Sometimes it’s necessary to wander through the desolate wilderness and all varieties of torrid weather to find your way to those coveted greener pastures. Yet, in an era where the vast majority of people are more attuned to issues surrounding mental health, the hip-hop community, while progressing, has retained a vaguely stigmatic view. Historically spearheaded by braggadocious and hypermasculine figures that portray themselves as impervious to any emotion other than self-assurance, it has left little room for introspection on the long-term ramifications of your brain wreaking internal havoc, or how much anxiety can cripple every aspect of who you are. Although Biggie made a last-ditch attempt to curb his “Suicidal Thoughts” on Ready To Die and the Dirty South’s Geto Boys were rapping on the perils of paranoia back in 1990 it has taken a long time for hip-hop to heed the countless cautionary tales of artists succumbing to premature deaths courtesy of substance abuse or depression.
Much in the same way as he is heralded by rappers and fans alike for opening the doors to a broader sonic palette, another accolade which must be assigned to Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi is of courageous advocate for mental health awareness. From the depths of despair to standing on firm footing once more, the difference in the man that had once seemed on the brink of self-destruction in 2016 to his momentous recovery just two years later, seems like night and day. In a disconcerting prelude to the release of Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, the news surfaced that the Cleveland, Ohio native would be checking into rehab in the wake of an uphill battle with depression and suicidal urges. Outlined in a lengthy and heartrending Facebookpost, this confessional saw Cudi concede that he was “ashamed to be a hero and a leader” when the man behind the artistic reverence was “simply a damaged human.” Poignantly sorrowful but by no means devoid of hope, one of his final parting remarks before immersing himself in banishing the woes read, “I will be back stronger, better. Reborn.” Less than two years on from pouring the innermost recesses of his soul out to his fanbase, that offhand sign-off phrase would form the basis for the anthemic track that signified his transformation.
When Kanye’s guerrilla marketing campaign on Twitter revealed that he and Cudi were releasing a record under the moniker of Kids See Ghosts, there was an innate air of trepidation as to whether it was a case of too little, too late. With Ye’s megalomaniacal tendencies seemingly at an all-time high and Cudi adrift in a sea of personal issues, no one knew whether the duo that once conjured up the beauty in sparsity and bombast in equal measure on classics such as 808’s & Heartbreakand Man On The Moon: The End Of Daycould recapture their synergy after a spate of high-profile disputes. Yet in defiance of all the skeptics and naysayers, that’s precisely what came to fruition on the pair’s first full-length collaborative effort. A concise seven-track body of work that nonetheless encapsulated two very turbulent journeys, the renewal of their partnership paid off in every note of unbridled joy or experimental dissension provided. From the off-the-wall lunacy of “Feel The Love” to the aptly named transcendental experience of “4th Dimension,” the project may have birthed numerous propulsive bangers, but the show-stealing magnificence resides in the tracks that present Cudi as a man salvaged from cognitive wreckage. In conjunction with the raw, undiluted defiance of “Freeee Ghost Town Part 2, Kids See Ghosts,” the emotional summit came on “Reborn.” Led by therapeutic, lullaby-like chords, the track on which Cudder ruminates on “moving forward, keep moving forward” is the auditory representation of the small glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. The sound of solace for two men that had been put through the wringer in the past few years, it takes only a few moments scanning the YouTube comments to unveil a rich tapestry of human experience, as fans discuss how the track had a seismic effect on their outlook. From tales of discovering it whilst homeless and clinging on to its message as they attained stability, to using the track as an anchor whilst overcoming drug addiction, the healing power of”‘Reborn” is best encapsulated by User “Oti Na Nai” who proclaims that “When you’ve had depression and anxiety, this hits you like a truck. Salute to all my brothers and sisters out there struggling to get through the day, it always gets better.”
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
From then on, the turmoil that the highly influential artist had endured was by no means forgotten, but began to feel like a relic of a tumultuous past. Undeterred by the misadventures that were a consequence of his mental health, interviews with Cudder have seen him exhibit a newfound gratefulness and clarity that has made peace with the fact that Pharrel is unlikely to work with him again as he is now “living in the light.” Capped off by a triumphant headline set that also constituted Kid See Ghosts’ inaugural live show at Camp Flog Gnaw, and his first solo performance since February at the BAPE HEADS show at Hulu Theater, attention now turns to what the newly re-centered Cudi’s next move will be.
From what has been divulged thus far, it seems as though 2019 is shaping up to be one of his busiest periods in recent memory. In addition to a rekindled passion for social activism with the new Asterisk Collective; an Adidas-led project that Cudi believes will effect change for “real people in real places”, every indication suggests that we’ll be getting the long-awaited follow-up to Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ over the next 12 months. In a typically unfiltered online dialogue with a fan from October 23rd, he revealed that “I just started the new album! Taking my time w it tho but im thinkin next year sometime? Would that be cool? Huh? Tell me? Would that be ok?” Furthermore, Cudder revealed that while the album may be in its embryonic stages for now, his attentive fanbase could rejoice in the fact that he’d have some “tasty features comin out soon in the meantime.”