Kid Cudi Helped Bring Mental Health To The Forefront Of Rap With ‘Man On The Moon’

Universal Motown Records

Run It Back is a retrospective review of classic or game-changing hip-hop releases whose style and sound still resonate with listeners in the modern, streaming-driven era. Hip-hop has always been a forward-facing, youth-oriented culture, but it’s also deeply informed by the past. This is our way of bridging the gap, paying homage to rap’s roots while exploring how they still hold relevance today.

There’s a line in an upcoming album wherein the artist mentions feeling down and putting on a Kid Cudi CD to help him cope. It caught my ear, because it’s a sentiment I’ve often heard repeated by other members of that artist’s generation: Kid Cudi is an important, damn near seminal portion of the canon of post-millennials, akin to the way Gen Xers and older “Millennials” like myself swear by Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.

It’s a concept that — having grown up on the music of the late Cobain — I couldn’t quite get my head around. I remember liking Cudi when he came out, but I also remember being pretty disappointed in his musical output after his debut album, Man On The Moon: The End Of The Day. Even typing out the title feels clunky and cumbersome like much of Cudi’s latter day output. He was clearly trying too hard to be deep, even then.

Yet the fact remains that he’s a cultural touchstone for a very large segment of an entire generation. Behold the furor over a recent Twitter exchange between the erstwhile emo-rap messiah and apparent fan/Call Me By Your Name star Timothee Chalamet. Clearly, there’s something there.

And so, in an effort to remain in touch, I revisited Man On The Moon and discovered something I had perhaps already always known and only forgotten: Wherever Kid Cudi eventually wound up — rehab, out of his patron Kanye West’s good graces, then back in them as Kanye strains to claw himself back to hip-hop prominence — his debut album is underpinned by genuine emotions and makes for one hell of an elixir for a broken heart.

One of Cudi’s musical descendents, affable slacker-rapper Post Malone found himself in hot water last year for pointing out a somewhat salient point about rap as a genre; it’s not a great style of music at handling feelings. The outcry covered up a somewhat inconvenient half-truth about his admission: He was kinda right.