Born Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi in Cleveland, Kid Cudi began rapping while attending Shaker Heights High School and later Solon High School. In 2004, Kid Cudi moved to Brooklyn, NY to pursue his rap career. He released his first mixtape, “A Kid Named Cudi,” in 2008. The mixtape earned Kanye West’s attention, leading him to sign Cudi to his GOOD Music imprint. As an up-and-coming artist, Cudi contributed hooks and lyrics to songs by West and Jay-Z, including “Heartless,” “Paranoid” and “Already Home.”
Listen to the MP3 audio of this TEDx Talk:
Musician Scott Mescudi, aka Kid Cudi, returns to his high school to talk about growing up and his career path in the music industry.
Following is the full text of Scott Mescudi’s TEDx Talk: Hi, I’m Scott at TEDxSHHS.
Scott Mescudi – TRANSCRIPT:
This is not comedy hour, I promise. The funny thing is, I used to go to this school. And my class used to sit like in this area. Here. Yeah, 02; who is a 02er? Kendra come here! Kendra, come up. Kendra, everybody. Come, come, give me a hug. How long has it been? Two decades. Come up here.
How about that? Reunion. Okay, so, it’s just a little surreal. I haven’t been in this room since 1999, 2000 maybe.
So I’m 31, I just turned 31 on January 30. How about that? Oh, thank you.
And when I was approached to do this TED Talk, I was immediately like, “Why?”
And then I was kind of like put in perspective funny, and I’m not really one to do speeches. I’m really weird that you can imagine as though I do to perform at most stage, and my job is different to stand up in front of people like this, and speak and express yourself in this way.
But I told myself, OK how am I going to be able to do this? Let me just talk about my life. That’s something I know better than anyone else.
And I feel like, coming from Cleveland, coming from Shaker, you know, such a diverse place and just looking in the audience, the people that I can’t see, it’s still very diverse. But I believe that my upbringing in this town, this school district, is what made me the man I am today.
And when I moved away when I was 20 years old, my mom was extremely sad. Where is my mom? Yeah, she was crying. Hey, mommy.
My first big fan was my mom. And it was really interesting. I remember leaving home, and she was giving me a hug at the airport. And she leans in, and she goes, “I can always turn back around and we can go right back home. If you change your mind, everything is gonna fine.”
I am like “No, I’m going, and this is happening.”
And you know, walk into security, and then looking back and just seeing like… “Oh,” and me just being like, “Oh…”
However, as soon as I turned back around, I knew I was on a mission on this very specific quest. You know? It was bigger than just wanting to be a musician, or do movies. It was about finally showing the world what Scott could do.
I wasn’t the best student, I want to be honest with you. Kendra knows this. If Kendra was in my class, if she was sitting next to me, I probably would have tried to cheat off of her. But that’s not the point.
The point is, it’s like … when I think about it, you know, I wish I applied myself as much as I applied all the energy into music as I did. As in music I wish — you know as in music, I wish I could apply that same energy into my academics when I was in school.
So a lot of people look at me now, and they go “Oh, man, this must dope to be a rapper.” And it is dope, it’s awesome. Top notch.
But, you know, I can’t say that I don’t want to sometimes go back and relearn some things. I can’t say I don’t feel out of certain conversations that my friends have. You know, and these are things that I think about, you know, because being in school is all about being cool and wearing the fresh … I was going to curse, fresh clothing, being popular.
And when you go out into the real world, you realize that moment is just a little “beep” of your life. High school, you know? Now I remember Kendra AG. But everything else, I don’t remember. Now, I’m just joking.
But I’m just saying, at that moment in life, you feel like as all matters. High schools, all this girl doesn’t like me. This guy here and so this drama and you go into the real world and it’s all about just trying to make your mark in the world.
And I never got a chance to do that academically. So I had this fire — I had this fire to pursue this musical career. I had no idea how to go about it. I was living with my uncle who was up in age at the time, 80 years old, he was an older uncle.
So when I moved to New York, it’s not he could show me around, show me all the cool spots, you know, he was kind of like a … “there’s a train and you get a better car and you go.” And that’s okay, we’ve got the rapid, I can do this. It’s all right.
I was immediately wrong for that, for assuming that it was going to be the same. It is not the same. But I embraced it. I embraced the fear, the danger. I enjoyed the fact that I was going in uncharted territory.
It was like a sense of wonder for me. And I can’t say I was one of those people that were into like having thrills, and, you know, getting some type of stimulation from that. But it was nothing like saying like, “Yo, I’m gonna go out and pursue something, and I know I’m going to do it, and nobody’s going to tell me I can’t, and anybody that doesn’t believe it, I am going to prove it to them sooner or later. And that’s just what it is.
Because at one point, I didn’t feel like I was smart enough to pass that test. Or I didn’t feel like I was smart enough to go to this college. But with music, it was like nobody’s gonna take that from me. You know, what I’m saying because there were things that I was dealing with as a youth at this school that I didn’t talk to people about, that probably kept me from putting my best foot forward with my academics, you know?
And the music is a platform for me to express myself and also to realize that I’m not that crazy, that there’re other kids out there that might be depressed or lonely, dealing with suicide, things like these.
And it was one of those things that, you know, I just feel really blessed to just have my mom who’s been my supporter forever, who supplied that that trip financially, first couple of months or whatsoever. to have the support of my hometown, I can come back in this room and feel the love and the energy, you guys got me really nervous, my palms are sweaty.
But it’s really just the clock cycle, 11 minutes 24 seconds, 23 seconds, 22 seconds. It’s like what’s gonna happen when the clock’s over with? It’s like somebody going to just pull me off stage. Geez…
But really, the first thing I did when I went to New York, and most people think it was kind of like this amazing adventure, it wasn’t. It was pretty much finding a job. And for the first couple of years, I was working everywhere, whether it was like at this clothing store here, or Abercrombie & Fitch, or American Apparel, or Dean & Deluca. I always had a job. I was a hustler.
And you know, I still apply the same work ethic with music. You know, I mean like, I’m almost in a way where I don’t know how to relax, because my whole life has been just a grind. You know what I mean?
And I think that when people ask me “How did you do it,” you know, I was just kind of like “I don’t know, I was just … focused? Because it’s hard to put it into words because I can’t say that it is something that — a switch I just flipped when I turned 20. Like I got always the gut, you know, I was always outspoken, creative. I used to draw when I was a kid, before all the musical stuff came along. I was an artist.
I used to draw all my stuff, I used to draw my tattoos, and that’s it. It was about being a cartoonist until I was about 15, and then I wanted to be a rapper. And then it was all uphill from there.
But you know, if I could really just give people one piece of advice, you know, and just pass this along, and one thing I want you to take from this, is that like, we are all the commanders of our own destiny. You know what I mean?
It’s like you see these movies where we say, that one movie would “Lucy,” where she has 100% of her brain power, and she could do anything she wants. You know, we realize that the average human doesn’t use, what two, three percent. You know what I mean. Some weird, small percentage like that.
I really just told myself just like, “Hey, man, I’m going to do this,” and I applied the information I needed to execute that and in places and at times of my life where I didn’t have the answers, I made sure to get the information or surround myself with people who had the information.
You can’t hang out with people that ain’t doing nothing. How you going to get money hanging out with people that got no money? How are you gonna be inspired by people who aren’t at least trying to go the same way, at least, whether it’s music or schooling, like I would be inspired by all my friends, because I went to college, I went to university to the awful one year for film. It sucked, I hated it, you know. It wasn’t for me.
But my film classes were amazing, and now that I’m doing acting, producing shows, writing shows. I wish I wrote that whole couple, three more years out. Because I would have information that I needed, and I wouldn’t have to go through so many hoops, to be able to direct or create my own film or TV show. Uhmm…. I don’t know what to say… Let me get back on track.
So, really, you know people like I said, come up to me all the time, “Man, what you did made you special, you’re different, and I am not any different from you, you… we are all the same. I came from this town. I went to this school. All my buddies, we all had the same opportunities, you know?
It’s kind of just like having that self-confidence, you know. There was a lot of areas in my personality where I wasn’t as confident, you know? Definitely with the chicks early on. I don’t know if Kendra knows this, but…
But the music, me doing something where I was like, “Wow I made this, my first album,” when that came out, I was like whoa, I made this, this was something I put all of my energy into, and this is out and is released to the world on a professional level, I was so proud of myself. But let’s do it again.
I didn’t have time to be like, “Yeah, my first album, people like it, or OK we did good, it didn’t suck, what are we gonna do again? We got to do another one.”
Then I did that one. OK people liked it, let’s do a third one. You can’t get caught up in just all the other things. You know, I really was like, even still to this day I have my fun, but it’s focused. It’s never, you know, even when I do stray, I’m still working. I’m still writing a song, I’m still doing something. I’m persistent. And that’s also another part.
I believe that some people get lazy. Some people might have that one painting that they started to paint and never finish it. Because they get caught up in their head and oh, I can’t do this, maybe I can do this. It’s like sticking to something. One goal at a time, you know? That was like that’s still big for me.
I never put too much on my plate, you know? At first, it was like music, and then the acting kind of came into play early on, and it was unexpected, but it was a blessing that I was prepared for. I was like I’ve been the class clowns forever. Let’s do this.
And I used to it for free and now I’m getting paid for it. This is great. So you know, I was glad that the guys like my jokes, I was not even a comedian. This is just — you know, just to kind of fast forward, because you know there’s so much I’m trying to squeeze into five minutes.
But, there were a lot of haters, there were a lot of doubters, there were people that were telling me “Man, you’re not going to do that, that’s not gonna happen.” “He’ll be back.”
I remember telling my buddies I am moving to New York. “All right, you’ll be back.” No, I’m not coming back. And if I do come back it’s for concert, you know, and everybody will be like, “Whatever.”
When I came back it was for concert, it was the most beautiful homecoming I’ve ever had. There’s no show, more important than this show. And I’m not just saying that because like in Cleveland, and it’s like my hometown. It was the first time I saw my peers, friends I went to school with, being proud of me. I didn’t get the moment to walk across the stage with everybody. I didn’t get the cap and gown, do you know what I mean?
I didn’t get the chance to see these guys because I moved at 11th grade. So I didn’t even see Kendra for a while because I haven’t seen anybody so long. But that’s a beautiful moment. Still,l to this day, I do shows, and I see a classmate in the crowd and I’m up to give my raps. Ah god, what girl, why happy, you got any kids! I’m I’m sorry! And you know, it’s wild, you know. And I didn’t get that at school. I didn’t play on the foot ball team. I tried, but I was terrible.
I didn’t play on the basketball team. I tried but I was terrible. I didn’t wrestle. I tried. No, no, I did try. But I tried outside the Shaker Heights High School in another district in Cleveland Heights where none of my peers could see me and me be embarrassed. It was kinda like, “Okay, I’ll try this in 7th grade, and be terrible. And then nobody in Shaker will know about it because it’s in Cleverland Heights. Let’s not talk about it.
But my point is also like “Music was my Plan G.” You know it wasn’t like I did try everything else. I tried everything that I thought, you know, was a traditional thing a young boy should do – sports, you know. And even going to college was me, just trying to fulfill a destiny, what I thought was my own destiny.
But then also, I wanted to make my mom happy. You know. It sometimes guys got to do that. You know, there’s a lot of things, and we don’t want to stop this like man like. Your parents say that you really have to do a lot of us. And you know, it’s like. And now I’m at 31, and I am just like I had to apologize to my mom about what I was seven years ago. I was like, “Mom, I’m sorry.” It was like “I was a nightmare.” But we have money now, so let’s just go and kick it.
And we’re okay. We are good now. And it was funny too because I took my mom got her first tattoo ever, where I forced her into getting a tattoo. It is so funny, because you… Are you embarrassed? I’m sorry. But this is big because our relationship from the kid I was in high school, it’s the best it’s ever been, You know, I used to put my mom through Hell. But she was my supporter. And that’s what parents are there to do: to give you the devil’s advocate even when I’m not gonna say every time I said I’m moving to New York. She went like OK.
You know, that was more so like, the fear of letting your child go out into the world, more so like the people n the street say, “Hey, now you don’t want to see you win.” Parents care. And I got a four-and-a-half year-old, and she’ll be five in March, she’s the apple of my eye. She’s my little baby.
And she’s so funny, because I’m the one that gets emotional when she has to leave, you know. And I kind of just like, when she’s leaving me, I’ll be missing her, right? And she’s like, “Yeah.” And I say “are you going to miss daddy?” “Yeah.” You know you can call me stuff like that, “Miss me.”
I’m just sad you’re leaving, and she says “it’s okay, we always come back.”
And I say, “That’s what I’m saying, that’s why I am crying, I am so emotional. But it was just like beautiful to just see. You know, like me being the parent now. You know what I’m saying, and to see the confidence in my child, and the same confidence I gave my mom, and you’ve gotta just kind of take a back seat and go, okay.
Because I literally like follow my daughter’s lead. I mean, I just, whatever she is telling me to do as I follow everywhere, or obviously not, in every way. Or else, I would be broke. But in some ways, I do what she asks me to do, and what she tells me to do. But that’s the beauty of life, you all. You know what I’m saying?
I used to come in this room, I used to sit right in that section. Sometimes I’d pay attention, sometimes I wouldn’t. Most of the time, I’d be checking out chicks, some chicks I would never talk to because I never had the confidence. Maybe if it was a date we would send carnations, Kendra? Valentine’s Day.
That wasn’t a joke. I was the king of sending like carnations to chicks that I’d never talk to. I would be asking my mom like, “Mom, can you give me five bucks? Because it’s a pizza day, I just want to load up on the carbs.”
And she would just be like, “okay,” not knowing that I was buying carnations for all these chicks. Thanks for supplying them, Mom.
But, with 23 seconds left, I just want to let you all know that, life will throw you curve balls, it’s scary. But like, if you believe, man, you know? If you believe, and if you want it, and if you want to work hard enough for it, it can be so.
Because there’s no difference in me and you. I just really wanted to do this. I wanted it bad. And I didn’t want to be a failure. And nobody’s a failure in this room. Don’t ever think that. We can all win. And that’s it.