Kid Cudi

Mixing quirky with clunky and making it all sound sexy is no small feat, but cocky, oddball charm is rapper Kid Cudi’s secret weapon. Born Scott Mescudi, the 25-year-old Cleveland native moved to Bushwick, Brooklyn, four years ago with little more than a bulletproof sense of confidence and a dream. But Cudi (the name is pronounced like cutty, not cutie) had better luck landing a job at Dean & Deluca than he did a record deal. A meeting with Patrick “Plain Pat” Reynolds, an A&R executive at Def Jam, yielded yet another rejection, but when Cudi ran into Reynolds a few months later at a party, the two bonded, and Reynolds, who had recently left the label, signed on as the rapper’s manager. Cudi’s MySpace page nods to Coldplay, the Postal Service, and My Chemical Romance, along with more obvious hip-hop influences, and his musical curiosity is audible on the wide-ranging tracks he assembled for a recent mix tape, which includes the single “Day ‘N’ Nite,” the tale of a glum, imaginative pothead who is neither a player nor a gangsta—just a lonely guy with a broken heart. “My whole thing is just to put out positive messages in the music, give people something that can change their lives,” says Cudi, whose debut full-length, Man on the Moon: The Guardians, will be released on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label. “I was like, ‘I know I’m not sippin’ crazy juice. I know there’s somebody out there in this world who can relate to what I’m going through.’”

Above: Kid Cudi in New York, November 2008. Jacket, shirt, T-shirt, and tie: DKNY. Jeans: Polo Ralph Lauren. Hat: Kid Cudi’s own. Belt: A Bathing Ape. Skin products: Lancôme men, including hydrix moisturizing gel. Fragrance: Polo double black by Ralph Lauren. Styling: Tai Chi Alfonso. Grooming: Daniel Martin/The Wall Group. Special thanks: Fast Ashleys.

Check out videos and more at Kid Cudi’s MySpace page.