Earlier this year, Kid Cudi’s debut mixtape A Kid Named Cudi became available on streaming platforms—just a few days shy of its 14th anniversary. “I think it was a great reminder for people. It’s a celebration for what me, Plain Pat, Emile, and Dot Da Genius created early on,” Cudi said over the phone in an interview with Rolling Stone this week. “We set out to do something important. We wanted to change the game. We wanted to change how people approach making music. And we did that.”
Now, he’s preparing to drop his 10th studio album Entergalactic, set to be released on September 30th. For Cudi, the project represents a moment of resounding personal growth. At 38, the rapper born Scott Mescudi seems to be approaching an almost divine sense of equanimity. “I never imagined I would have this many albums. So right now I feel extremely blessed to be able to do what I’m doing at this stage in my career.”
“It’s one of those things where I’ve been able to grow with the times, but, still remain myself. And that’s an art form in itself because we’ve seen it with other artists. Some artists don’t stand the test of time,” he says. “So when you see me do songs like “GHOST!” from Man on the Moon II and kids go crazy over it. Like it just came out. It says something. It’s a really powerful feeling.”
True to Cudi’s iconoclastic ambitions, Entergalactic is more than a studio album. Cudi says he first envisioned the project as an anthology, telling a story complete with its own universe of characters. This would eventually become the groundwork for his animated Netflix series of the same name, which premieres alongside the album. The series, which was executive produced by Kenya Barris, tells the story of a young bachelor named Jabari who, despite his own efforts, gets struck by the force of love.
“When we worked on this in 2019, me and Dot Da Genius. We figured out the tone and that inspired the direction for the show,” Cudi says. “Because I wrote the songs and the story first. I had the music first. So we wrote the story after and that’s how it all kind of pieced together.”
Since the beginning of his career, Kid Cudi has made songs that cut through to raw emotion and passion, courageously venturing into themes of personal despair even in a time before “mental health” was a buzzword. Cudi’s ability to traverse so comfortably through songs about depression, love, and euphoria made him one of the generation’s biggest names in music, and an equally formidable figure in pop culture. His acting career, from the laid-back hustler Domingo Dean in HBO’s How to Make it in America to his most recent performance in the A24 slasher film Pearl, is made all the more impressive when you consider he’s recorded and released 10 full-length albums in that same span of time.
“I hope it just sprinkles a little love in their life. I hope it makes people feel really good,” Cudi says of his new album. “I hope people listen to it with their lover, or crushes or whoever and just vibe and connect with it and just go.” He talked to Rolling Stone about the lessons he’s learned over his long career, and where he sees himself in the next decade.
RS: Do you feel like going into this new project and this new era, do you feel like there are pieces of that first mixtape that you still hear in your music today?
Kid Cudi: Definitely. Songs like “Pillow Talk,” or “Whenever.” Me getting into my lover boy phase. I feel like I’m kind of in this childlike place. I was kind of a teenager in love again and a lot of it is just me trying to put myself in a new space as an artist.
RS: Talk about the process behind this album and how it bled into the creation of this animated series.
Kid Cudi: Well, the album was pretty much recorded like any other album. It wasn’t like I was working off a script or doing a typical scoring type of thing. I was really piecing the story in my head as I went along and approached this like any other album. And from there, once I had the music, then that’s when I went in and I was able to write the story with my writers and give them all the information.
RS: So you wrote the album in the way that you typically write a normal album. Was there just more story to tell? What inspired you to introduce an animated universe?
Kid Cudi: Well, I was tired of making albums. I was bored of it. I was bored of having an album, dropping two music videos, and then that’s it. I was tired of the same old thing. And I was like if I’m going to do another album, it has to be exciting. It has to be something different that nobody’s ever done before. And that’s when I came up with the idea to try to do this musical told through animation. And it just made so much sense from that point on. Kenya [Barris] was the first person who really put the animation idea in my head cause he said that Netflix was looking for animation. And at first Entergalactic was supposed to be an anthology series. It was supposed to be one episode that was animated. So what I did was I just took the one animated episode and stretched it out into a full story. I don’t know, maybe my anthology idea will come to life one day. It’s still a really good idea.
RS: Thinking of the story, and the concept of love finding you. How did you land on that theme?
Kid Cudi: Yeah. I just felt like these are the messages that people need to understand. The simplicity of love will find us all. Love will heal us all. Love will save us all. Love will hurt us all. These things are all true and love is what makes the world go around, and ultimately love is the answer. It is the answer for all things. To true peace and true happiness in the world. Love is the answer. And I wanted to make a show that really dove into that concept. Here are two people who weren’t looking for love and it found them. And there’s something magical about that. I thought that it would make a great TV show, just to show in a modern world, the power of love when two awesome people meet and it’s electric. It’s magnetic.
RS: You said you recorded a lot of this in 2019, in the time between recording and getting ready to release the project, how has the concept stayed present in your mind?
Kid Cudi: Oh man. I think right after that, I went into working on Man on the Moon III and I just had a new armor on me. Entergalactic gave me a new understanding of love and what I wanted. And I was a more powerful being when I went into Man on the Moon III because of it. And you grow between each album. With every album, you become better in some sense. I learned a lot about myself with every album and I think this album was when I truly realized that I was willing and ready to be loved and give love and be there and be present. I think that that’s where I was at when I made this album. In my personal life, I was finally in that place where it’s like, I’m not young anymore and I have different things I want. And I got a chance to talk from a more mature place about love.
RS: You mentioned that you learn something new with every album. Is there any lesson in particular that stands out?
Kid Cudi: I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that I’m stronger than I think. I’m really stronger than I think. Sometimes you can get so low and it feels terrible and there’s no way out. But I felt like that a million fucking times and I’ve always fucking made it. Always. Every single fucking time. And that is God. That’s my angels. And I know I got people looking out for me from up above. And these are things that I’ve learned over the years, just wow, I got a higher power looking after me. I’m here. This is my destiny. I’m not going anywhere. It’s not meant for me to blow my brains out. It’s not meant for me to be confused for the rest of my life, to be angry for the rest of my life. To be feeling miserable, to be feeling low. That’s not my destiny. My destiny is to be stronger than I was before.
RS: Is there a track on this album that brings that out of you?
Kid Cudi: Willing to Trust, for sure. For sure. Willing to Trust. I sound my sexiest on that. I’m very, very, very proud of that song. And Ty [Dolla $ign] is just an incredible artist and to be able to have him on the two songs on the album, it’s just, this means a lot to me. He’s a really great guy. And we became fast friends when we first met. We just hit it off. And how he got into the show, I was just thinking about the characters and thinking about these different energies and things like this. And I’ve never seen Ty act before, but I know him and the dude is a ball of talent. I was like, man, I feel like he would be dope in this. And I told Netflix, I said, “Look, I think this is our guy. I don’t want to see anybody else. Ty is our guy.” So it’s so dope to have him on the album and even better to have him in the show. He’s a really, really awesome highlight in the show. I think a lot of people will love his character.
RS: You’ve been acting almost as long as you’ve been in music. For you, is there any overlap in the way you approach the two?
Kid Cudi: Well, acting is not as stressful. Acting, you’re playing a small part in somebody else’s grand scheme of things. But yeah, it’s just that music is just different because it’s all-encompassing. I’m thinking about every single piece of the puzzle. And acting, I can take a step back. So it’s a little bit more of a laid-back approach when I go into acting. But it depends on the roles. Some roles are a little bit more extreme than others. When I did, We Are Who We Are. That was this role that took a lot out of me. But then I’ve done comedies, funny shit where it’s in front of the camera, just goofing off and it’s laid back and it’s fun.
RS: As you enter this next phase of your career, what does the next decade look like for you?
Kid Cudi: Doing anything and everything I want. Anything and everything I want. And just exploring more and just what else I’m capable of. That’s really what it’s about because everything is possible. Everything is possible. And I think people, they have an idea about me. They feel that they’ve seen it all, like music. And they know I’m a musician and they give me the acting thing, but it’s like, okay, you can only be good at two things. But here’s the thing. I’m going to be good at five things. I’m going to be good at six things. I’m going to be good at seven things. I am trying to tap into the full ability of my soul and make anything I ever dreamed of. So that’s where I see myself over the next 10 years and until I’m old and gray. I think I might slow down on the music and get more into designing and more into writing movies and TV shows, stuff like that. I’ve always wanted to get more into acting and do more of that because it’s very fulfilling for me. And it’s something I haven’t had that many opportunities to do. So I still feel like I’m very new in that world. There’s a lot more I want to do in that space.