Kid Cudi burst onto the music scene in 2008 with his debut mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi, which brought a refreshing sense of vulnerability to the hip-hop genre. Since then, he has continued to make waves with his deeply meaningful music, drawn from his own personal experiences.
Although he faced struggles with drug addiction and depression, Kid Cudi’s 2018 collaboration with Kanye West, KIDS SEE GHOST, marked a turning point in his career as he returned to making music that resonated with listeners. This progress was further solidified with his 2020 album, Man on the Moon III: The Chosen, which marked a full circle moment for the artist.
While it’s hard to choose just a few standout Kid Cudi songs, as he’s already cemented himself as one of the most influential artists of the past 20 years, I’ve done my best to highlight some of my favorites. As a long-time fan who’s been listening since his first mixtape, my choices may lean towards older songs, but I’ve tried to strike a balance.
Check out my picks for the best Kid Cudi songs below.
10. “Tequila Shots” (Man on the Moon III: The Chosen, 2020)
Fast forward to 2020’s “Man on the Moon III: The Chosen”, where “Tequila Shots” stands out as one of the main bangers. It showcases a new style while still referencing Kid Cudi’s earlier, more laid-back music.
9. “The Prayer” (A Kid Named Cudi, 2008)
Kid Cudi has been known to mix various genres in his music, and one of his earliest songs, “The Prayer”, proved just that. Using an indie rock sample from Band of Horses’ “The Funeral”, this underground hit had fans eagerly anticipating what Kid Cudi would come up with next. It even drew in fans of indie rock who may not have been exposed to as much hip-hop.
8. “Dat New New” (Day ‘N’ Nite, 2008)
While “Dat New New” might not be as well-known as some of Kid Cudi’s other songs, it’s still a must-listen. This bonus track on the single release of “Day ‘N’ Nite” is a perfect song to light up and vibe out to. As the lyrics say, “It don’t matter your race, just take a blunt to the face.”
7. “Just What I Am” (Indicud, 2013)
In 2013, Kid Cudi brought a new level of upbeat energy to his music with “Indicud”. “Just What I Am” was a standout track that falls into the category of great weed-smoking music, much like many of Kid Cudi’s other songs. The track even features Kid Cudi’s friend, King Chip, who had recently changed his name from Chip Tha Ripper at the time.
6. “Mr. Rager” (Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, 2010)
“Mr. Rager” is a classic Kid Cudi track that perfectly encapsulates the central theme of his second album, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. With a driving live drum beat and the use of an electric guitar, the song is a raw and emotional experience that connects Kid Cudi with his fans on a deeper level.
5. “Reborn” ft. Kanye West (KIDS SEE GHOSTS, 2018)
“Reborn” is a collaboration between Kid Cudi and Kanye West from their joint album KIDS SEE GHOSTS. The song is a powerful representation of Kid Cudi’s journey to overcome his mental health struggles and find his way back into the spotlight. It’s a true anthem for anyone who’s ever had to fight their way through tough times.
4. “Pursuit of Happiness” (Man on the Moon: The End of Day, 2008)
“Pursuit of Happiness” is another iconic track from the album that has remained relevant over the years. The song is often misunderstood as being about the positive side of living a carefree lifestyle. However, Kid Cudi has spoken about how the song is really a cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking and driving and the pain of drug abuse. Despite the darker themes, “Pursuit of Happiness” remains one of Kid Cudi’s most popular and beloved songs.
3. “Day ‘N’ Nite” (A Kid Named Cudi, 2008)
“Day ‘N’ Nite” was the jam that catapulted Kid Cudi to fame, and it’s no wonder why. The song has a relatable quality that connects with people while still being incredibly catchy. It speaks to all the night owls out there who stay up late, smoking weed, and pondering their problems, many of which come from dysfunctional relationships. With this track, Kid Cudi was everyone’s pal, and it cemented his place in the limelight.
2. “Soundtrack 2 My Life” (Man on the Moon: The End of Day, 2008)
“Soundtrack 2 My Life” is a powerful song that captures Kid Cudi’s reckless lifestyle during that period of his life. The opening line, “I got 99 problems, and they all bitches,” is a clever reference to a Jay-Z lyric about having no problems with women. This song is a perfect example of the raw and honest storytelling that makes Kid Cudi’s music so compelling.
1. “Man on the Moon” (A Kid Named Cudi, 2008)
“Man on the Moon” is the quintessential Kid Cudi track. It embodies everything that people love about him and defines his entire persona. It’s no surprise that he named his entire album trilogy after this track.
In it, he talks about his creative process and his approach to music, as well as his outlook on life. He is open and vulnerable, showcasing his uniqueness, which is what makes him so beloved. As he says in the lyrics, he got the “last laugh”, and we can all see that years after the initial release of this song.