When you think of people who inspired the hip-hop artists of today, your mind goes straight to Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, or even southern rappers like Three 6 Mafia, Gucci Mane, T.I. and Young Jeezy. An artist that is usually overlooked, is Cleveland’s very own Scott Mescudi aka Kid Cudi.
In 2007, Kid Cudi released his renowned track Day ’n’ Nite with the help of his roommate and producer Dot da Genius. Following a substantial amount of buzz – most notably on MySpace – Kid Cudi made his stamp on the world with his first mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi. Taking influences from outside of Hip-Hop, Cudi chiselled his name on the alternative side of the genre. Scott stood out from the crowd leaving fans and critics fascinated with his atmospheric sound and vulnerable songwriting.
Pretty soon after, Cudi signed with Kanye West’s label GOOD Music. Kanye, known as an orchestra conductor in Hip-Hop, first put Cudi on Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3, he then quickly utilised him on the genre-changer album 808s & Heartbreaks; an album that fundamentally secured the use of autotune within Hip-Hop. Cudi was a prominent feature on the platinum-selling album, as well as receiving writing credits. His vocals echoed through the climate leaving anticipation for his debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day.
Considered to many as a classic while also earning a spot in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Man on the Moon: The End of Day went on to inspire many of the current artists you hear today. Many artists spoke about Kid Cudi’s importance including Travis Scott; whose stage name is literally a homage to Kid Cudi’s full name, Scott Mescudi. The debut release became a certified double platinum album and the start of the Man on the Moon trilogy.
Following his debut, Kid Cudi released The Legend of Mr. Rager shortly after. However, it took a decade before the release of Cudi’s third installment, and seventh studio album, The Chosen, the introspective journey through the three albums hears Cudi exploring every corner of his mind; from joy and ambition to depression and suicide. Through his honesty, vulnerability and authenticity, Kid Cudi has managed to capture the heart and minds of multiple generations. The humanistic traits he bares in his music are still relative, relatable and appreciated even in 2022.
Following the release of the trilogy’s last installment, Kid Cudi announced the To the Moon World Tour. This tour sees Scott’s first ever in Brussels at Palais 12. We travelled to Belgium to cover Kid Cudi for the first time; very fitting. The voice of actor Keith David narrates and guides the audience inside the arena into Kid Cudi’s mind. Emerging from the smoke, Cudi embraced the crowd and ensured this show is for the day-one fans. A flashback-like introduction, launches us 14 years into the past, a moment when we first heard Kid Cudi; with his first mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi, the beat drops for Down & Out that serves as a prelude to the journey we’re about to embark on.
Bringing the crowd back to the present day, Cudi drops Tequila Shots; this song acts as an introduction to the album. Now it does the same to this tour. The theme of indulging in the party culture continues with She Knows This and Dive. The songs all feature within Act I: Return 2 Madness on Man on the Moon III album. By the end of the act, Cudi wants to communicate the feeling of unease and doubt that are starting to seep into his mind. Old habits start to introduce old thoughts, leaving Cudi feeling isolated. As Dive comes to an end, Kid Cudi soon introduces King Chip formerly known as Chip The Ripper.
Taking centre stage, King Chip performs, the first verse of Just What I Am; arguably, one of the best feature verses in Kid Cudi’s catalogue. Taken from Indicudi – an album that acts in the MOTM trilogy as Star Wars: Rogue One – the track takes us down the path towards the darker part of Cudi’s mind where partying is the only choice he has to numb his pain. This theme continues with the next song Hyyerr, a song that Cudi was quoted saying “it’s being like “Yeah”, the chill, like “I been through the hell”. King Chip thanks the crowd and leaves the stage with a massive cheer following him off.
A warm soothing beat engulfs the arena before we’re hit with a harsh psychedelic screech which was originally heard in The Freak Scene’s (The Deep) My Rainbow Life. These fans, it’s known as Ghost! The song hears Cudi accepting his demons are present.
His disconnection from everyone and everything in the world becomes more apparent by the time we hear the next track Mr. Solo Dolo III. The demons from Ghost! are now heard by everyone with the haunting horror-eques sounds piercing through the pitch-black arena. The isolation he eluded to in the previous track is now enforced with the third installment of Mr. Solo Dolo; the track demonstrates his constant battle with mental health and addiction which starts from this feeling of isolation.
What saves him from this is the purest form of connection: love. Sept. 16th, the track title and birthday of Cudi’s girlfriend at the time of MOTM III release, saves us from the depths of isolation, depression and addiction. In fact, Cudi uses these negative traits as positives; feeling isolated in the music world is now Cudi’s strength he cherishes; being open about his mental health is connected with thousands of fans; then finally, the addiction has changed from drugs to someone’s love as he sings “Life goes by / Search for your love wherever it be”. While keeping on the theme of three we think Cudi is implying that someone he’s in love with saved him, his love for music saved him and his love for marijuana saved him.
Cudi addresses the crowd… “July 17th is Dot da Genius’ birthday, and also July 17th is the date that I dropped A Kid Named Cudi.” He went on to say “I wanted this mixtape just be like an all-encompassing resumé of the type of artist that I would be, you know, I want to have a little bit of everything. I didn’t want anybody to put me in a fucking box”. The crowd cheers and as they damper down Scott continued saying… “And this next song, in particular, was one of those songs… when people hear this, I want them to understand me, like they’re a close friend or a member of my family. I want you guys to really connect with my story and understand what my mission was as an artist. So this song was my introduction; my introduction to the world.”
Cudi turns away the crowd as he literally “looks back” to the beginning of his career. A skit-like introduction plays and soothes us in a state of nostalgia. The sample of Nosaj Thing’s Aquarium takes us back to 2008 followed by the lyrics of “Alright, run it / I never gave a fuck” which are met with screams. Seen as the defining song of Kid Cudi’s career and considered one of his most loved to this day, Man on the Moon (The Anthem) represents his origin story. The song where he invented the notorious Moon Man persona, then went on to be the alias for his trilogy.
As if the Moon Man’s life flashed before his eyes, we’re met with what’s considered the most cryptic song among fans, due to the music video. With no introduction, we take off on an adventure with Mr. Rager. As described in a tweet by Cudi himself…
Mr Rager was about almost overdosing one time. "When will the fantasy end"? (Life) "When will the heaven begin?" (Death).
— The Chosen One (@KiDCuDi) October 10, 2013
The impulsive persona of Mr. Rager brags about his travel – or trips – while being in this constant state of limbo: life or death, good or bad, right or wrong. Mr. Rager is a ballad about the alter-ego that drives Scott’s addiction and is at the heart of his constant internal battle. Mr. Rager was written after Cudi’s battle with a cocaine addiction and shows a negative relationship with drugs.
Following the theme of ups and downs, we’re introduced to a song about a positive relationship with a drug. Cudi describes that for people like him, who have faced similar issues, there’s only one remedy: Marijuana. The love song hears Cudi explain that marijuana “Always had my back”, and “Never left me lonely / It’s gon’ be okay”; his love for the “Pretty green bud” ultimately saved him from himself.
Throughout the tour, at this stage of the show audiences heard Void. However, Cudi explains that he listened to his fans’ feedback on Twitter and replaced the song. Instead of Void, Cudi performed the first verse and chorus of Soundtrack 2 My Life, Solo Dolo (Nightmare), Sky Might Fall and Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music). The MOTM III track, Void would have served as a thank-you to his fans for their support and how their love helps him avoid succumbing to depression. However, it’s a rare moment to see Cudi live in Europe. Therefore, the opportunity to experience songs from his first album was definitely appreciated.
To celebrate the journey we’ve been on, Cudi wants the crowd to rage to the iconic dance track Memories by David Guetta before ending the show on the EDM remix of Pursuit of Happiness by Steve Aoki. These moments on the surface are filled with pure fun and joy that shows his diverse discography; from hip-hop to alternative rock to EDM.
However, beneath the surface, this moment symbolises more. Pursuit of Happiness shows the loop that Scott Mescudi is caught in and chases. “I’m on the pursuit of happiness, and I know / Everything that shine ain’t always gonna be gold”. He has the right to pursue joy and live life in a way that makes him happy, however, because of the past trauma he’s experienced, he needs vices like marijuana to cope. Drinking, drugs and partying seem like gold but these lead to addiction and losing their shine, which later becomes fool’s gold: fake happiness. While ‘chasing the dragon’ Cudi says ”I’ll be fine once I get it / I’ll be good”, but inevitably finds himself in an infinite loop of drug addiction, depression and an ongoing Pursuit of Happiness. As the song ends, the lights black out and Kid Cudi leaves the stage.
We’ve come to the end of the journey inside Cudi’s mind and have arrived where we’ve started. By the end of Pursuit of Happiness, we’re in the same mental state as we were at the start of the To the Moon World Tour with Tequila Shots. Like all of the Man on the Moon albums, this show takes us on an adventure of highs and lows in the same fashion. Tracks from three different bodies of work seamlessly slot in together thanks to Cudi’s commitment to a coherent and consistent sound during this trilogy.
Through the music, you learn the correlation between Cudi’s mental health and feeling disconnected from the world. Moon Man is alone in space and when he comes back to earth, people struggle to understand him like he’s a martian. The Man on the Moon trilogy allows Cudi to share his vulnerabilities. His honesty allows his music to feel relatability leaving fans feeling connected and understood. His music fills the void where thoughts of depression can seed and instead uses love, the deepest connection between humans, to grow and help them.
The mission To The Moon is now complete, but Keith David’s voice instructs Cudi to return for an encore. While the legend of the Moon Man will live on, it’s implied that the allis has now died with his next song, The Prayer. A much-loved track from his A Kid Named Cudi mixtape, The Prayer is a song that now feels like a prophecy. At the time, The Prayer was a mission statement and promise to his fans to make music with meaning. Now, The Prayer seems like it’s the conclusion to the Moon Man’s story and a thank you to his loyal fans. An emotional crowd sings back “And if I die before I wake I pray the Lord, my soul, to take / ‘Cause I’m ready for the funeral.” It’s here where we witness the death of the MOTM’s worshipped protagonist.
For his last parting gift to the fans, Cudi plays a cult favourite Love. Performed after one of his first songs, Love. is Cudi’s latest release which features on his greatest hits compilation, The Boy Who Flew to the Moon: Vol 1. It became a cult classic after it was originally shared on Soundcloud, but due to copyright issues, it was never officially released; this lent itself to being a song that only Scott’s ‘true fans’ would know.
Love you all
— The Chosen One (@KiDCuDi) February 20, 2015
The selection of this track here is not an accident, as love is an underlining theme during the performance and within Cudi’s music. The song plays as if this was the performance’s credit sequence, the retrospective montage of the Moon Man and the last reassuring message he wants to share with his fans. Even the full stop in the title implies the end of the show, the end of a story and the end of an era.
The past 14 years have seen Kid Cudi become an influential artist. From music to films, to recently releasing a combination of the two on Netflix with Entergalactic. The Man on the Moon trilogy changed the mainstream landscape; something very few artists have managed to do in their careers. Being unapologetically himself, Scott Mescudi from Cleveland has left a legacy that the To The Moon World Tour encapsulated perfectly, that itself became its own body of art. While we would have preferred not to wait 14 years to see him, this tour was an almost perfect way to finally see and hear Kid Cudi’s music live.