20 Best Kid Cudi Songs (So Far)
People say Kid Cudi fell off, but maybe he was never supposed to be rap’s next super star. In fact, even calling Kid Cudi a rapper completely discounts the guy’s artistry.
Cudi may lack the hits of Kanye West or the technical ability of Common, but his music resonates deeply with people around the world. He pours out his imperfections on every song and changes peoples’ lives, not just their purchasing habits. He’s built a cult-like fan base that supports him just like he supports us. Like Cudi said on the song ‘REVOFEV,’ “I am your big brother.”
Scott Mescudi’s impact extends far beyond his intensely loyal fans, though. He helped to break the rapper-singer stigma and opened the door for some of today’s biggest names. Kanye West’s ‘808s & Heartbreak’ is widely seen as the first draft that Drake honed with ‘So Far Gone.’ But Cudi’s influence is heard all over ‘808s'; he co-wrote four tracks, guested on ‘Welcome to Heartbreak’ and is said to have inspired the whole “sad robot” sound.
Kid Cudi isn’t the same artist or even the same person he was when his debut album, ‘Man on the Moon: The End of the Day,’ landed on Earth five years ago. He ventured into acting, parted ways with G.O.O.D. Music to focus on his own Wicked Awesome imprint, and battled with everything from break-up depression to drug problems (he’s now sober and happy, we’re glad to announce). But it’s all good, because Scott’s finally seeing the light on the other side of the tunnel that he helped us to see.
Having released his fourth solo album, ‘Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon,’ as a surprise last week, we decided to look back on Cudi’s journey thus far and revisit Kid Cudi’s 20 best songs.
“It’s just me and my n—as, and my family, and people that care about me and my fans. F–k all these other n—as.” That has and always will be Scott Mescudi’s M.O. since day one. ‘Indicud’ may not be held in the same regard as his ‘Man on the Moon’ series, but Cudi still has something to say after four albums, a multitude of personal troubles and an army of doubters. As far as Kid Cudi songs go, he calls ‘King Wizard’ a “throwback,” but he’s wrong; it’s harder than anything that has come before it.
‘Balmain Jeans’ Feat. Raphael Saadiq
You probably won’t be hearing it on the radio or seeing it climb the charts, but ‘Balmain Jeans’ is the clear standout from ‘Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon.’ The soaring synths and triumphant brass really capture the galaxy-exploring theme of the album and Cudi’s whole steez. But its vivid and detailed romantic plot (“Help me take off my Balmain jeans”? Damn Scott, stunt on them haters) hits close to home. Two years after the heartbreaking ‘Teleport 2 Me, Jamie’ it’s good to hear Cudder has finally found happiness.
‘Hyyerr’ Feat. Chip Tha Ripper
Between ‘Day N Nite’ and ‘Marijuana,’ you get the feeling that when Kid Cudi gets stoned, he gets sad. He was clearly smoking on some good-ass sativa when making ‘Hyyerr,’ though. Joined by his co-pilot Chip Tha Ripper (now known as King Chip), the blunt-blowing duo prove that Cleveland can roll with the best of them when it comes to weed songs. If you didn’t wake and bake at least once to ‘Hyyerr,’ you don’t deserve to be smoking.
A lot of Kid Cudi’s early, ‘A Kid Named Cudi’ era songs were basically freestyles. ‘Cudderisback,’ a song that wasn’t included on an official project or even made available on iTunes (which is nothing less than a tragedy), was just another example of Cudi’s midas touch. Borrowing Vampire Weekend’s pitter-pattering ‘Ottoman’ beat, the lonely stoner makes an already great song even better with one long playful verse about getting high, raging in the club and stunting on haters. Your man got wordplay, too: “As long as she don’t need stupid amounts of makeup/To makeup the self esteem.”
‘REVOFEV,’ aka revolution of evolution. Obviously Kid Cudi isn’t talking about social revolt here, but as far as music goes, he really likes f–king around with the formula. With its marching keys, lush string arrangements and anthemic bridge, ‘REVOFEV’ sounds more at home on The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ than a so-called rap LP, but that’s why Kid Cudi is head and shoulders above all these other rappers. As the second and most uplifting song on ‘Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager,’ it’s also pretty ironic that ‘REFOVEF’ helps to introduce Cudi’s darkest record to date.
‘WZRD,’ Kid Cudi’s first proper alternative rock effort, may have been critically panned, but the album secretly has some joints. Sure, Cudi and Dot Da Genius were never going to make the next ‘Nevermind’ on their first attempt, but it’s tracks like ‘Efflictim’ that make this record so special. When was the last time you heard an opening line that made you stop and contemplate your whole existence like, “How would you feel if you heard the news that I was dead?” While the guitar strums feel like Cudi playing with your heart strings, you damn near want to scribble out a suicide note when those keys come in.
‘Trapped In My Mind’
A big part of Kid Cudi’s role as big brother is going through s–t so he can help us pull through. ‘Trapped In My Mind,’ the gloomy finale to the incredibly taxing ‘Man on the Moon II,’ is a helpless narrative about being unable escape your dark side, your Mr. Rager. But the song can apply to any moment of sadness or loneliness. Even not speaking to your friends for a week can make you feel kinda depressed and locked in your own world. But, “Hey it’s not that bad at all,” Cudi reassures us. Just like he always does.
‘Make Her Say’ Feat. Kanye West & Common
The second single released from ‘Man on the Moon: The End of the Day’ following the hugely successful ‘Day N Nite,’ ‘Make Her Say’ shows a different side to Kid Cudi: he could, like, actually rap. Yes, his flow is a little rough around the edges — hey, even Kanye was kinda sluggish on ‘The College Dropout’ — and Ye and Common clearly body the track. But G.O.O.D. Music was in the house, and only they could flip one of the biggest pop hits of the decade into a straight-up rap record.
‘Man on the Moon (The Anthem)’
“Man on the Moon” is more than just a catchy nickname for Kid Cudi; from his approach to music to the way he treats women, it was clear from day one that Scott Mescudi isn’t of this time or place. Floating over Nosaj Thing’s ‘Aquarium,’ he delves into what it means to be different on his official ‘Man on the Moon’ anthem, eventually concluding with confidence that “they the ones who lame,” and “I got the last laugh, n—a.”
‘Just What I Am’ Feat. King Chip
Accepting the fact that he’s a human being with flaws and emotions has always been at the heart of Kid Cudi’s music. And on ‘Just What I Am,’ the first single from his self-produced album ‘Indicud,’ he puts that mission statement to a melody. His lyrics lack poetic flair (“In my spare time, punching walls, f–king up my hand/I know that s–t sound super cray but if you had my life you’d understand”), but they’re raw and honest, proving that even after four albums, Scott still has worries resting heavy on his shoulders — and we’ll gladly listen.
An album cut from ‘Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager,’ ‘GHOST!’ is probably Cudi’s truest man-in-the-mirror moment of his career. Over the whiny, warbling chords from The Freak Scene’s ‘My Rainbow Life,’ reflects on his journey thus far — both the good (“The people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been/Are all what make me the man I so proudly am”) and the bad (“I was so close, to being dead”). “Ghost” can be interpreted several ways: as a projection of who you used to be; being disconnected from reality; or simply feeling alone and ignored. Whichever way you take it, “When did I become a ghost?” is another of Kid Cudi’s profound life questions that prompts a response from both your brain and your heart.
By now we know that Kid Cudi isn’t your typical rapper, and ‘Marijuana’ isn’t your typical weed song. While rappers like Snoop Dogg and Redman had glamorized smoking to a near-caricature level, Cudi once again breaks down hip-hop’s bravado and confesses his dependency on the drug. The way he calls it “pretty green bud” almost sounds like Golem fiending after the One Ring. Still, the way he croons over Mike Dean’s psychedelic riffs makes addiction sound more beautiful than anyone else could.
‘Solo Dolo (Nightmare)
‘Day N Nite’ is Kid Cudi’s lonely stoner anthem, but ‘Solo Dolo (Nightmare)’ really captures that sense of solitude. The sparse strings sampled from The Menahan Street Band’s ‘The Traitor’ sound like Cudi passing by each and every star as he floats through space, searching for a permanent escape from Earth. “Soaring through paradise when I’m closing my eyes,” he desperately croons. For other loners and outcasts like Cudi, Mr. Solo Dolo was a title they could proudly claim.
‘Teleport 2 Me, Jamie’ Feat. Desire
If ‘Efflictim’ left you contemplating suicide, ‘Teleport 2 Me, Jamie’ was enough to throw you off a damn bridge. Seriously, how depressing was that ‘WZRD’ album? As he pines after his ex-girlfriend Jamie Baratta — the hopelessness and desperation seeping through every note — ‘Teleport 2 Me, Jamie’ is just another example of Cudi channeling heartache into incredible music. He called this his “good first shot at expressing myself,” but we beg to differ.
Kid Cudi has made no secret about his battle with drugs. ‘Mr. Rager,’ the glimmering and wondrous centerpiece to ‘Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager,’ is, in his own words, about almost overdosing one time. Wrestling with death, escapism and the pursuit of excitement, ‘Mr. Rager’ is naturally a Kid Cudi song that resonates deeply with a lot of people. Just take the story of Ben Breedlove, a teenager diagnosed with a severe heart condition who had a vision of hearing ‘Mr. Rager’ and meeting Kid Cudi, who he believed was his angel. That right there epitomizes the impact Scott Mescudi, and this song, has on peoples’ lives.
Even though Kid Cudi considers ‘Man on the Moon II’ his most emotional album, ‘The Prayer,’ taken from his 2008 debut mixtape ‘A Kid Named Cudi,’ is a real tear-jerker. Borrowing Band of Horses’ ‘The Funeral’ beat, Cudi laments about death, love and legacy, gracefully singing, “But please don’t cry, just know that I have made these songs for you.” That’s all we ever asked for Scott, and we thank you for that.
‘Soundtrack 2 My Life’
Kid Cudi first debuted ‘Soundtrack 2 My Life’ (or at least the first verse) on BET’s ‘106 & Park’ back in February 2009 — seven months before ‘Man on the Moon’ dropped. For those unaware, ‘106 & Park’ isn’t exactly a hub of hip-hop liberalism, so rapping-singing lyrics like, “I’ve got some issues that nobody can see/And all of these emotions are pouring out of me” took some balls. Some people might laugh and call ‘Soundtrack 2 My Life’ corny, but at least Cudi admitted that he has 99 problems, and all of them were bitches.
‘Mojo So Dope’
Kid Cudi isn’t the type of dude to beat you over the head with bars. Like he says himself, “I live through words not metaphors/So I passed to be the rest of the freshmen.” Instead, Cudi kills the competition (what up, Wale?) by keeping it all the way one hundred, and crafting stunning, heartfelt songs in the process. “Damn, you must understand/What I speak about in song, that’s how I really am.” We knew that from day one, bro.
‘Day N Nite’
All of his great songs ‘Day N Nite’ is where it really all began for Kid Cudi. Originally released in early 2008 on Fool’s Gold Records, the song peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 (his biggest chart success to date) and cemented Cudder as one of music’s bright new stars. The blend of sorrowing lyrics and outer-space production was the moment Kid Cudi and Dot Da Genius really hit their stride. The song introduced a generation of kids who get stoned to cope with their problems to their hero: the lonely stoner. And once that connection was made, it was a wrap.
‘Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)’ Feat. MGMT & Ratatat
‘Pursuit of Happiness’ is a song that not only defines Kid Cudi as an artist, but a whole generation. For decades hip-hop was about projecting this image of a bulletproof character with bitches and bank rolls, but Scott Mescudi says f–k that and joins the rest of us in our pursuit for something better. He was eloquent, relatable and wise, capturing that mix of optimism and misery with every breath. Even sonically, with its warped riffs, rain-drop keys and MGMT chorus, ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ was f–king beautiful. For every person chasing a dream, no matter how hopeless it is, “I’ll be fine once I get it, I’ll be good” are the 10 words that keep you going.