New band of the day - No 455: Kid Cudi

This 23-year-old rapper is currently the hottest new hip-hop artist in the US, having signed to Kanye's label, featured on his latest album and supported his mentor on tour

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio.

The lineup: Scott Mescudi (vocals).

The background: The Cool Kids and Kid Sister didn't quite enjoy the crossover success in 2008 that some pundits predicted and some hip-hop fans might have liked, but a consensus is growing around Cleveland-born, Brooklyn-based Kid Cudi that suggests it could be third time lucky for rappers called 'Kid'. He's one of the BBC's tips for 2009 alongside the expected La Roux, Florence and the Machine and Little Boots, and according to Radio 1Extra his single Day'N'Nite is engaging fans of hip-hop, urban, alt rock and electronica in a way that no rapper has done since Kanye West.

In fact, the 23-year-old Kid Cudi – sometimes spelled K.I.D C.U.D.I. or KiD CuDi, and not as he has made clear Kudi, Kutti, Cutty or Cuttie, and pronounced "Cuh-Dee" – is currently the hottest new hip-hop artist in the US, having signed to Kanye's label, featured on his latest album 808s & Heartbreak (singing on the track Welcome to Heartbreak) and supported his mentor on tour.

His choice of samples indicates a breadth of influence and potential audience range not heard since the heyday of De La Soul. 50 Ways to Make a Record is based around the chorus to Paul Simon's MOR staple 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover while Cudi Get quotes from, of all unlikely sources, Slade's 1970s glam-bootboy stomp Cum On Feel the Noize. In a way, with his sing-song delivery and ability to shift between rapping, growling and mellifluous R&B crooning modes, the former model and film student (he studied screenwriting at college, hence the often highly visual nature of his rap narratives) is less Kanye than Pharrell, although he's not quite the all-singing, all-producing whiz-kid that is King Neptune - producers Plain Pat & Emile (the former is Kanye's A&R man), Dot Da Genius and the Crookers provide the hooks and the beats.

Actually, with his gentle flow and reflective lyrics, there is a danger that Kid Cudi is too mild to make the giant splash people are expecting of him. Cudi Spazzin' features drum'n'bass breaks and Day'N'Nite is pleasingly sparse and electroid, but you don't get the sense that he could deliver a monstrous groove to equal Clipse's Grindin', to name but one Pharrell auteur classic, and Kanye pretty much has the super-self-absorbed solipsist dreamer milieu covered now, to the extent that lines such as, "If I was simple in the mind/ Everything would be fine/ Maybe if I was a jerk to girls/ Instead of being nice and speaking kind words" (from Man On the Moon [The Anthem]) just sound a little, well, wet. "I'm a real feel-good type person, and I feel like I have a real good spirit in me," he says, damning himself with faint praise. "I'm not the most insightful rapper, I'm not ya Talib Kweli, ya Mos Def, ya Kanye, uhhh, ya Common, or anyone like that ... I don't consider myself a genius, but I ain't a dummy, either." Even allowing for the possibility that the nice-guy thing might be a pose, there's a sense that Cudi's too soft – musically and lyrically – to succeed in a medium accustomed to sensory overload.

The buzz: "Splitting the difference between big-shit bravado and shoulder-shrug cool."

The truth: He's too nice to annihilate the masses.

Most likely to: Be a decent addition to the thoughtful, conscious rap canon.

Least likely to: Be a multi-platform, multimedia mogul.

What to buy: Day'N'Nite is out now on Fools Gold. His debut album, Man On the Moon, will be released in the spring.

File next to: Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, Kanye West.


Monday's new band: Catherine AD.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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