never let anyone rub me the wrong way. It’s something I don’t regret at all. It was something I needed to do at that time. That dude was wrong. I reacted off of his reaction. He interfered in a conversation I was having with two other people. I wasn’t even the first one to put hands on him, my security Zule was. I tell people, he’s always close, he’s not even certified, he’s just a nigga from the hood.

Complex: Word.

Kid Cudi: I learned from that situation and I’m going to Martin Luther King the next situation, whether it’s beef, or rappers calling me out. I will never engage in any beef. I don’t care if 50 Cent called me out, I’m never going to respond. A life shouldn’t be about bickering, or arguing. I got in this business to make music, and to eliminate the angry shit and bring people together. And I’m not knocking 50 at all, he’s defending himself right now, 50 didn’t start that Ross shit. 50 will defend himself as a man at all costs, but in this game there has to be differences among artists.

Complex: It’s a long time away, but time flies’what can we expect from your album?

Kid Cudi: Right now, the name of the album is Man On The Moon, The Guardians. It may change, depending on the features. Right now Snoop is down, he told me his oldest son put him on to my record. Snoop is my favorite artist of all time. He’s someone I look up to. I explained to him the idea of the song and he’s with it. I’m also trying to get Shia Labeouf in my project. I want the album to be as cinematic as possible, and feature people that are great at what they do. We’re both young talents in this game, and I just found out Shia was a fan of my song “Day N’ Night,” and I’m a fan of his. He’s killing shit, I feel like I’m doing the Shia Labeouf in music. We’re working on trying to get him to narrate the story of the album.

Complex: I have to ask you’you recently said that in 99 of your percent interviews, you were high. Are you stoned right now?

Kid Cudi: [Laughs] Nah, man. I’m sick, so I’m not stoned. Most of my label meetings, I was high. I made sure I was late to the meetings, not because I was acting Hollywood, but I was finishing my blunt because I knew I was going to be sitting in that office listening to shit I didn’t want to hear. It was so boring, like I was in college again. Plus, I like Complex so I got to come with it. The random interviews, I know they’re into it just because of the hype. Those are the interviews [where] I’m like, ah I need to be high to get through this. [laughs]

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Joe La Puma is currently the Director of Content Strategy at Complex Media, handling big idea generation and execution along with the social networking of Complex's content. He's conducted cover stories with everyone from Katy Perry and Justin Bieber to Rick Ross and Kid Cudi.
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