I was a teenager the first time Kid Cudi came across my radar, watching the video for “Day ‘N’ Nite” after hearing about it from a friend. Immediately, I was hooked by his visuals and music. As an angsty teen traversing puberty and adolescence and all of the encumbrances that come with, Cudi’s music offered something I so desperately needed to know — the fact that not always being okay, was okay. He cracked open his mind and let listeners poke at his thoughts, profound and mundane alike — something many artists do, but which he made melodically novel at the time by fusing hip-hop with singing and EDM influences.
“Day ‘N’ Nite” came out a decade ago. He followed the same form on his subsequent albums, tunneling down chaotic and unpaved emotional roads, but the work took its toll. In 2016, he wrote a Facebook post announcing he would enter rehab for depression and suicidal urges ahead of his sixth album. “I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life,” he said. “Theres a ragin violent storm inside of my heart at all times … I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me?” He was a black, male celebrity announcing his pain and struggles with no fanfare or glamour — a rarity in hip-hop, but something that garnered an incredible groundswell of support from fans and listeners, especially as mental health became more of a mainstream topic.
And now, he’s back. Cudi’s most recent project, KIDS SEE GHOSTS debuted yesterday with long-time collaborator, Kanye West. The project was much anticipated, following West’s album ye which was released last week, to conflicting reviews. KIDS SEE GHOSTS is similarly truncated: The run time is only 7 tracks and 23 minutes, just like ye. But it’s much more emotionally charged and sonically ambitious than West’s solo record, making use of their strengths — Cudi’s haunting and evocative voice, West’s impressive manipulation of samples — in a concise, biting expression of their core appeal. It’s nice to know Cudi is doing better; it’s also nice to hear him making music.
Here’s a moment that sticks with me. On the track “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” Kanye raps, “Nothing hurts me anymore / Guess what baby, I feel free.” Cudi follows: “Feeling out of my past life / Died and came back twice / Now I’m free.” There is something both mocking and celebratory in their voice. They’re two artists coming out on the other side of some private pain — what exactly, we don’t know, but they sound like they made it.