In Kid Cudi, a generation of lonely stoners found a big brother. In Dot Da Genius, Kid Cudi found his brother, musically speaking.
After meeting in NYC through a mutual friend in the mid ’00s, the Brooklyn native and the Cleveland transplant became fast friends and compatible collaborators, logging hours at Dot's home studio in East New York (Dot's parents even took Cudi in after he got evicted, an act of generosity that gave his music dreams a crucial lifeline. Who knows what the world might look like had Scott Mescudi moved back to Shaker Heights). With Dot’s spacey, futuristic soundscapes serving as the backdrop to Cudi’s melodic, vulnerable soul-searching, the pair tapped into a far-flung frequency that existed on the fringes of the hip-hop universe.
In 2008, Kid Cudi and Dot Da Genius' budding chemistry famously culminated in “Day ’n’ Nite.” The song, which soared to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 the following year, not only launched their careers and lifted them out of Dot’s parents' house but shifted hip-hop on its axis. Like other pivotal cosmic events, the residual effects of “Day ’n’ Nite” can still be felt today in current stars like Travis Scott, Kevin Abstract, and Juice WRLD.
“Having him right there [next to me] is the best-case scenario because he’s very expressive when he hears something that he likes. As opposed to me making a beat elsewhere and sending it to him, when I’m with him, I notice the way he moves and responds,” Dot says of working with Cudi. “I tend to not stop until I get that expression.”
Thanks to a close bond that exists outside of music, the Kid Cudi and Dot Da Genius partnership has remained intact beyond the success of “Day ’n’ Nite.” Dot’s atmospheric sonics can be heard on the majority of Cudi’s albums, including Man on the Moon II, Satellite Flight, and Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, even if it’s only in trace amounts. They also formed the two-man psychedelic rock band WZRD, who released their self-titled debut in 2012. Despite mixed reviews, it actually had some joints.
On this year’s KIDS SEE GHOSTS, though, Cudi and Dot’s creative relationship feels reborn (pardon the pun). A key player in G.O.O.D. Music’s cruel summer in Wyoming, Dot co-produced four of the seven songs on Cudi’s well-received, emotionally-resonant collaboration with Kanye West—the same Kanye West who inspired Dot to start banging out beats as a teenager. “I was in college when The College Dropout came out and I was like, ‘What the fuck?!?” he says. “Kanye is the main reason why I started producing.”
Looking ahead to 2019, the usually low-key Dot Da Genius is finally ready to build his solo catalog like so many sought-after producers before him. Last week, Dot released his debut single, “Fettuccine,” a speaker-slapping squad anthem featuring Houston rapper Fat Tony, Philadelphia’s Tunji Ige, and Price from Audio Push. Consider it an appetizer for Dot’s upcoming project, which will feature more exciting collaborations with his homies.
Here are the stories behind five of Dot Da Genius’ biggest songs.
Kid Cudi — “Day ‘n’ Nite” (2009)
“I was working very closely with Cudi out of my parents’ house for almost a year. I kinda became his musical confidante. It was a very difficult time in Cudi’s life—he was going through some things—but he was still very ambitious and upbeat about the possibilities of making it in the music industry.
“He had this idea for a song that he was working on and came back to the crib because we were living together [Editor's note: Dot’s parents took Cudi in after he was evicted]. He sang the hook for me and I pretty much began to piece together the musical landscape for him to get those melodies off. It was a two-day process. It didn’t take long to make the beat but we didn’t record until the next day.
“I had my outboard gear, made the beat in Pro Tools, and then I had my friend whose mother I worked with at the time at this electrical company, he was there the second day and I had him lay the “what what” sound. Cudi originally did it but it didn’t feel right; it had too much character [laughs].
“We were trying to figure out an outro. I was adding extra synths and I accidentally pressed shift plus spacebar, which I didn’t know would make it play at half-time. When it happened we immediately were like, ‘What the fuck?! Oh shit! This is actually pretty tight. How can we record this into the track?’ It took a couple seconds for me to figure it out. I didn’t know people were going to love it so much!
“Me and Cudi had been working for a while up until that point so I knew what Cudi was about. Cudi’s the type of person like, one take, his first idea, it’s magic. If I’m making a beat, his first idea is it, usually. So when I first heard Cudi on it, I didn’t have to give him too much direction. I did ask him to play with his presence on the track a bit, like how he was singing it and how he was saying it. He was really singing it at first [laughs].
“Cudi had an idea and he was definitely upbeat and positive about the record. I was a little bit worried because it was so different. That was the start of our careers so I thought that we had to match the sound that was popular at the time. But we didn’t and, man, it was just a surprise. Even once it started picking up in 2009 and being played on radio and on TV, I was just amazed.”
Kid Cudi — “Marijuana” (2010)
Co-produced by Mike Dean & Kid Cudi
“We started that record in Los Angeles. We had just started working on the second Man on the Moon album. I can’t remember exactly which studio we were in, but the song was completely different when we started it in L.A. It had this really weird synth going throughout the whole record but it sounded crazy and Cudi had the main ideas for the song down. I remember I mic’d up my legs and I was hitting my legs like they were drums. So the little pats you hear slapping around on the song, that’s me playing my legs, so to speak [laughs].
“Then, we left for L.A. and went to Hawaii when Ye was working on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. We were working on Man on the Moon II at the same studio upstairs. In Hawaii, everything completely changed. We linked with Mike Dean, he played bass and guitar on it, super amazing. The song really transformed. I want to say it was because of the vibe of Hawaii. It was very relaxed, everyone was great, and it was just the optimal place for the song to be finished.
“The idea wasn’t like, ‘Okay, we’re making a weed song.’ Cudi usually comes up with the ideas when he hears the music. I had the beat started and he just had the, ‘Ooooh, marijuana’ [laughs]. The original was really, really tight. But the landscape that we finalized was probably the best landscape for that song.
“[When we made] A Kid Named Cudi, everything was still unknown. When me and Cudi started, we had no clue what the music industry was like, how to get paid, we didn’t know anything. On [Man on the Moon], Cudi stepped right into it. As soon as he did his deal, he was ready, he knew exactly what he was trying to do. And then on Man on the Moon II, it was probably one of the best working experiences I’ve had, just because of the amount of creativity that was around. We would literally consult and get vibes from anyone that was in the studio. Although we kept it really tight—not too many people who were there working on [MBDTF] worked on Cudi’s music—just having them around to listen to it and give opinions was dope.”
WZRD — “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie” (2012)
Co-produced by Kid Cudi
Sample: Desire “Under Your Spell”
“WZRD, we worked on that album the majority of the time at Cudi’s house in Los Angeles. I spent like half a year living at the Roosevelt [Hotel]. We had a setup in his basement and we would just create.
“I remember with ‘Teleport 2 Me,’ specifically, Cudi had just watched Drive and was super engulfed by the music. Super good soundtrack. I remember he would pick me up and he’d always have it playing in his Porsche [laughs]. One day he was like, ‘We have to do something with this record.’ It was ‘Under Your Spell’ by Desire. Those are good friends of ours, they were so gracious.
“Johnny Jewel, he sent me the stems and then we started building the record. We pretty much kept the melody and then just changed the drums, made them a little bit more hip-hop. And Cudi delivered with the amazing vocals, man. He does how he normally does: hears a vibe, starts crooning and putting the words together. It was a song that he felt very strongly about. I love how he was able to make it so relatable for everyone.”
“[We started the WZRD project] right after the second album. It was his idea. We were in New York and I went over to his house and he was like, ‘Yo! We’re gonna start a rock band.’ And I was like, ‘…Okay!’ You have to understand, I’m a black kid from East New York—the hood—so my experience with rock music was very minimal.
"That whole process just opened me up to all types of rock music. Cudi would put me onto everybody he was listening to and what he thought our album should sound like: Pink Floyd, Nirvana, The Doors, Morrissey. It was cool because as a student of the game, listening to this stuff and then trying to make our own version of it was a fun task.
“I have to say, [WZRD] aged like wine. When it first came out, it was getting terrible reviews. And now, six years later, that’s the number one thing I see online from fans, like, ‘Yo, when are you guys dropping another album? It can’t just be this one album [laughs]. We can legit say that Cudi influenced a lot of these acts that are out right now. But when he was doing it, he was doing it to separate himself. That was his way of being like, ‘Watch what I do next.’
“We’ve definitely talked about [releasing more WZRD music]. How we release it, that remains to be seen. ’Cause you know, me and Cudi are constantly working so we probably have a WZRD album’s worth of material right now on the hard drive, but we would have to lock in.”
6LACK — “Alone / EA6” (2016)
“What’s crazy is I made that beat while I was at Cudi’s house [laughs]. A lot of times when I’m at his house, I’ll just be making a beat when we’re having a conversation. Whether the beat is for him or it's just a beat I’m making, I just like to create around my friends.
“So I had this beat and then I got hit up by Tim Glover from Interscope—he’s 6LACK’s A&R—and he was saying that 6LACK really wants to work with me. It took me a while to send the music out because up until then I had never heard of 6LACK, and at that time, I wasn’t really working with people. But Tim was very gracious and I sent him a pack, then they sent me back the song. I spoke to 6LACK and I was like, ‘This is dope.’ I wanted to do more to it but he loved it the way it was. And then they tagged on the other part of the song [‘EA6'] which I thought made it more of a movie. They really did a good job with that.
“I really feel like in this musical journey, the people that I’ve connected with the most have had…I don’t know what the proper word is. We can say demons. But also a perseverance. I notice that there’s a void in them but they fill that void with music. I ask God this all the time because even outside of music, I think it might be a personality thing where I attract that. I have no clue [laughs]."
KIDS SEE GHOSTS — “Reborn” (2018)
Co-produced by Kid Cudi, Plain Pat, E*vax & Benny Blanco
“A lot of these ideas with Cudi start the same. We’re really close friends. I spend a lot of time just chilling with him. That’s exactly where that song started. We were just chopping it up and Cudi had an idea—same as ‘Day 'n' Nite.’ Everything just comes together so fast.
“We had the song recorded and Cudi played it for [Kanye] in China, I believe. We had the idea for the song, the beat, and the hook. I remember he called me a couple days after my birthday and was like, ‘Yo, Kanye’s loving yo' beat, man! We're probably going to use this.’ I remember being super excited, that made my day. I’ve been working with Ye for a while but we haven’t had anything that hit the world. So that was definitely bucket list shit for me to finally get a record with Ye—and Cudi—out there.
“[The original version] is pretty close. The biggest change was the outro, which was done by Evan from Ratatat and Plain Pat added to the drums. We really spent more time mulling over the drums. It started with the original drums that I did, then they changed it, then Kanye said he liked the original, then we went back on it again. The final, final version is a combination of drums between me and Pat. I think that’s the best way to work on music: to have an idea, live with it, and then see what ways you can improve it.
“I was there in Wyoming. It was literally me, Mike Dean, Cudi, and a bunch of engineers. As crazy as it sounds, it was very relaxed. Being in Wyoming, it’s very isolated and everybody was moving at a cool pace. Kanye seemed super relaxed, super inspired to create.
"What I loved about working with Kanye is that with music, he’s very eloquent. He’ll hear something and then tell you what he likes about it, what he doesn’t like about it. It makes it very easy to give him what he’s looking for. And the [tight] deadlines were amazing. I almost preferred working in that setting because sometimes if you give an artist too much time to live with something, they start thinking about changing things and get cold feet. But in this situation, if he says, ‘Yes,’ that’s it; it's not changing.
“From the outside looking in, people might have thought [Wyoming] was chaos but it didn’t feel like chaos. But it was a little bit [laughs]. Toward the end, when there was a day or two left, it would get kinda crazy. We’d be finishing songs and then giving them to Mike [Dean] to hurry up and mix. Literally, every release party, the album was done like an hour into the release party.
“I think [‘Reborn’] is an important record, especially in this day and age with everything that’s going in the world and people feeling helpless. A lot of fans have placed emphasis on how important the song is for them and for their mental space. I know that’s what it was for Cudi ’cause Cudi’s obviously had to deal with a lot but he made it through and we thank God for that. It’s that type of song, like, ‘I’m reborn now! I’m ready to keep going!’ It’s that motivation, and we all need motivation.
“Just like everybody else’s relationship, we’ve had our ups and our downs, but one thing I’m very thankful for is that Cudi’s a real human being and a real friend. We can go through things, that’s natural. But we always come back. We’re always going to be supporting one another and be truthful with one another. Because we came up from humble beginnings, I’ve always been able to be honest with him. I also know him. If I need him to finish a verse, I know what to do and what not to do [laughs]. And vice versa, he knows how to get the best music out of me. I can be in the studio goofing off and he’ll hear the magic. Like, ‘Yo, that was dope! You should lay that down.’ It’s an amazing experience."
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