"That's my goal. Whatever Kanye tells me, I just try to put it in my little machine and make the perfect solution for it," Cudi said. "That's always our collab formula, and that's just how 'Gorgeous' came about. He just kind of told me what he was trying to say, I threw out some words, we rearranged words, and we came out with a bunch of different options before we come up with the hook." —Kid Cudi Reveals How He Ended Up On Kanye West’s “Gorgeous.”
The Times Square Virgin Megastore closed for good in June 2009. Five years prior, while inside that same store rummaging through CDs he couldn’t afford, Scott Mescudi noticed that next to him was none other than Kanye West. As a newcomer to New York by way of Cleveland, Ohio, Mescudi’s experienced initial shock in the presence of a superstar. “Can you sign me?” he asked after exchanging formalities. West declined, but would add, “Unless you on some Biggie and Tupac-type stuff.”
West, in 2004, saw the two deceased legends as archetypes for what he sought in undiscovered rappers. Ironically, if Scott Mescudi was trying to be the classic hip-hop of old, the unconventional renegade known as Kid Cudi would not exist. What made West and the world acknowledge Cudi were the idiosyncrasies that removed his music from traditional hip-hop semblance.
Four years after their chance encounter, on the outskirts of conventionalism, the two minds found creative kinship and assisted in the ushering of melodic and sonic innovation that changed the sound of rap music: 808s & Heartbreak.
West announcing a joint album with his most experimental protégé the same year that celebrates 10 years since 808s & Heartbreak and A Kid Named Cudi is cosmic serendipity. If Watch the Throne was the sparring of two wealthy deities commemorating their ascension to the pinnacle of success, what is being called Kids See Ghost (or Kids See Ghosts) could very well be two mad scientists who only know how to rage against the standard coming together to herald in a new age.
Kanye and Cudi's decade-long catalog of collaborations proves the two are aware of each other's strengths, and how to push them to places unknown and awe-inspiring. In anticipation for the promised album that is slated for release on June 8, we ranked all 12 musical crossovers where the College Dropout and the Moon Man both appear vocally.
Note: We've excluded excellent records like Kanye’s “All of the Lights” and “The Joy” because Cudi's vocals contributions were not significant enough to be considered a complete collaboration.
12. Consequence — "Whatever U Want" (G.O.O.D. Music Has Arrived Remix) ft. Kanye West, Common, Kid Cudi & Big Sean (2010)
The remix of Consequence’s “Whatever U Want” is the first time Cudi and Big Sean were brought in to join their fellow G.O.O.D. Music brethren together for a posse cut. It’s also one of the rare Cudi appearances alongside West where he’s not on hook duty. During his tenure as a member, Cudi was to G.O.O.D. Music what ‘09-2010 Drake was to Cash Money. There’s a seamlessness to their features; the two short verses provided by each guest are lighthearted with a touch of their unique personalities. It’s like watching the G.O.O.D. Music version of the Annexation of Puerto Rico.
11. T.I. — "Welcome to the World" ft. Kanye West & Kid Cudi (2010)
T.I.’s No Mercy fell short of the excellence associated with the South’s acclaimed king, which means the album's Kanye West and Kid Cudi-assisted intro, “Welcome to the World,” never reached its peak potential. To this day, T.I. stands as the only artist to feature both masters of melody together on a hook. While the melody is more impressive than the songwriting, the union of their voices together had the potential of Goku and Vegeta wearing Potara earrings. “Welcome to the World,” co-produced by No I.D. and Kanye, isn’t a T.I. classic, the beat lacks a certain luster to make it a masterpiece, but Cudi’s heavenly hum and Kanye earnest Illuminati questioning are worth a revisit.
10. Kid Cudi — "Erase Me" ft. Kanye West (2010)
Overlooking Kanye’s horrendous closing bar ("The height of her shopping was writer's blocking me / I couldn't get my shit out anyway, I hope you die Aria!"), “Erase Me” is a time capsule of Cudi’s effective dabbling in merging rap, pop, and rock. The guitar-heavy production underneath the melodic musing accomplished a balanced juxtaposition between the genres that Lil Wayne failed to realize with Rebirth. It’s a solid record, arguably Cudi’s most radio-friendly single. Stronger lead vocals would have benefited the song's aging process, but the appeal of Cudi’s music has always been daring passion, not technical prowess.
9. G.O.O.D. Music — "The Morning" ft. Raekwon, Pusha T, Common, 2 Chainz, CyHi The Prynce, Kid Cudi, D'banj & Kanye West (2012)
Another big posse cut from the G.O.O.D. conglomerate plus a verse from Staten Island’s most famous chef. “The Morning” is filled with solid verses—this is a hard line-up to ruin—but doesn’t leave the strongest lasting impression. One of the highlights is Cudi’s bridge serving as the intro to Kanye’s verse; the two have a strong synergy that works as a package deal. Cruel Summer is an album filled with great moments attached to good songs.
8. Kanye West — "Waves" ft. Kid Cudi & Chris Brown (2016)
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“Waves” is co-written and arranged by Chance The Rapper. The Life of Pablo track is dominated by a soulful hook sung by Chris Brown and the rapping of Kanye West. There's an infectious joy to the song, and it's a bit surprising it failed to make a bigger commercial splash. Cudi offers little more than a brief hum solo, but it’s the hum of an aquatic angel, the hum heard across the world. Cudi truly has the greatest hum in all of the music, a minimal but effective addition that is to ears what Paper Boi’s scowl is to eyes―a very small gesture that make souls just a tiny bit lighter.
7. Kanye West — "Welcome to Heartbreak" ft. Kid Cudi (2008)
“Welcome to Heartbreak” is the first time listeners became acquainted with Cudi and Kanye’s vocal fusion. The cinematic strings, moody keys, and brolic drums paired with three soul-spilling Ye verses made the song a striking record, but isolating the hook and harmonies will show the natural chemistry between the two. “Welcome to Heartbreak” isn’t the clearest distinction of their harmonic combination, Cudi’s role is minimal, but his influence is felt even when you don’t hear his presence. The Moon Man may only have one 808s & Heartbreaks vocal feature, but his artistic DNA is buried throughout the entire album.
6. Kanye West — "Guilt Trip" ft. Kid Cudi (2013)
Upon release, Cudi wasn’t a fan of his vocal inclusion on Kanye’s “Guilt Trip.” The song was originally crafted during the Watch the Throne sessions but made the final cut for Yeezus with Cudi being none the wiser. Cudi was upset he wasn’t called to re-record the dated vocals, but its a credit to Kanye’s vision for seeing how the heartfelt singing would elevate the record. There is a certain energy on display, the kind of post-breakup singing that could only come from the center of the void. What turned out to be a cut-and-copy collaboration is one of Kanye and Cudi’s most memorable songs together.
5. Kid Cudi — "Make Her Say" ft. Kanye West & Common (2009)
Sampling is a communication of ideas between creators. West’s production for Cudi’s “Make Her Say” doesn’t remove the promiscuous teasing of Gaga’s original, but finds lighthearted humor in turning her tongue-in-cheek phrase into an oral sex innuendo. Cudi, Ye, and Common all follow the underlying theme with playfully quaint lyricism that leans “Make Her Say” closer to the realm of genius than juvenile. It’s a song that you appreciate over time for being unlike everything on the radio, but somehow fitting right into the rotation. A Cudi classic.
4. G.O.O.D. Music — "Christian Dior Denim Flow" ft. Kanye West, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, Lloyd Banks & Ryan Leslie (2010)
G.O.O.D. Fridays blessed listeners with the return of great posse cuts. “Christian Dior Denim Flow” is arguably one of the best that came from the 15 weeks of new music gifted by the G.O.O.D. Music team. Kid Cudi and John Legend unifying for the hook is a sunset of vibrant singing. Cudi was happy with just hook duty and asked Kanye to remove his verse soon after leaving the studio, but Ye made the executive decision to keep it. It’s Cudder who gets the last word after Kanye, Lloyd Banks, and Pusha all kill. I wish someone would’ve told Kanye he didn’t need to drown his voice in reverb or give Ryan Leslie a verse, but even these small shortcomings don’t ruin six minutes of stunning solidarity.
3. G.O.O.D. Music — "GOOD Friday" ft. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Common & Charlie Wilson (2010)
Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi together is sweeter than warm syrup from Waffle House. It’s baffling that there haven't been more songs with the soul singer and the mood-setter coexisting. Their overlapping singing, the jubilant keys sampled from Freddie Scott’s “(You) Got What I Need,” and the jovial energy spread from each contributing verse makes “GOOD Friday” sound like summer barbecue music. Out of all the music to come from the G.O.O.D. Fridays series, "Good Friday" remains the most underrated. This is what Cruel Summer should’ve sounded like—an entire album of summer anthems from the G.O.O.D. camp.
2. Kanye West — "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1" ft. Kid Cudi (2016)
The transition from Pastor T. L. Barrett’s “Father Stretch My Hands” into Cudi singing “Beautiful morning” right after Future’s infamous Metro Boomin drop is one of the most epic and beautiful arrangements to ever enter hip-hop. There’s this futuristic gospel quality to the unlikely anthem. Fans lose their mind as the record builds and explodes; it's the audio version of watching a rainbow form after a flaming meteorite fell to Earth in all its grace and glory. So long as bleached assholes go unmentioned, I wouldn’t mind if Kids See Ghosts was built with “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” as the blueprint.
1. Kanye West — "Gorgeous" ft. Kid Cudi & Raekwon (2010)
“Gorgeous” is absent of flaws. With the lungs of a dragon, West breathes three verses of fiery brilliance over majestic music produced by a super team of collaborators. There’s instant magic when Cudi begins to sing over the electric guitar chords; the tranquil texture of his voice blending with the bluesy soundscape is sullen and sweet, like viewing the elegance of a flying phoenix while the world slowly burns around you. Essentially, that's the heart of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, finding glimpses of beauty while submerged in suffocating chaos.
"Gorgeous" is by far the best song to feature both Cudi and Kanye vocals. Raekwon is just the Shaolin cherry on top.
By Yoh, aka Kids See Yoh, aka @Yoh31