IN 2008 Kid Cudi was a dreamer—a wide-eyed 20-something looking to escape the abyss of Cleveland, Ohio. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Cudi escaped the bottomless abyss of the Midwest to become one of the genre’s most decorated MCs. As he nears his 10th studio album, EntergalaticCudi, born Scott Mescudi, has unlocked a new level of mastery in his life: gratitude.
“I don’t think Cudi 15 years ago would believe that,” he says during our 20-minute conversation late Wednesday night. “He’d be like, ‘No f—king way!’ Ten albums? I can’t even get out of my debut!’ He would be so stressed. I think that’s the beauty of my career. I still surprise myself. I’m exploring. I realize that anything is possible.”
During his history with rap, Cudi blossomed into a seasoned actor. After a riveting performance on the HBO TV series This is how you do it in America in 2010 as the beloved character Domingo Dean, Cudi found another calling in acting. When Cudi wasn’t dishing out soul-stirring anthems like “Soundtrack to My Life,” “Solo Dolo,” or “Erase Me,” Cudi buried his head in scripts and honed his knowledge to become a film buff. Years later, the results proved golden after a series of successful films, including this year’s horror gems Pearl and that even more relaxing x. The former, co-produced by Cudi’s Mad Solar company along with LeBron James’ BRON Creative and A24, received rave reviews — especially from legendary director Martin Scorsese, who helped to play film classics Goodfellas, Casino, That Departedand more.
“I was excited, so disturbed, so restless that I had trouble falling asleep. But I couldn’t stop watching,” Scorsese said of the gory film in an interview with Slash film.
With Cudder’s confidence nearing its peak, he looks set to dazzle music and film fans with his upcoming Netflix show Entergalatic, which will accompany his 10th studio album next Friday (September 30). Based on Cudi’s latest studio effort, the animated series follows a young bachelor named Jabari who hopes to find a balance between his career and love life.
“I’m grateful to be here, man,” says the accomplished polymath. “I’m grateful to still be doing it. I’m blessed. Fourteen years is a long time to do anything. I never imagined I’d be here doing this all these years later. It’s a really crazy feeling.”
Billboard talked to Cudi about him Entergalatic album, how the project ties in with his upcoming Netflix show, sending flowers to Emmy winners Quinton Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph, and how he’s been able to keep the devil away from his blessings.
With Intergalactic, you gave the album a visual component. Give me an outline of why you thought a show would complement the music.
I’ve always wanted to do something visual for an album, but so many people have tried it. I just wanted to figure out a different approach that hadn’t been done before. With this, the process was really simple. I’m in control of it all and said, “Okay, it’s best if I do the music first and then we go in and write the scripts.”
So I basically wrote the story in my head and made the album first. I’m talking about figuring out different beats in the story and I knew I needed a song that gave you the feeling of when [the main character Jabari] Saw Meadow for the first time. I needed a song that was the feeling and emotions when they made love for the first time. I needed a song that was the kind that explains and touches on them losing each other. Will they ever get back together?
I was just thinking about all these things while I was writing the album and putting it all together. From there, I just sat down with my writers and they downloaded all the information and we were able to put the scripts together from there.
I love that you basically gave me six different songs that encapsulate different moods of the show. Is there one that really sticks out to you the most?
I would say “willing to trust.” It’s a song [that’s] a big moment in the show. It’s a tender moment and the beat is crazy. Ty Dolla $ign is doing his f–king thing there and he’s really great. It’s a really beautiful song from start to finish. It’s a perfect love song.
The character Jabari seems like he is learning to balance his love life and career. I’ll turn it over to you – is there anything you wish you could have done differently when it came to establishing that balance between work and your personal relationships? I struggle to find that balance.
I think back to when I never struggled with it. I was always able to keep a relationship and do my job. No boyfriend I’ve ever been with complained about me spending too much time on my work. But I thought it would be interesting to get into that in the show and make it a little difficult for Jabari, because it’s a lot of people’s story. I was able to work and have a relationship and do all of that, but I realize that it’s not easy for a young person, especially when you’re trying to find your footing in the world.
I watched the trailer and there was a pivotal line that struck me. It was, “Love is the easiest thing in the world when you do it by accident, but it doesn’t become real until you do it on purpose.” I want you to decipher that line and how it has such an impact on the show.
I really feel like I’ve never fallen into a relationship. For me it has always been on purpose. It has always been real. I have been lucky to find women who have been locked in with me the same way I have been. In some ways in between the relationships there have been flings here and there. I’m like, “Whatever” and I haven’t taken it that seriously and it’s more like a waste of my time… The relationship could be going well, but I’m not getting anything out of it. I’m just in it.
When you really want something and someone else wants the same thing, it becomes a little more real and deeper. I think it’s kind of like what Jabari faces in the show. What am I feeling? Is it real or some other s–t? Is it really my person?
I take it back to How to make it in America. I loved your character, Domingo. You played many roles in your life – which one would you say had a lasting impact on Scott personally?
I think Domingo How to make it in America. Domingo was this really amazing guy. He was a hustler, a human being, he had good energy. You never saw him depressed or sad. Whenever you saw him, he was in the best mood. And it was inspiring to me because I was feeling miserable around that time. I thought, “This is the funnest thing because I get to play someone who’s happy.” Living my life now in my adulthood, a lot of times it’s like, “What would Domingo Dean do?” He is the natural born hustler. He makes it happen at all times. And that’s who Domingo was on the show and that’s who Kid Cudi is. It was what I became.
I want to give you your flowers, but I know it ain’t nothing like Martin Scorsese giving you flowers. When you have a legend like him praising you on a film you helped produce, what does that stamp of approval mean, knowing that this wasn’t necessarily your first calling?
I found out later that Martin Scorsese was watching Pearl because he was such a fan of x. That bit of information made me even more upset. I thought, “Holy s–t, he’s seen me naked.” Me and Martin Scorsese are family now. We are brothers for life. I heard it and it’s all insane to me. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like when I had the meeting with Ti West in 2016 when I asked him out to dinner because I loved his movies and I wanted to meet the man who made it. It was the universe working its magic. I knew you were the chosen one [one]. I knew he had something different than any other filmmaker I had seen.
This is a sidebar, but I am truly humbled that Ti has kept me in mind all these years x. Because in 2016 I met him at SoHo House and he gave me an idea that was kind of like x and I was a character in this movie. But x ended up becoming its own thing, but he still kept the character that he wanted me to play and put it into x. So he kept me in mind all these years later. I was the first actor they reached out to and attached. The fact that he had me in mind is really sick. I’m just grateful to be in these films and to have the opportunity to be in that authentic piece of cinema. It’s even crazier that someone like Martin Scorsese sees our film. Like even in the quote he said he couldn’t sleep! The art we make is stimulating and that’s all you want. You want people to feel something unresolved. You want people to cry and you want your art to invoke all these different emotions.
The beauty of this is that you can embrace the love and flowers you receive, but also give them back to others who deserve it. You literally did that for Sheryl Lee Ralph for her Emmy win for Abbott Elementary. I remember growing up with Sheryl and her being the mother in Moesha. What does her victory mean for the black community, especially for those trying to make that breakthrough at the mainstream level?
I think it is Black excellence in the purest sense of the word. I sent flowers and tequila to Quinta [Brunson] and Sheryl. I was so inspired and to see black women achieve things of this caliber in a world where we are often overlooked a lot – it lets me know that times are changing and we are starting to see a turn in things. Someone like Sheryl Lee Ralph can get her flowers and she has been a legend all these years. One I grew up with, just like you have. We are about the same age so we know Sheryl Lee Ralph. Whenever I see her on something, I feel like it’s my mother. When I saw her win, I felt like it was my family member who won.
Same with Quinta. Now, I haven’t known Quinta that long, but I feel like I know her enough—the way we connect, I feel like I’ve known her forever, from back in school or whatever. I was so excited to be able to say I know Quinta and I had dinner with this person and we text – like, we look out for each other. She checks in on me and I check in on her. It’s the homie. I’m really proud of her and Sheryl and what they’ve done. It is my dream. I hope the shows I do end up having that big of an impact. I think she’s a wild genius and it’s incredible to see her shine.
You said you are the “most hated man in hip hop” but also the most blessed. Talk about how you’ve been able to receive your gifts, but also deal with the bull throughout your career.
It is something that requires a certain level of mastery. You must be at the level of inner peace and you must be able to step back and look at your blessings. We were going to do a whole other interview about the five other things I’m working on that don’t even have anything to do with acting. I just like to focus on the positive and what’s happening in my life. Quote Denzel [Washington] said to Will [Smith] when he had the Oscar situation. Be careful when you’re high, that’s when the devil comes after you.
I’m the highest I’ve ever been in my career on that f–king mountain, and it’s the first time in my career that I hate coming this hard on me. It’s something I have to remind myself of. The devil is alive and he is working overtime because I am chosen. I am chosen by God and he does not like me. I used to be his best friend and it bothers him like hell. I will not let him win and we will go into the light.