Over the years succeeding Kid Cudi’s debut album, Man on the Moon, I’ve found myself wondering more often than not just how many lives his music has saved. Having made his introduction to the world and mainstream industry with the smash hit Day ‘N’ Nite, two things were evident about Cudi from the get-go: first, he got high, and second, he was kinda sorta miserable.
His music however, wasn’t particularly depressing. It casually touched on his misery (and in what may or may not have been a calculated move) over fairly upbeat or melancholy beats which either hyped or lulled the listener and led us to believe that sure, the man wasn’t happy, but there wasn’t any cause for concern just yet. He was a hipster rapper to many: no gun talk, no fake bravado or clout, just sadness, weed and women.
‘Niggas thought I was crazy/ My mama know I stay high’ – My World
Shortly before the release of his sophomore album MOTM II however Cudi was arrested for cocaine possession and the lonely stoner from Cleveland gained a darker reputation overnight. As these things go, at some point the weed had clearly stopped being enough at some point and MOTM II was noticeably gloomier. For the first time he discussed being suicidal, his drug use and self-medication, his internal downward spiral and the gradual deterioration of his mental health.
He perfectly described the emotions and experiences one goes through when they’re a depressed, self-aware addict.
Sure, Cudi was not the first rapper to share his woes but what made this special was the fact that not only did he call it what it was – depression – he perfectly described the emotions and experiences one goes through when they’re a depressed, self-aware addict. Anger, desperation, fear, despondency and a touch of denial – those were real emotions – emotions I felt as a mentally ill woman pre-(official) diagnosis. I recall sobbing the first time I heard his so-honest-it’s-cringe worthy collaboration with Mary J Blidge Don’t Play This Song and constantly replaying These Worries.
Here was someone who wasn’t glamourising self-medication nor pretending he was fine. Cudi was drowning in his depression and he was letting us know that in fact, the money, sex and drugs were not enough and they neither healed nor necessarily helped.
‘You must understand what I speak about in song is how I really am/
Yeah, this is how I really think/
You can see what I see/
Yes, I really blink/
Yes, I really drink/
I really do rage/
My demons out the cage’ – Mojo So Dope
With his first two albums he managed to not only shine a spotlight on having mental health issues when you’re young, lit and delicious, but also narrate the entire ordeal in a way that non-gang-banging suburban kids who listened to hip hop and cried to their psychiatrists and drug dealers could relate to.
When Drake first stepped onto the scene as the soft thug behind So Far Gone the Young Money golden boy quickly gained male and female fans alike because of his ability to rap alongside the best of them all while looking like he still opened doors for ladies and helped old women cross the road. He could rap and croon, cry over past loves and threaten rivals and represented an emotional duality many male hip-hop fans dared not explore alone, no less in a car full of their mates when they got passed the aux chord.
The Boy grew to become a man and his boyish charm and innocence turned into bravado and brazen misogyny.
Over the years he grew in leaps and bounds, winning Grammys, allegedly bedding many of our favourite female entertainers and successfully bullying his way into the hearts and playlists of everyone from Mayor Norm Kelly to Barack Obama himself.
‘You gotta come to my side and see how we live/
I could not see Heaven bein’ much better than this’ – Blessings
The Boy grew to become a man and his boyish charm and innocence turned into bravado and brazen misogyny. Fans began to realise that he played the nice guy card one too many times and wasn’t scared to slut shame or outright manipulate the women he claimed to love and creepily pursued. (Let’s admit it, Drake is a bit of a stalker.) As a rapper he could throw his fair amount of jabs at fellow rappers with less money and clout however when he got opportunities to go toe to toe with the best of them (Pusha T, Jay Z) a pattern emerged, one that revealed that he seemingly failed to respond in a timely and aggressive manner to rappers everyone knows could rap circles around him.
He lost me somewhere between the ever so creepy Hotline Bling and the entire release of Views.
Over the years the way he’s handled matters, from allegedly sending thugs to threaten one time lover Jhonni Blaze to hiding and then not hiding and then hiding again frequent ‘collaborator’ Quentin Miller, forced many to wonder just WHO The Boy was and what kinda man he’d grown into.
Personally, he lost me somewhere between the ever so creepy Hotline Bling and the entire release of Views. I got tired of the monotony. Drake became predictable and corny. He failed to grow musically and while he could still be fire on a hook and drop hot singles he was much better at being arm candy and mocking broke niggas through subs on Insta.
‘I’m just a sicko, a real sicko when you get to know me, nigga/
I let the diss record drop you were standing right below me, nigga’ – Summer Sixteen
Which was why when he took the easy way out and decided to respond to Kid Cudi’s tweets about him and Kanye West being culture vultures of note with a diss track where he mentioned Cudi’s drug use and suicidal tendencies while Cudi’s currently in rehab for being suicidal, it wasn’t shocking. It was a cheap shot and those are the only shots he’s good at, currently.
The Boy became a man and built his personality as The Man around being a bully to those he feels are beneath him (Joe Budden or Tyga). Which is very hip hop and very macho but also, if we’re being honest, a dick thing to do. And I feel ridiculous even complaining about it because as a music journalist I know this is what the game is about but as someone who HAS been where Cudi’s at, it just makes me dislike Drake so much more.
Drake kicking Cudi when he’s down is typical Drake.
Cheap shots aren’t a sign of strength at all and any strong person will tell you that. So Drake kicking Cudi when he’s down is typical Drake – soft thug – and there’s never really any reason trying to wrestle with a soft thug.
Music fans are enamoured with The Boy and so many will disagree, and while we cannot deny that both men have made a difference in the course of music, we also can’t deny that Drake has turned into an asshole of note. But maybe that’s the price we have to pay, and him too, for subscribing to rap life and all it entails.
I’m well aware that the music industry is smoke and mirrors and the two men could collaborate on a song next week, for all we know, but if that isn’t the case and what’s happening is real, I can only hope that this, and what might come after, doesn’t permanently affect Cudi’s mental health.
Because sure it’s rap life but living your dream to the detriment of one’s health has never been a real wave, despite what the rock and rollers will have us believe.