Trigger warning: Mentions of suicide.
I still get goosebumps every time I hear the chorus. This past Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the release of — what is in my opinion — the greatest rap album of all time: Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day. The album was groundbreaking on so many levels; the futuristic sound that surrounds every song, the monologues spread throughout the album, but most unique of all was the content of the lyrics and the meaning behind them.
Each track delves deep into the mind of then-25 year old Scott Mescudi, as he takes you through the story of his struggles with depression, mental health, anxiety, drugs and loneliness; topics that were essentially ignored if not frowned upon by his peers at the time. The autobiographical album’s first track, “In My Dreams”, includes a one-minute monologue that ends with what is essentially a preview of what’s to come, with fellow midwest rapper Common narrating, “this is the story of a young man who not only believed in himself, but his dreams too, this is the story of the man on the moon.”
Cudi follows this with what is easily my favourite song on the album, and by far the most powerful: “Soundtrack 2 My Life”. During the first verse Cudi raps about his childhood and family, specifically about how his mother was able to provide for him while dealing with her own personal issues. He goes on to rap about his three older siblings and how his family was unaware of his depression: “got two older brothers one hood, one good, an independent older sister kept me fly when she could, but they all didn’t see, the little bit of sadness in me, Scotty…”
This leads into the aforementioned chorus that still gives me chills no matter how many times I hear it: “I’ve got some issues that nobody can see, and all of these emotions are pouring out of me … this is the soundtrack to my life …” The rest of the song talks about how Cudi dealt with the death of his father (who passed from cancer when Cudi was 11) and how close he was to suicide before hitting us with another powerful line right before the third chorus, “I am happy, that’s just the saddest lie.” The actual music for the song is ironically a very uplifting, almost happy beat, perhaps as a metaphor for how Cudi dealt with his depression — the lyrics are how he really felt and the music his facade.
That song sets the tone for the rest of the album, although not every song is quite as dark. The next chunk of the album mostly deals with the feeling of being alone, before the seventh song marks a turning point in the album. The song, “Day ‘n’ Nite”, was first released as a single and is still to this day one of his most well known songs. The beat is extremely unique, and epitomizes the funky outer-space vibe the album gives off. From “Day ‘n’ Nite” onward, the album begins to shift from his inner demons to his search for happiness, including songs like “Enter Galactic”, “Alive” and probably my second favourite song, “Cudi Zone”. The album leads us to another one of his most famous songs, “Pursuit of Happiness”, where Cudi teams up with electric-rock band MGMT to bring us an uplifting feel-good song, summed up by the chorus: “I’m on the pursuit of happiness and I know, everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold. I’ll be fine once I get it, I’ll be good …”
The album finishes strong with, “Up Up & Away”, another happy-go-lucky song where Cudi seems to have overcome at least part of his problems. With a catchy guitar-heavy instrumental, Cudi talks about his happy thoughts, how he can now provide for his mother, friends, his hometown of Cleveland and how he no longer cares what others think of him, including lines like, “I’ll be up up and away, ‘cause in the end they’ll judge me anyway, so whatever.”
The album was Cudi’s first studio album, and even a decade later its impact is still profound. If you scroll through the YouTube comments on any of Cudi’s songs, instead of the usual toxicity that are public comment sections, his are filled with uplifting stories and memories of how his music helped people with their own struggles. Perhaps most famously, fellow rapper Travis Scott and SNL’s Pete Davidson have both said numerous times that Cudi’s music saved their lives, with Davidson saying he would’ve killed himself in high school had it not been for Man on the Moon, and that Cudi’s music helped him deal with his own depression that came from losing his father in service on 9/11.
A decade later, Cudi has released six more solo albums, two collaborative albums and is set to release his seventh solo album in 2020. His music has helped countless people and Cudi paved the way for other rappers and celebrities to feel comfortable talking about similar issues. With mental health discussions popping up on seemingly every platform nowadays, Cudi’s music is as relevant as ever; hopefully it continues to help out those who need it.