“Every time I make a record, I'm learning something new about myself,” Kid Cudi tells Apple Music. “I didn't realise that my father's death really had an impact on me in the way that it did until I started writing about it: 'Oh, I guess being alone is an issue for me. I guess being depressed is an issue.' I'm just making music, I'm just doing what feels right, but this shit is coming out and it's things that I probably didn't pinpoint [in the moment].” The issues Cudi mentions have been emerging for him since his beginnings as the “lonely stoner”, a New York City-via-Cleveland cool kid who assured a generation of rappers to follow him that it was plenty OK to acknowledge your own inexplicable melancholy.
Man on the Moon III: The Chosen, which returns to a naming convention Cudi hadn’t utilised since 2010’s Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (with four solo and two collaborative albums in between), finds him in a sort of post-discovery nirvana, coming clean about his mental-health journey (“Mr Solo Dolo III”), his relationship with his mother (“Elsie’s Baby Boy [flashback]”) and the power of his celebrity (“4 Da Kidz”). “I was already in a really good place working on Entergalactic [his forthcoming animated series and soundtrack], going crazy on ‘THE SCOTTS’—but then I was making something else that didn't fit those two projects. After two or three songs, I was like, 'Whoa, this shit really feels like a Man on the Moon. It sounds like you pick right back up where we left off 10 years ago.'”
Ten years ago, Kid Cudi was sidestepping being pigeonholed as an “emo rapper”, leaning even harder into his alias Mr. Rager, even when that meant looking at himself in the mirror after the partying was done, as reflected in Man on the Moon II’s latter half. For Man on the Moon III, he’s just as in touch with his feelings as he was on II—along with the rest of a dependably vulnerable catalogue—it’s just that now those feelings are a bit more positive. “The whole flow of my life is like so in tune with like everything that I want it to be,” Cudi says. “I'm solid with my baby’s mom. I'm solid with my mom, I'm solid with my sister. I'm solid with my daughter. I'm solid with my nieces. Everything's in place. And I'm happy, you know?”