Do You Hear What I Hear?: A Dissection of Kid Cudi’s "The Pursuit of Happiness"

Kid Cudi

Welcome to the very first “Do You Hear What I Hear?” A new column for Dopecausewesaid that will feature deep dissections of post-2000 music, from writing to production to some heavier and more subtle psychological aspects of the song itself, as well as how far reaching it has been since the song’s release.

For the first week, I thought a deep-dive into Kid Cudi’s anthem to debauchery and self satisfaction, The Pursuit of Happiness seemed like a great jumping-off point. There are just so many layers to this song, which may first appear catchy, if not somewhat shallow. In hindsight, the song has not only become an anthem for the singer but a sort of genesis for a path that proved to be very unhealthy for artist Scott Mescudi (a.k.a Kid Cudi, a.k.a Mr, Solo Dolo, a.k.a The Man on the Moon, a.k.a, Mr. Rager a.k.a you get the point).

Let’s dive deeper into the literal Pursuit of Happiness, shall we?

First Impressions: Earworm

First of all, can I just point out that Kid Cudi hand-picked the stellar production team for this song and why he hasn’t used this squad for a whole record I still don’t know, but the band MGMT provide the music with Ratatat also behind production. If you have not heard either of these two bands, go, find them, your life is missing some amazing music. 

That said, having a rock-based, neo-hippie band and one of the best electronic acts out there right now behind the song is what makes the melody and beat so damn catchy from the first listen.

It is just an easy-to-play C major to A minor to G major chord progression ,but the slick heaviness and crunchiness behind the beat just make it instantly enjoyable, earworm worthy music.

The lyrics just up that satisfaction, though they do hide something deeper (as most good music oft does).

An Ode to Self-Destruction: The Lyrics

This is the spot where the song both dips and shines. In some ways, an anthem to living a wild life is an anthem for a downfall (which is just what we see later with Cudi’s self-institutionalization), but dammit if the way he sells it isn’t appealing. 
Even that opening line:

Crush a bit, little bit, roll it up and take a hit. Feelin lit, feeling right, 2 a.m summer night

It hits all the chords that bring the listener back to that exact time in their own lives. Granted, we may not have lived the Cudi life, but we lived, and that is what this song is a true testimony, too.

But in the same breath, you have lines like:

I don’t care, hand on the wheel, driving drunk I’m doing my thing.

One can understand talking up a lavish lifestyle, but when it becomes braggadocious about something that is a stupid life choice, it makes you cock your head a little. That shit kills people, bro. Don’t brag about it, because young, stupid, impressionable kids will now think that act is cool, and we all know that is some real bullshit. Lyrically, it is a very minor gripe on the overall song, though.

Thing is, Kid Cudi doesn’t spit that “slap a bitch” shit, so to even hear that is jarring, as you don’t hear many lines like it from the artist (which makes it more acceptable here due to its rarity).

That said, the chorus and  hook of this song are infectiously catchy. You hear it once and never forget it.

And let us not forget, he stayed VERY TRUE to this song, to the point where it ended up becoming the very thing that would almost kill him.

The Ironic Real-Life Follow-Up

So Pursuit of Happiness was early in Cudi’s career and ended up, outside of Day N’ Nite, being one of Cudi’s most famous tracks. The reasons behind this are simple: 

The song is fantastic and the production and composition essentially make it the perfect pop-hip hop fusion song.

And he got what he wanted, too. This life he sings about in this song is the life he would go on to live. But it caught up with him so take the song as not only an earworm but as a cautionary tale.

Here, word for word, the letter he released last year before having himself willingly institutionalized for a short period:

It's been difficult for me to find the words to what Im about to share with you because I feel ashamed. Ashamed to be a leader and hero to so many while admitting I've been living a lie. It took me a while to get to this place of commitment, but it is something I have to do for myself, my family, my best friend/daughter and all of you, my fans. 

Yesterday I checked myself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. 

I am not at peace. I haven't been since you've known me. If I didn't come here, I wouldve done something to myself. I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life. Theres a ragin violent storm inside of my heart at all times. Idk what peace feels like. Idk how to relax. My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it. I cant make new friends because of it. I dont trust anyone because of it and Im tired of being held back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me? I guess I give so much of myself to others I forgot that I need to show myself some love too. I think I never really knew how. Im scared, im sad, I feel like I let a lot of people down and again, Im sorry. Its time I fix me. Im nervous but ima get through this. 

I wont be around to promote much, but the good folks at Republic and my manager Dennis will inform you about upcoming releases. The music videos, album release date etc. The album is still on the way. Promise. I wanted to square away all the business before I got here so I could focus on my recovery.

If all goes well ill be out in time for Complexcon and ill be lookin forward to seeing you all there for high fives and hugs.

Love and light to everyone who has love for me and I am sorry if I let anyone down. I really am sorry. Ill be back, stronger, better. Reborn. I feel like shit, I feel so ashamed. Im sorry.

I love you,
Scott Mescudi

Luckily and due to his own strength and perseverance, he is out now and has been doing a lot better. If you hear the Speeding’ Bullet to Heaven record you hear a man on the verge of suicide, where his recent follow-up, Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ feels more like Kid Cudi feel more at home and comfortable in himself and his life, which is the greatest follow-up you can possibly get to the anthem like this.

And in a way, that is the bittersweet wrap-up to this first Do You Hear What I Hear column. Pursuit of Happiness is a damn good song, timeless, well assembled, and well executed, with an ironic and bittersweet message underneath about being careful what you wish for, as you just might get it and it probably won’t be what you expect.

And in the end, sadly, it stands as an anthem to the idea that ALL HAPPINESS, no matter how heartedly pursued, is fleeting.

Damn, that got heavy. But hell, this column is gonna be the shit, warning you all now. I’m just getting started.