Kid Cudi: 'I've always been ahead of the curve'

With the remix of Day'N'Nite entering the singles chart at No 2, Kid Cudi is the hottest tip yet for 2009. We talk Kanye, Dizzee and Crookers with the latest rap sensation

Congratulations on the chart hit. Did you expect the Day 'N' Nite remix to be such a success?
I remember when I recorded it, I told my homeboy 'O Dot, who produced the track: "This is going to be a No 1 track in some country. I don't know what country, but it's going to take off somewhere." He was like: "I don't know about all that. It is a good record – but No 1?" I believed in the track but it was still my dream that it would take off in the way that way it has. It ended up blowing up not because of any label, investment or corporations pushing it, but because it created a buzz on its own. That's the best feeling, that people naturally took to the record, they connected to it. It's overwhelming, but it's also a dream come true.

When you say No 1 in some country, did you not anticipate America taking to it?
Well, yeah because it was different. I really felt nobody in America was going to rock with it and then I started to have doubts about putting it out. I'd rather be known as an MC and I was worried that if I put this out first then they wouldn't see me like that because I was singing. That was me being self-conscious about what people would think. Ultimately, I decided "fuck that" and did what I wanted to.

Like the Kanye mentality?
Yeah, but this was pre-808s & Heartbreak and pre-Graduation, pre-Stronger. I recorded it before anything that was the next level in hip-hop, especially on an underground level. I've always been ahead of the curve when it came to trying new stuff in the underground scene. I've always felt that because I'm from Cleveland, which isn't recognised as a place for hip-hop, I needed to step it up if I wanted to make myself known. I worked things out and I've found my vibe – although I'm reinventing myself with every new song.

Kanye has said in interviews that you inspire him. That must be flattering?
Yeah, yeah ... it's dope because Kanye has really been helping out. It's overwhelming how supportive he's been. People always have negative things to say about him. And now when I hear those negative things, I take that shit personally. I'm like, "Nah, you're wrong, this dude is seriously cool".

You think he is misunderstood?
Yeah, but if you're not doing what everyone else is doing then your going to be misunderstood. People are going to wonder why you're trying to be different; it's just a natural instinct. If I was to walk down the street in a kilt then dudes would wonder why I'm doing that, they'd think I was different or gay. It's natural for people to point fingers. That's my whole reason for trying to switch things up; don't judge a book by it's cover. My background is not typical hip-hop. I didn't grow up in the projects. I grew up in a single family home in a middle-class suburb. That doesn't mean I didn't experience hardship, but to me it's not about that, it's about the future and where we are trying to take it.

Have you felt misunderstood by the music industry?

Yeah, a lot. I mean from all angles. Some people just don't want to see change but thankfully there are a lot of people more optimistic for something new in music, even with the bigger picture like with Obama getting elected. The world is changing so people are more open-minded about things than they were, say, 10 years ago.

Is it true you recorded Day 'N' Nite when you were not in a great place emotionally?
Yeah. I was going through a lot of stuff at the time in my life and so I felt like I needed to write those things down just to get them off my chest. I wasn't really thinking about making a hit record or anything like that, I was just making the song to get my feelings out. That was the frame of mind I had when I created the song. It turned out really dope.

What was your initial reaction to the Crookers remix?
I immediately loved it. I thought they did an amazing job. I didn't think it was going to be as ill as it was. Before I heard it I thought, "Ah, it's techno so it's going to be cheesy", but it came out really fucking ill.

Even though Crookers are from Italy, the remix sounds like the UK grime and bass-line scenes. Are you a fan?
I'm familiar with them. I think they're dope and that's what music should be about: crossing over into different worlds and hitting people with something different.

Are there any other UK acts that you like?
I spoke to Dizzee Rascal during the [Kanye West] Glow in the Dark tour. He came backstage. He was so cool. He's the only MC I really know from the UK so when I met him, I was like, "Oh shit, it's Dizzee Rascal!" [laughs]. DJ Semtex [BBC 1xtra] hooked us up. We exchanged numbers so hopefully we'll do some stuff together. He's dope. And he's got something to say, too. MIA came to the States and she blew up, and I think he will too. People just need to stop hating, man. Obviously, it's a different sound, even if it's just because of his accent but so what? People from the South that you can't even understand are making worldwide hits.

How did you handle being on the road with Kanye?
The tour bus is always fun, and there's plenty of time to watch movies. Actually, Kanye introduced me to the movie Step Brothers. We were sitting there, watching it and clowning around – it was so funny, man. Me and Kanye have the same sense of humour: that whole Will Ferrell, really silly, wise-ass humour, so we be clowning.

What can you tell us about your forthcoming album?

I've been telling everybody it's going to be the most magnificent album of 2009 and that's just what it is [laughs]. You know what I mean? I'm not going to say: "It's the greatest album of our time." But people do need to be ready for it. It's going to be some real, next-level shit.

Archna Sawjani

The GuardianTramp

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