The Lonely Stoner: Why Kid Cudi Is Still Our Favorite Weed Rapper

by John Flynn

Weed is like McDonald's: You start out hyped to indulge in your favorite treat, and two hours later, you're stuffed, barely conscious and dehydrated.

The supreme lyricist to the pre and just-post-smoke was Kid Cudi. Reefer was his muse.

Sure, Wiz is equally obsessed, and kush turned Snoop into a California Raisin, but Cudi went beyond just smoking, then recording: He made FUBU pot music.

His beats swirled and undulated. They were dizzy, buzzy and fuzzy. His debut, A Kid Named Cudi, was massive.

Tracks five through eight ("Man on the Moon," "The Prayer," "Day 'N' Night" and "Embrace the Martian") might be the best four straight songs on an album in history.

He sprinkled in little gems you could find if you — ahem — played his music and concentrated hard enough.

On "Just What I Am," the only decent song off Indicud, Cudi repeated the rattling bass for the simple melody: "I need smoke. I need to smoke."

It was just a delightful little touch you could hear if you listened for it.

His music moved at a smoked-an-hour-ago pace. It was in no rush. "I Be High" plodded and tinkled along. It was unlike anything we had ever heard, yet it was easily digestible. Soon, he had been tapped by Yeezus, and he had become a useful disciple.

For a while, Cudi dominated the hook game. He was all over 808s & Heartbreak. He anchored "Gorgeous," bolstered the G.O.O.D. Friday mixtapes and bounced along on "Already Home."

His deep voice wavered in the auto-tune like another instrument. He was one of the first rappers to use the effect well, and he paved the way for it to characterize modern music instead of passing out of our public conscious with T-Pain.

His lazy sing-song flow was the Pikachu to Young Thug's Raichu. He had the ear. He flipped the power ballad, "The Funeral," into a soft repentance on "The Prayer." He opened up hip-hop to go all sorts of spacey and trippy places.

But, at the same time, Cudi fell into darker realms; loneliness and alienation were common themes. The classic angst of "nobody understands me" saturated his sound. "Day 'N' Night" was written just after his uncle kicked him out. 

And, at first, we loved it. Man on the Moon: End of the Day was the first foray into the post-808s hip-hop landscape.

"Make Her Say" was a fun groupie anthem that brought out some of 'Ye and Common's best punchlines ("Getting brain in the library 'cause I love knowledge"). "Pursuit of Happiness" was played by more sullen teens holed up in their rooms than Nevermind.

Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager wasn't quite as fire. "Erase Me" was a solid pop-hop song, but it lacked the inventiveness of his previous outings. "Mr. Rager" was the other single, and there just wasn't a ton to it; it is borderline boring.

"Marijuana" had a lasting power (if only as the most obvious anthem of the herb), and it had a funny length (4:20).

The album eventually went gold, but it was more because of the strength of his prior work than anything. Nonetheless, it was a novel combination of psychedelic rock, electro and hip-hop that kept our attention.

Then, his sound tilted in the wrong direction. Instead of continuing to trail-blaze in hip-hop, Cudi thought WZRD was a good idea.

The alt-rock concept album was panned. (To be fair, it was a fascinating idea, and it was completely different than anything any other rapper put out at the time.)

But, a CD of whale sounds would have been different, too, and that doesn't mean it would have been good.

Still, we could have forgiven Cudi. His first three albums had so many hits and so few misses. He bursted with natural talent, and he was destined to bounce back.

And, that's where we are now: Half a decade removed from the consistent quality that originally attracted us. Now, Cudi is in the G.O.O.D. music doghouse, and he is borderline irrelevant in rap music.

Maybe the best analogy for Cudi is his recreational substance of choice. Cudi lulled you. His grooves enveloped you. You slid right into his vibe. He wailed your unspoken emotions, and he made you feel all right.

But, as we grew up, we looked for more in Cudi, and we didn't find much. Like the reefer, it was okay to be into him when you were a teenager.

(But, if you're still a Cudi fan in your mid-20s, then people will throw some "grow up" shade.)

Still, Cudi's trifecta was astounding. If he had died right after Man on the Moon II, then he probably would be with Biggie and Pac on the ethereal cloud of potential legends.

But, he didn't. He stuck around and tarnished his stellar first impression with half-baked ideas that didn't satisfy us as his early stuff did.

Cudi was very of his time. However, he didn't adapt to music's shifting landscape, even though his style fit perfectly in the post-gangsta rap era.

Like pot, he's not the greatest, but it's still fun to reminisce about the stuff you swore you would love forever.

Especially today.