Toward the conclusion of Kid Cudi’s Medical Cannabis Cup performance at Denver’s Cluster Studios in April, High Times’ Danny Danko presented Cudi with a meaningful piece of hardware—the Doobie Award for “Pot Song of the Year.” Cudi was touched. “This means more than any recognition in my career,” he swore. The crowd took it as a cue to toke up—for the 420th time that night. Cudi cashed out his set with the MGMT/Ratatat collab “Pursuit of Happiness” amidst an emerald haze of the planet’s finest herb.

Cut a rug with Cudi 7/14 @ Red Rocks

Cudi is one sad bastard. If your old man succumbed to cancer when you were ten, you might be gloomy too. Fortunately, Cudi has a knack for transforming pain into catchy refrains. Think of it as the hip hop equivalent of blues music. Man on the Moon: The End of the Day, Cudi’s debut for Kanye’s imprint, is still surprisingly solid all the way through, despite minor key melodies and self-pitying lyrics. So solid, in fact, it was a tough act to follow. Man on the Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager is a bit uneven in comparison, yet not without its highlights—Cee Lo is a welcome addition on the album opener; Mary J. Blige provides essential variety on “These Worries.”

Not that Cudi can’t carry a tune on his own. Many MCs would be high and dry without a pricey sample or a guest hook. Cudi may not boast a multi-octave range, but he can record a chorus without Autotune. Earth wouldn’t know it if it weren’t for his mother, though.

“My mom was my music teacher in seventh grade. I used to be shy, but she swore I could sing if I tried. We were doing R. Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ for a concert and she wanted me to do the second verse. But it was a solo in front of everyone. I was nervous. I asked her what she’d hook me up with if I did. She promised me Air Jordans,” tells Cudi in the YouTube clip “5 things about Kid Cudi you didn’t know.”

Nothing like a bribe to get your offspring to sing.

Cudi plays day one—Thursday, June 14—of Global Dance Fest’s three day debut.

As seen in the June 2011 Music Issue of 303 Magazine.