Kid Cudi sits down with Zane Lowe on Apple Music for a wide-ranging conversation ahead of the release of his highly-anticipated third installment of his ‘Man on the Moon’ series, dropping this Friday. Cudi tells Apple Music about his approach to creating the album, the period coming out of ‘Man on the Moon II’, beginning a positive new chapter with ‘Kids See Ghosts’, and his working relationship with Kanye West, feeling slept on as a rapper and getting encouragement from Travis Scott, and how he approaches music versus acting. He also discusses working with Eminem, Travis Scott, Snoop Dogg, JAY Z, Trippie Redd, Skepta and Pop Smoke.
Video | Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about new album ‘Man on the Moon III: The Chosen’
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about deciding to make ‘Man on the Moon III: The Chosen’
It was conversations I would have with my friends, like Dodd and Dennis. And then me being in the right place creatively. I was already in a really good place working on Intergalactic, going crazy on the Scotts sh-t, had that in the chamber. But then I was making something else that didn’t fit those two projects. And I think after two or three songs, I was like, “Whoa, this sh-t really feels like a ‘Man On the Moon’. Like this is what the universe is telling me to make here. So I think after two or three songs, I was like, “This is it.” I made ‘Tequila Shots’, ‘Another Day’, and ‘She Knows This’, I believe.So I made those songs first. And that’s why you hear ‘Tequila Shots’ and it sounds like such an introduction. It sounds like you pick right back up where we left off 10 years ago.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about isolation and loneliness
That’s when I did my best work, when I wrote my best sh-t or when my best ideas were conceived. I had a lot of time to just sit and think and whether it was designing the album packaging or thinking of sets for my tour, I was always plotting something. I was always figuring it out. Because I always took it like, “Oh, I’m some art student that just got some crazy grant to make whatever he wants to make.” That’s how I felt every time. Even to this day, I still feel like that. I’m just like some art student getting a crazy grant every year or to just make whatever I f-king want to make.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about the period coming out of ‘Man on the Moon II’ and ‘Arrest’
I was a madman. My daughter was born that year. I was scared about being a parent. I was scared about the future because I didn’t know what I was going to do after ‘Man On the Moon II’. I had no ideas. I think I took 2011 off. I didn’t drop any music that year. Still young, still trying to figure it out. But I quit cocaine, cold turkey. I never really faced my issues with that. That’s why it ended up coming back later on in life. Because it’s not like I really addressed that sh-t when it happened. I kind of got arrested and then people knew about it and people started looking at me funny. And then it was just like, “I don’t really like the way this feels.” I just knew I have this beautiful baby girl who needs me. I have to rise to the occasion. This is not about Kid Cudi being a role model to the fans anymore and me being scared to be that. This is a whole nother beast here. I’m a father now. From that moment on, I was dropping an album every year, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about the delayed success of ‘Man on The Moon I’ and ‘II’
I didn’t feel like the first two really did what I wanted it to do. And you think about it, we talk about those albums now. Kids, they praise ‘Man On the Moon I’ and ‘II’ and it’s like they’re platinum now. And it gets all this love. But 2012, 2011 people weren’t praising those albums like that. And they weren’t anywhere near close to being gold at that time. Those albums got platinum 10 years later.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about beginning a new positive chapter with Kanye on ‘Kids See Ghosts’
I had to give into the pain a little bit, because I’ve been fighting it for so long and I had to give in to the pain because that was the only way I was going to heal. I dropped ‘Passion Pain’, but I wrote that album from a hopeful place like these are the things that I want to feel one day, but I was still completely miserable when I made that record. So that’s why ‘Kids See Ghost’ was so big because it was for the first time in almost forever in the history of my career, I was really excited about doing some new sh-t that was positive, and wasn’t a downer, and it was like uplifting. And like the one thing that Kanye said he wanted to do was make a spiritual album. And I was like, “Yes, that’s exactly what I want to do.” And he said this before we had ‘Reborn’, when we started the project, it was just established. He was like, “I want to make a spiritual album.” That was like music to my ears. I think the fact that we were both dealing with the same things at the same time is what made it such a solid thing. Because if one of us was on another page than the other, then it would have not come together how it came together. I think we were both feeling like we were entering new chapters in our lives. We just shed old skin and we’re starting new. That energy just ran through the whole project.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music what he thinks is the most significant song on ‘Kids See Ghosts’
Definitely ‘Reborn’. Definitely. And when I made that record, I was like, man, I hope Kanye likes this. I know it’s little different, but at the time I just thought that maybe it was just too soft of a record fan. But he loved it. That’s the thing. We were just discovering a new thing. The things, all the ideas that I thought of Kanye West or what I thought he might like were out the window. I thought he would hear ‘Reborn’ and be like, “Oh that’s cool. What else you got?” But literally he was like, “Play that back. Play that back. This our sh-t! This about to be on the album.” Just like that.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about working with Kanye
When I’m working with Ye, it’s always like, “I hope he likes this sh-t.” It doesn’t matter how excited I get or the people in the room around me get. If he doesn’t f-king like it, then I got to f-king rewrite it. But in the whole entire history of me and Kanye West working, I’ve never written something where he’s been like, “Rewrite that.” Never. We bounce ideas and sh-t even when we were doing a writing on ‘Kids See Ghosts’, I would write the verse and he’d take it, read it, and say, “All right, cool.” And record it. And I would just be like, “Holy f-k. Holy sh-t, that was close. I just had to f-king write a rap for Ye. Like Holy sh-t. I’m glad he liked it. He could’ve said this sucks right at the beginning.”
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about recording ‘Already Come’ with JAY Z
I’m working on these beats that he gave me. He gave me about eight beats. He has this one beat that I love. It’s the first beat in the pack that he sent me. And I’m just like, “Oh my God, this beat is amazing. This is like the Kanye West beat. Holy f-k, I got to do something to this. I got to make something amazing. Like, Holy sh-t, JAY Z’s waiting on this.” So then I’m sitting there, I come up with an idea I’m out there for maybe all 10, 15 minutes. Kanye comes out. He’s like, “So what you got?” I’m like, “Oh my God.” I’ve got eight beats he gave me, I only have one idea. And I was just like, “Hey yeah man, I got this one idea. I don’t know if you like it or not, but this is it.” He’s like, “Tell me. Tell me.” So it was like, (singing) Record that right now. Record that right now. I was like, “You’re sure?” “Yes, yes, yes. Record it. Let’s go to the studio right now.” We went in the booth, I recorded it. I’m nervous as sh-t, but like in the live room, all I see is just people jumping around dancing, going crazy. The response was wild. And I was just in the booth like, “Okay. Right. I have to do this a million more times.” It wasn’t a moment where I was like, “Yes, I did it.” I was like, okay, now I got to do this like a million more times. Every time they come to me, I got to come with that sh-t.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about ambition and being inspired by Kanye, Pharrell, and Andre 3000
I had these ambitions of making cinematic sounding music and sh-t like that, and taking people to new places, all these weird things. But these weren’t things that someone who’s trying to sell a million records or whatever would do at the time. Put an orchestra and all these things. These are new things, and these are the things that I got from Kanye or some sh-t I might’ve got from Andre 3000 or Pharrell. These were my OGs. These were the guys that I saw and was like, “I want to do my own sh-t and make something different like that.I want to stick out like a sore thumb. I want to just be like Kid Cudi, my own genre music.”
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about his album process
For this, I might have made 12 songs in two weeks, and there I was like, “Okay, let me take a step back and see what I got now. This song goes right here. This song goes right here.” Because before I start the album, I’m like, what are the things I want to discuss? What are the things I want to touch on? And then after I do that, then it’s like, I create whatever I’m feeling with the music. Bang out, however long it takes me. In this case, two weeks in other cases, months. But this was really fast. And once I sit and I see all the stuff that I have in front of me and I feel like I’ve discussed everything that I needed to discuss-Right. Then I’m like, “Okay, I’ve got the album.”
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about feeling slept on as a rapper and getting encouragement from Travis Scott
Early on, before I started working on this sh-t. I was like, “My next sh-t got to be bars.” I knew that, because I just remember Travis saying something to me about my raps. He was just like, “Man, your raps, man. I love when you rap.” And I was just like, “Okay.” I kept that in mind. I said, “Okay. Travis is saying my raps are good. That must be something that the kids like. I’ll keep that in mind.”
This is right when we were working on the working on Scotts. No. This is before. Yeah. Right when we were working on The Scotts. Early on. Before we had the Scott song, but this is like early on sessions. Right. I just like wanted to give him exactly what he loved about Kid Cudi. And for him, it was these bars, you know? But I felt like in Hip-Hop, I’m slept on as a rapper. You know, as a lyricist. And I really wanted to elevate my whole sh-t on that front, on this project. And I did that with the rapping and the singing. Everything has kind of evolved. And the added little sprinkle of ad-libs. Something I’ve never really done before either, you know. I’ve done… I was able to do it in my own little way, you know? So it remains authentic just doesn’t sound like I’m doing ad-libs like everybody else. You know?
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about getting validation from Eminem and working with him on ‘The Adventures of Moon Man and Slim Shady’
That was me. Like, “Yo, I want to be respected as an emcee. Yo, who do I f-king get? Who do I f-king get to spar with? Who do I go bar for bar with? Eminem.” Man, I tweeted at him. No, it wasn’t even in the DMs. Just my timeline. It was public. I was like, “Yo Rap God, help!” And we’re really close with Paul Rosenberg and he was able to connect us and we were able to get it done. He was in Detroit, I was in LA. It’s a nail biter. Because I’m like waiting, I’m waiting. And I’m like, “Oh sh-t. They’re asking me questions. They don’t say he’s going to do it just yet. They’re just asking me questions. And I’m like, so this means he’s going to do it. Right? Because they’re asking me questions. And literally, it was like every day I was like, “Is today going to be the day? Is today going to be the day?” And like, I got it. And I was like, “Holy sh-t.” I was like, it was something for me to get the validation from Eminem by doing that record. Him doing that record let me know, like he was telling me like, “Yo, I f-k with you as an artist fully, even your bars are dope.”
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about working with Trippie Redd
I think Trippie came in, I played him a few records, and he kind of like got the tone, knew the importance of it being a ‘Man On the Moon’, and went in there and hit it out the park. Like it was like perfect, you know? Like perfect subject matter. And he just rode the beat in an epic way.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about making a song with Skepta and Pop Smoke
Well, it was powerful because like I talked to Steven Victor about this and he said, when he first recorded this song, he had thought of me on it. Steven had thought of me on it. The reason why I kind of got this record, Dot Da Genius and Plain Pat had worked with Pop, like before he blew up at the Brewery in New York, at Dot’s studio. And they had this record, they just never did anything with it. It was just something that Dot had on tuck, you know? And I was chilling with them one day because Dot’s working on our album and he was like, “Yo, I got this record. I’m going to play it for you. Let me know what you think.” He plays this sh-t. And I’m like, “I need this. Like I need this, man.” I was like, “Nobody’s ever heard me on anything like this. Skepta sounds amazing. Pop Smoke sounds amazing. Like this would be so unexpected. I think I can be on this and I could hold it down and like do my thing.” And this is also another way I can, you know, showcase these bars.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about being inspired by Snoop Dogg to write quickly
I did a session with Snoop Dogg years ago, he wrote this verse for the song we did. It was a song that never came out officially. It was like, it was a song that leaked or whatever. And we never put it out officially. I remember Snoop coming into the studio, me playing a beat for him, him getting a pen and some paper, writing this verse in like 15 minutes and laying it down. And it was like, chef’s kiss. Like I always… Like ever since that moment, I was like, “Yo, I want to get to that level.” Because it didn’t take me 15 minutes to write a rap at a time, you know? It took me hours, you know? So like over the years, I’ve just gotten better with this writing sh-t I’m not judging myself when I’m writing something. I’m letting it flow. I’m not like, “Oh no, not this. Not that.” I’m just like, “Dope, dope line. Maybe I can say this different, dope.” You know what I’m saying?
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about music versus acting
Yeah, yeah, yeah. They both give me the sh-t that I need.Yeah, the feeling. You know what I mean? It’s like the music, it ignites something in me every time I’m doing it. It never feels like a chore. It never feels like work. I feel really lucky to be doing what I’m doing, and the same thing for acting. I literally have an out of body experience and I’m in the moment, and I’m there with the other actors and we’re in the camaraderie. I spent five months in Italy last year doing ‘We Are Who We Are’, I wasn’t working on music during that time. I totally just focused on the show. That was a character that was so far from me and so different than anything I’ve ever done before, that it needed my attention like that. I needed to be hyper-focused on what I was doing.
Kid Cudi tells Apple Music about hoping to tour the album
This album was made with touring in mind. I really plan on hitting the ground running when we can get back out there, man. Because it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a big tour and I want to blow this up.