Depression, manic depression, and overall, overwhelming emptiness can be a hard feeling to live with, yet statistically, MILLIONS of us are living with it every single day, and have been for a long time. It is a disease that bears no scars, so people do not always see it as such. If someone finds out you have Cancer, they treat you more gently and tend to feel sorrow and empathy for that person, but for some odd reason people do not look at depression and invisible mental health issues as seriously as they look at other debilitating diseases, even though it IS very much a fatal disease to many.
In a world where depression is OFT misunderstood, one musician and artist became a huge inspiration to me for his own public battles with his own inner demons. That man’s name is Kid Cudi, and there’s damn good chance that, if you don’t like his music, you are probably not “one of us”, meaning those afflicted with this, because if you were, Kid Cudi would not only be an inspiration for my own struggles but for yours, too.
Because the man was brave enough to step up and actually talk about it (which 90% of us, famous or not, are too ashamed to do). Now THAT takes true courage, and changing the world for the better is what people in positions of power and authority like him SHOULD do. Celebrities are the new American Gods, after all. Neil Gaiman is spot-on with that shit.
Depression In His Music
Don’t let the astounding success of his Pursuit of Happiness track and sound fool you, his records display a wide and great sphere of musical influence, you can hear his sadness come through, and that even hails back to his first Man on the Moon mixtape.
Hell, the Man on the Moon track sums up depression and feeling different PERFECTLY, and this was before he had even dropped his first single, technically speaking.
Peep these lyrics:
They can't comprehend
Or even come close to understanding him
I guess if I was borin' they would love me more
Guess if I was simple in the mind
Everything would be fine
Maybe if I was jerk to girls
Instead of being nice and speakin' kind words
Then maybe it would be OK to say then
I wasn't a good guy to begin with
But my mind is all crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy
They got me thinkin I ain't human,
Like I came in from above, above, above, above
Feelin like a airplane in the sky
But then they say I'm crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy
They got me thinkin I ain't human,
Like I came in from above, above, above, above
Feelin' like a bird sittin' high, high….
I BE THAT MAN ON THE MOON.
Right away he set himself apart from the Atypical hip hop crowd by writing a song that focuses on feeling like an outcast and then using that solitude to create something even greater.
Little did I know even at that time, Cudi had been fighting this depression his whole life (Dad killed himself and Cudi discovered the body hanging on the porch as a teenager, my heart goes out to him in that moment, it is unfathomable) and it seems since then, it only got heavier for him, but this wasn’t something he hid.
He actually started wearing that on his sleeve with the Mr. Solo Dolo alter-ego he created (there are Solo Dolo songs on almost all Kid Cudi records). Mr. Solo Dolo is the part of him that he uses to protect himself. In his own words, Mr. Solo Dolo “don’t need nobody”, and that is an armor. After losing a best friend and a godfather to suicide myself, it is also something I could completely relate to.
It IS easier to push people away than to risk them getting close and you getting hurt.
Then there was the OTHER persona he created that fully embraced his dark side, which is when things got more dangerous for Cudi, which you can hear in his Man on the Moon II album quite clearly.
That side of him is known as….
Mr. Rager (the Cudi Killer)
As seen in the video above, even Cudi (like most depressed or manic depressive people) feels he has at least two sides to him. Solo Dolo stays out of trouble. Mr. Rager is the trouble.
At one point, Cudi admitted to spending $10,000.00 on cocaine (and he is a marijuana guy) and at the time, he was just spiralling hard and not giving a fuck. And as you can see from the video above, this was a VERY dark time for Cudi because, as you can see, the “dark side” of him kills the good side in the video, letting us know where he felt he stood, mentally, at the time.
Luckily, he has many personas to lose himself in.
This was at the height of his career, and that fame and level of expectation began to weigh on him and again, caused the singer to birth another side project to let some of that pathos out.
King Wizard and the Birth of WZRD
He had name-dropped King Wizard before, shouting out his sci fi and fantasy fandom (he loves that shit). This particular side project would be rock oriented (named WZRD, no hint it was a Cudi record at all upon first or second glance) with Cudi playing the guitar and writing all the music with his boy, producer Dot Da Genius.
But if you listen to the WZRD, the sadness started to really come through. As you can see above, he covered Nirvana covering blues-God Lead Belly’s version of Where Did You Sleep Last Night, a very dark song in all aspects. But for me, that wasn’t the red flag that something was wrong. That came via another song on that record.
The song Afflictem, in particular, goes so far as to ask the listener:
What would you do if you heard the news that I was dead?
It is sung melodically over some lovely acoustic guitar so you almost wouldn’t notice it if you weren’t listening closely, but I knew Kid Cudi’s depression at this point, so the track stood out to me, as did something in the linear notes of the CD.
(yes, CDs still exist).
Never Feel Alone. We Are Always Here. Even in Death.
Wow. It became such a heavy-yet-influential thing to me, I hung it over my desk.This is also when I knew Cudi’s issues were getting heavier, and though it saddened me to no end, it also made me feel less alone in my own plight, fighting my own depression since childhood.
It (men talking about depression) was taboo, it wasn’t something people openly spoke of, yet here he was, and in doing so, each time he made a declaration about his own sad state-of-mind it made me want to be proactive about my own sadness.
And on some real shit, anyone can rap about “bitches, money, and hoes” but here you have a man skewing those sad tropes to sing about his own emotions. To me that is far ballsier than ripping the mic away from some young girl at an awards show (no offense Kanye, I know you had a rough few years too, bless your fragile soul).
Then Kid Cudi’s Speedin’ Bullet To Heaven album came out, and on sound and name alone, I knew my boy was hitting…
Rock n’ Roll Rock Bottom
I personally think the Speedin’ Bullet to Heaven album is a piece of divine work that transcends genres and shows a man who, though he may have been mentally tortured, was and is at the height of his genius.
From soft acoustic songs addressing his Dad’s suicide (which he never did before) to screaming rock songs about demons that sound like something Nirvana would have made were they still making music, it was undeniably heavy and it jumped too many genres in the album (punk, rap, rock, chill instrumentals, etc), which it made it difficult for your average person to take to it. But the album was SO raw, the reaction of the “fans” (not me, btw, I am a REAL fan, not one of those fair weather fools) sent Kid Cudi spiralling.
He canceled the tour to support the album, released a few tweets that got some people worried, and then he took to Facebook and dropped a massive, emotional truth bomb that will forever inspired me to keep going no matter how hard or sad or overwhelming my own life and depression may get. This is called being “woke” for those not in know.
What he wrote, word for word:
Now that, my friends and fellow sufferers, takes bravery. It is one thing to tell a friend or family member or two that you get sad, but to take to social media and tell the world and your ENTIRE fanbase you are basically living in a hell that is your own mind, that takes nuts the size of wrecking-balls. Kid Cudi has wrecking ball sized nuts, depressed or not.
It was at that very moment, though I have been on meds and have let people around me kind of know what is up with me, that I decided there is no more denying what I feel or suffer through. If this man who is famous and loved by millions has the courage to admit that he is depressed and has been as long as he can remember, who am I to suffer alone? It was also, sad to say, commiserating. I felt less alone in that sadness knowing a hero if mine was sometimes swept away by it, too.
This is the best part. After Kid Cudi got checked out of the hospital, he released a new album, (that is his most hopeful sounding album of all time, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’) and he has been in Japan with his on-again, off-again BFF, Kanye West. This was also right after Kanye did the same thing for the same reasons (felt like he was losing his shit, checked himself into hospital) so the two have been in Japan, (photos of them have them looking like they are reborn, having the time of their lives) with the rumor there MAY be a Kanye-Cudi collaboration (their relationship is an article unto itself) album dropping at the end of the year (hinted at by both, validated by none so far) but that shows you, TWO of the biggest acts in music, and they both had to check themselves into a mental health facility to ensure they didn’t hurt themselves.
That is like finding out Superman also gets colds. The next time you have a cold, you would think of Superman and realize, this ain't shit.
Not to say following Kid Cudi’s depression and music means I undermine my own. Quite the opposite, actually.
It taught me that mental health issues plague almost all of us, and there is no shame to be had in standing up and telling the world that, especially if in admitting it, you get one step closer to gaining control over it, as opposed to IT having control over you.
So thank you, Kid Cudi. I always thought my “solo dolo” thoughts made me a weirdo and I didn’t belong, but you’ve taught me otherwise. It also doesn’t hurt he seems the happiest he has been in years, with that even being reflected in some of his most recent music:
Come to find out, there are millions of us Solo Dolo's, and there is so shame to be had in that (and no shame in seeking comfort in those numbers or seeking out help, either).
At the end of the day, I love Kid Cudi’s music for how eclectic and anthemic it is, but I love the man himself because he is not too scared to let the world know we all bruise, some of us more easily than others.
Keep you head up, Cudi, and we’ll do the same.