Sometimes it’s easy to forget about Kid Cudi and just write him off as another Kanye-808-inspired rapper, like Frank Ocean, Drake and The Weeknd. But that would be making a massive mistake. He’s an artist, visionary and style icon on par with Kanye West, Andre 3000 and so many more—a true style icon worthy of recognition.
Photo: Still image from How to Make it in America/HBO
Cudi’s style story starts early, almost as early as his rap career. Having dropped out of school, and not gotten into the Navy like he had planned, Cudi moved to the Bronx to start his rap career. It was there that he first saw BAPE, the legendary Japanese streetwear brand. Cudi says he “fell in love with BAPE because of their color selection and artwork,” which was unlike anything the American streetwear community was producing at the time.
Cudi applied to work at the New York BAPE store four times before he was finally hired. It was there he would start his rap career in earnest, and there that he’d meet Kanye West, who he’d eventually collaborate with.
Photo: Seher Sikandar
In 2008, Cudi dropped his A Kid Named Cudi mixtape, which finally established him as a star in the new wave of hip hop. With success at his doorstep, Cudi was finally able to indulge in the fashion which eluded him while he was hustling for minimum wage at the BAPE store.
During promos for his upcoming album, Cudi showed a taste for tastefully fitted streetwear, throwing himself firmly in between the Kanye and Wayne extremes of hip hop fashion. He didn’t need to wear jeans down to his knees, or thousand dollar suits from French designers. Cudi would rather wear stuff he’s comfortable in, and that he thinks looks good.
Photo: Dana Beveridge/Creative Commons
Later in 2008, Day ‘n’ Nite—Cudi’s breakout hit—dropped and the music video introduced America to a stylish kid from Cleveland with a taste for colourful clothes and electronic-inspired beats. His debut album met critical acclaim, but all through it all, Cudi never strayed far from his streetwear roots, continuing to rep brands like BAPE and 10.DEEP but mixing it up with high fashion brands like Rodarte and the like.
In 2010, Cudi was cast in the HBO series How to Make it In America, as Domingo, a smooth-talking friend of the main characters, sporting a taste for, you guessed it, BAPE. Though the show was cancelled after just two seasons, Cudi earned a lot of critical admiration for his top notch acting job.
Since then, Cudi’s continued to grow by leaps and bounds as an artist, developing a reputation as one of the most original, influential and varied artists working in hip hop today. On the style front, he’s earned admiration from all sides of the fashion spectrum, from Marc Ecko’s Complex
, to GQ
. He’s Kid Cudi, and he’s a true style icon.