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Kid Cudi, “When I Was On Drugs, I Became This Character.”

Photography by Fabien Montique

Kid Cudi once had a nightmare about being stalked on Twitter. His mailbox was filled with messages from his pursuer. His home page had also been infiltrated. It was intense. “Next thing I know, there is a knock on my door,” Cudi says, remembering the awful dream. “I think I was on ’shrooms, so that enhanced [the nightmare].”

Kid Cudi isn’t a fan of technology. He says that he lost control of his thoughts because of Twitter. It also destroyed his mystique. Needless to say, he deleted his account in September 2009. Flip cams and camera phones are even more diabolical to him. Moments, Cudi says, are ruined once they are captured on film. He also considers their ubiquitous presence an invasion of his personal privacy. “That’s what makes it hard for people like myself”—celebrities—“to go out and do shit,” he says. “I can’t take a bite of my burger without having people take a picture of it. It’s like I’m a caged animal.”

The prying eyes have caused Cudi to retreat back to his apartment in the Tribeca section of New York City. Over the past year, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, 26, has emerged as one of hip-hop’s most promising young artists, thanks to his ambitious 2009 debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day. But he is also one of the year’s most mysterious stars. “I don’t leave the house much,” he says.

In December 2009, Cudi bowed out as the opening act on Lady Gaga’s blockbuster tour after punching a fan during a Vancouver show. Rumors circulated that he was, in fact, dropped. Then, June 11 of this year, he was arrested in New York City, after a disturbance at a woman’s apartment, and charged with felony criminal mischief and possession of a controlled substance. Cudi reportedly broke down a door, smashed the woman’s cell phone and was in possession of “liquid cocaine.” That last part of the story really bothers him. “It was just cocaine,” he says. “There was no liquid. It was powder. It was in a glass jar, a vial. People [said], ‘It was in a jar, so it must have been liquid.’ It’s just people not knowing about drugs.”

It’s a late August afternoon, and Kid Cudi sits in the conference room at Universal/Motown’s Manhattan offices. He just completed his second solo album, Man on the Moon: The Legend of Mr. Rager, which, after a few delays, has a late-October release date. He also says that he’s stopped using cocaine. “Mama didn’t raise no fool,” he says. “She raised half a fool.”

He wears skin-tight black pants, a snug olive-green T-shirt and a Cleveland fitted hat pulled down low. A bushy beard and big glasses hide the remainder of his face. He looks like he is in disguise. He is also alarmingly thin. Today he’ll drink a Corona and smoke a blunt during the interview. He responds to certain questions with long answers that have a beginning, middle and an end—with a few twists and turns along the way. Basically, it’s brilliant stoner logic.

Kid Cudi looks and sounds unlike any rapper, but his ascent to stardom is a pretty cliché story: He is a Midwestern kid from Cleveland, Ohio, who moved to New York City hoping to make it. He worked blue-collar jobs and even had a potentially career-making celebrity encounter. In 2004, he bumped into Kanye West at the Times Square Virgin Megastore and tried peddling his demo. West brushed him off. “When I walked away from him, I told him, ‘We’re going to work together one day,’” Cudi says.

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