After over a decade, NIGO® and Kid Cudi have inspired many of the biggest names in music, fashion, and pop culture. But how did they do it, and what’s next? The two cultural icons get together for the first time since they met 11 years ago and open up about their beginnings, new projects, and legacy.
Kid Cudi was 20 years old when he decided to leave his hometown of Cleveland and move to New York City. He had tried college for a year, but wasn’t feeling it, and even considered joining the Navy, though that didn’t work out, either. Ultimately, he wanted to pursue music, and craved an environment where he could “grow and meet interesting people.” New York, he thought, could be that place.
So one day he bought a one-way ticket to New York, packed up his things—clothes, sneakers, the demo he made in college, and $500 in cash—and left. It wasn’t easy. He still remembers the day his mom dropped him off at the airport. “She was crying,” Cudi recalled during his TEDx talk in 2015. “She was giving me a hug at the airport and leans in and goes, ‘I can always turn back around and we can go back home. You can change your mind. Everything will be fine.’” But Cudi stuck to his guns. “I was on a mission,” he added. “It was bigger than just wanting to be a musician or do movies. It was about finally showing the world what Scott could do.”
Except things didn’t immediately pop off for him. His first few jobs in New York were in retail—at American Apparel, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Dean & DeLuca. He held most of the jobs just to cover his bills and studio time. But there was one that Cudi, to this day, calls a “dream job.”
Shortly after relocating to New York, Cudi learned about A Bathing Ape, the wildly popular and exclusive Japanese brand founded by NIGO® in 1993, and fell in love with its loud graphics and bright colors. At the time, Bape’s two-story, million-dollar flagship in SoHo—the label’s first store outside of Japan, a strategic move by the designer to expand his empire internationally—had just opened in 2004. Cudi desperately wanted to work there, so he applied. And then applied again. And again. Until he finally got hired in 2008.
At the time, Cudi was so broke he didn’t have a bank account (he used his mom’s instead). And for the first few weeks on the job, he wore the same outfit every day or borrowed clothes from co-workers. It didn’t matter, though; he was just happy to be there. “I didn’t own anything [Bape] prior to being hired,” he told Hypebeast. “So it was a dream come true to be able to work at the store I dreamed of shopping in one day.”
But Cudi’s stint at Bape wouldn’t last long. The year before, while he still worked at Abercrombie & Fitch, he met Dot da Genius through a co-worker. They clicked instantly and began making music together, including what wound up being Cudi’s first single, “Day ‘N’ Nite.”
Hello, my name is Christopher Kenji. I’m a 24-year-old singer-songwriter, graduate of Berklee College of Music and a print/runway model.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO BOTH MUSIC AND MODELING? Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve always had a deep passion for music. I picked up the guitar when I was about 10 years old and fell in love — I would spend all my free time playing and writing music (sometimes seven hours a day until my fingers hurt and I couldn’t play anymore). Music has always been and will always be my biggest passion in life; there’s nothing that compares to performing on stage, wearing your heart on your sleeve with your lyrics and melodies and having people connect with you so purely and intimately. Before anything else, I am first and foremost a musician.
As for modeling, it’s kind of funny — I never in a million years ever thought I would become a male model. I know a lot of people grow up having dreams of becoming a supermodel and living that glamorous lifestyle or something but that was never me as a kid. Growing up, I never really thought of myself as a physically attractive person; if anything, I was told the opposite at times so it’s still kind of surreal to me when I think about it. Anyway, my modeling journey started last September when I was at my friend’s show in LA and he introduced me to a woman there who happened to have spent years working in the fashion industry (little did I know, she would go on to become my mentor). She told me that I should become a model and I kind of laughed it off at first but then I realized she was actually very serious about it. I was kind of tipsy at the time, but I told her I guess I could give it a shot and she held me to it.
She then signed me up for a runway show casting in San Francisco. I went, got placed in two shows and ended up being awarded best model of 2018. They made me make a speech in front of the whole audience and it was one of the few moments in my life where I was truly and utterly dumbfounded. It almost felt like the world was playing a big joke on me but it wasn’t a joke; it was real. Having that experience really gave me the motivation to seriously pursue modeling and ever since then, it’s become a huge part of my life.
DO YOU DO ANYTHING SPECIFIC TO KEEP UP YOUR APPEARANCE FOR MODELING?
Yes, I actually kind of changed my life for modeling. I treat modeling like a job now because, well… it is my job. So, that means I can’t just make poor lifestyle choices all the time anymore. I remember getting an interview with IMG Models in New York City, which was pretty much the biggest interview of my entire life and asking my mentor what I should do to prepare. The first thing she told me was to completely cut out booze for the two weeks before I met with them. I said to her, “I’ll cut it out after tonight when I’m done performing at the bar” and she said “no, cut it out starting right now”. I remember feeling super weird playing 100% sober to a packed crowd of wasted people that night but it really taught me something. After just four days, I noticed that I looked and felt better than I had in literally years. Nowadays, I don’t drink alcohol, don’t eat sugar, I work out super hard in the gym at least 3-4 days a week, I don’t drink any caffeine and I take ice cold showers to wake myself up every morning. Despite it seeming like I gave up all the things that I love in life, as a byproduct, I feel the most healthy and confident in myself that I have ever been. To me, that’s the most rewarding feeling of all.
DID YOU ALWAYS BOTH SING AND PLAY GUITAR OR DID ONE COME AFTER THE OTHER?
No, I used to never sing. I was terrified of the idea. I remember specifically not applying to a music school I was really interested in because they required all of their students to sing. Singing always really fascinated me but I was always too nervous to try to do it myself. When I first ever tried to sing, I immediately realized my voice was weird. An astounding majority of the famous male vocalists we all know and love such as Freddy Mercury, Michael Jackson, Sting, Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, etc. are all tenors with very beautiful, clear, high-pitched voices. I am basically the complete opposite (a bass/baritone with a very low, gritty voice) and I found out pretty quickly that I would never sound like any of them no matter how hard I tried.
It took me a long time to really find my voice. When I finally first gathered up the courage to start singing in front of people, I remember getting comments like, “you’re good at guitar, I think you should stick to that” and whatnot. It was a lot of work behind the scenes to get my singing to where it is today but it’s interesting —the qualities of my voice that I used to view as imperfections are now often the things that people tell me they like most about my voice. It’s crazy how things work out like that ––I’ve come to realize that sometimes a lot of the things in life that seem like curses really are just blessings in disguise. DO YOUR TATTOOS HAVE MEANINGS? IF SO, WHAT DO THEY SYMBOLIZE?
Yes, all of my tattoos have meanings. I’m a very OCD person and all of my tattoos are organized. The right side of my body reflects my internal qualities (my birth name, birth year/place and birth order) and the left side of my body reflects my external qualities (my music and my martial arts). On my right side: being a quarter Japanese, I have my Japanese middle name “Kenji” (which translates to ‘healthy; rule’) on my right upper arm. I was born in New York City in 1994 and when I was in New York last year, I got that tattooed on my right forearm. I’m also the oldest of three boys and under my right collarbone, I have an arrow with three circles in it symbolizing me and my brothers; the biggest circle represents me (the oldest) and the other two smaller circles represent my two younger brothers.
As for my left side: I have a guitar fretboard which symbolizes my passion for guitar/music on the back of my left forearm ––pretty self-explanatory. And lastly, after training three days a week for 14 years, I wanted to have something on my body representing my black belt in mixed martial arts, so on my left shoulder, I have a rising sun blended with an American flag, which is a symbol that was on the wall of my martial arts studio all the years I trained there.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST GOAL FOR THE FUTURE?
The short simple answer is that I just want to be a rockstar — not going to lie that would be pretty cool. But really, the bigger answer is I want to create art that brings people together. It’s so easy to feel lonely and lost in this world and I hope to make art that helps people feel less alone and inspires them to use their own voice and be heard. When you feel like no one in the world understands you or knows what you’re going through and you hear that one song that just somehow you gets you when no one else does ––a song from a person you’ve never even met but who’s music and lyrics help you know that they’re there living somewhere in this same, big world as you and they feel it too; that’s power. It could also be a character from a story you connect with or a piece of art — it’s something bigger than you or me or anyone.
That’s the reason I chose to be an artist. If I could just even make one person’s life a little bit better or inspire them to express their own individuality whether that be through my music, fashion/modeling work, art, etc., it would make my purpose feel served. I would rather have one person really connect with my art and be invested in what I am trying to say than a million people who don’t really care that much. I’ll either shoot for the stars or die trying but I refuse to be mediocre — that’s how it’s always been and that’s how it’ll always be for the future!
Cardi B‘s legal troubles may have become much more serious.
On Friday, the Grammy-winning rapper appeared in Queens Supreme Court for the first day of her misdemeanor assault trial. Cardi is accused of ordering an attack on two bartenders at a Queens strip club back in August 2018. The alleged victims were sisters Baddie Gi and 6ix9ine‘s current girlfriend Jade. Both women claim they received threats from Cardi after she accused Jade of sleeping with her husband, Offset. Jade said she repeatedly denied the affair. Police say Cardi and her crew got into a physical altercation with the sisters while they were working at the Flushing strip club. Chairs, bottles, and hookah pipes were allegedly thrown at the complainants, resulting in slight injuries. Cardi was ultimately arrested on misdemeanor assault and reckless endangerment charges. She rejected a plea deal in mid-April, after her attorneys insisted she did not harm anyone during the incident.
Prosecutors announced Friday the case would be presented to a grand
jury, which means Cardi’s charges could potentially be upgraded. State
attorneys told TMZ they made the decision “after further investigation,” but did not reveal details of their findings.
According the Associated Press, the district attorney’s office had originally asked Cardi to return to court on Monday, but they pushed back the date to Aug. 9 after the rapper’s legal team cited scheduling conflicts.
Whether you’re a new user of the music-streaming service or a playlist pro, these tips will improve your next listening session.
Apple’s music-streaming service reportedly has more paying subscribers in the US now than Spotify does, but there’s no doubt that Spotify is still the global leader in streaming music—and Spotify has been a multiplatform service since it first launched in 2008. Which is why it’s unforgivable that Spotify’s user experience can be so confusing. Finding a specific album or playlist or mood on Spotify is about as enjoyable as doing taxes: The reward can be sweet, but the journey is onerous.
This is a guide to using Spotify. It will help you maximize the benefit of that monthly subscription fee (assuming you’ve gone ad-free), so you won’t feel, like one of my WIRED colleagues, that you’re only taking advantage of 5 percent of the features of the app. Even if you’ve been using Spotify since day one, there might be something in here that will become your new favorite streaming feature.
Note: Some, but not all, of the features described here are only available to Spotify subscribers.
How to Find Songs, Albums, and Playlists This part is pretty simple. When you open the Spotify mobile app, you’ll see three tabs at the bottom: Home, Search, and Your Library. Tapping on Search lets you search for artists, songs, or podcast titles. You can specify which of those categories you’re looking for when you punch in your initial query, but Spotify does a lot of the sorting for you. For example, if you type in “Dirty Computer,” which is both the name of an album and a song on the album, the album will pop up first. If you’re not searching for something in particular, you don’t need to enter a specific search term. Just tap on Search and select from a variety of different categories and subcategories representing your top four genres. If you scroll down to Browse All, you can find playlists determined by mood (“All the Feels”), occasion (“Workout”), even TV show and movie soundtracks (Bohemian Rhapsody). If you’re looking for playlists you’ve carefully crafted or saved, you’ll want to navigate out of Search and go to the Your Library tab on the bottom right.
What’s “Your Library”? Good question! Your Library is everything you’ve saved on Spotify—your playlists, the streaming radio stations you’ve followed, the songs you’ve downloaded, and the artists and albums that comprise your saved stuff. It’s also another avenue into songs you’ve recently played, though these will appear near the bottom of the mobile page as smallish album thumbnails. (Under the Home tab, recently played albums appear right at the top, and they’re hard to miss.) There is a very important distinction, though, between your saved items and downloaded items. Saved means that you’ve earmarked it so that it appears in Your Library, thereby making it easy to find later on. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your songs have been downloaded and can be played offline. For more on downloading content, see “Make Offline Listening Your Friend” (below).
Work Playlists Like a Pro Playlists are by far the most appealing part of using Spotify. The company pumps out dozens of genre- or mood-specific playlists. They’re both human- and algorithmically generated, and their influence over the music industry has evolved to the point where being included on a popular Spotify playlist can make or break an artist’s career. Users spend around half their time on Spotify listening to either the curated playlists or ones of their own creation. But at the same time, playlists can be the most frustrating part of the Spotify experience. Making your own playlist is straightforward: On the mobile app, go to Your Library, then Playlists, and then tap on the giant green Create Playlist tab. Once you have a playlist titled and created, you can tap on any individual song or album, look for the ellipses on the right, and quickly add that content to an existing playlist. This experience is similar on a PC; the New Playlist button lives on the bottom left-hand side of the desktop app. Likewise, adding a preexisting playlist to your favorites is dead simple: Find a playlist, hit Follow, and it will then be accessible via Playlists in Your Library.
Other playlist features aren’t so simple. For example, you can stack album after album in a playlist, but you can’t do that from within the playlist itself, where Spotify will encourage you to search for individual songs. Instead, you’ll have to search for the album you want to add, then tap on the “more options” ellipses in the upper right-hand corner, and choose to add to a playlist from there. You can also make playlists collaborative so you and your friends can all add songs, but this is at least a two-step process. On the playlist you want to invite your friends to join, first go into the options—tap that ellipsis—and choose to make it collaborative (which is somehow different from making it public). Then, open the options menu a second time, tap Share, and share the playlist with anyone you’d like. When I shared a playlist with a WIRED colleague, he had to save the playlist to his own library first, and only then could he start adding stuff—so that’s good advice to pass along to the friends you’re inviting. Also, on mobile it’s not obvious who’s contributing to a collaborative playlist; the desktop Spotify app will show you who added which songs.
Make Offline Listening Your Friend Spotify makes it easy for you to download any song in its massive library to your phone. That way, you can listen to music even without a data or Wi-Fi connection. Remember when I mentioned earlier that saving something to your library is different from downloading your content? More times than I care to admit, I’ve saved songs but failed to take advantage of Spotify’s offline listening before boarding a long flight or embarking on a remote road trip. The crucial difference is that when you save something, it bookmarks it but leaves it in the cloud. You won’t be able to listen to anything that’s saved when you go offline. This is the part where you can learn from my mistakes: Download your favorite playlists now. Right now. Go do it. Go to a playlist, look for the Download option right at the top of the playlist (you really cannot miss this), and tap the toggle. That’s it. You’re done. A green downward arrow icon will appear next to any playlist that’s available for offline listening. If you want the option to download playlists when you’re not connected to a stable Wi-Fi connection, even though that will eat up a portion of your monthly cellular data, go to Settings, then Music Quality, and navigate to Download. Opt into Download Using Cellular (it should be the last option on the page on mobile), and you’re ready to scramble to download a playlist with two bars of service just before takeoff.
Downloading works for nearly anything on Spotify—not just playlists, but also albums, podcasts, and individual songs.
Up the Streaming Quality—or Turn It Down Speaking of music quality, you can adjust the bitrate of your audio streams within Settings as well. You can also fine-tune things like volume level or the treble and bass, although these options are within the Playback tab in settings, not under Music Quality.
The options for audio quality range from 24 kilobits per second up to 320 kbps. A normal rate is considered 96 kbps, and that level of quality doesn’t sound fantastic. If you’re dissatisfied with Spotify’s audio quality, bump this setting up until it sounds good to you. If sound quality isn’t that important to you, and streaming at a high bitrate just isn’t an option because of your concerns about cellular data usage, then you can instead opt into something in Settings called Data Saver. Spotify just introduced this last summer, and it streams your music at the low end, 24 kbps, when the only option is streaming over cellular. Once you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, your audio quality will be bumped up to a normal level again.
How to Let Everybody Know You’re Going Through a Breakup If you’ve never dug into Spotify’s social settings, then you might be horrified to learn that Spotify sets your music listening habits to public by default. And, while the service offers a Private Session option, that defaults back to public listening after you’ve been inactive for six hours. Unfortunately, while there are some options for keeping certain activities private, there aren’t any options for blocking people from viewing your profile. This is a serious fail on Spotify’s part at a time when privacy concerns are at the forefront of every conversation about popular tech services, and when people are literally being harassed on its platform. There are some ways to work around it, though. The first and absolutely least user-friendly approach is to turn on Private Session every single time you open the app. The second is to create “secret” playlists, and only listen to those—just know that any public playlists you’ve created or joined will still be visible unless you go in and change the playlists’ privacy settings. The third option is to refuse to use Spotify entirely, which we won’t blame you for. There are other streaming music options, even if they don’t all offer a free tier. Let Spotify Do the Work for You Assuming you’re still hooked on Spotify, you’ll want to take advantage of the playlists that Spotify assembles specifically for you, which can offer a more robust experience than putting together playlists yourself. The very top entry within Your Library is a section called Made for You, which includes a weekly playlist, a roundup of new releases Spotify thinks you should have on your radar, and a series of daily mixes that are heavily influenced by the stuff you’ve already been listening to. An annual playlist that highlights the top songs you listened to during the calendar year could serve as a pleasant trip down memory lane, the audio equivalent of “one year ago” apps—or a reminder to book your next therapy appointment. Still, these algorithmically created Spotify playlists are a great way to veer just slightly out of your comfort zone and expand your music listening. And isn’t that the point of paying $10 a month for a music service—not just to move to the sound of your own familiar drum but to discover a new kind of beat?
Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status. (Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage” shirt, as it was under his jacket.)
Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status.
(Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by
name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage”
shirt, as it was under his jacket.) Following his release on bond after
nine days in custody, the British-born, Atlanta-raised musician says he
honestly wasn’t bothered by the fact most of his peers didn’t offer any
verbal support. “Nah, I was stressed about getting out,” he tells the
New York Timesin a new interview. “The Grammys is the Grammys, but when you in jail, the Grammys is nothing.”
don’t care what nobody say — everybody in that building who’s connected
to this culture, I was on their mind in some type of way,” 21 Savage
continues. “That’s all that mattered. They didn’t have to say it ’cause
everybody knew it. It was in the air. All the people that was there,
they said the words in other places and that matter just as much. All
the big artists was vocal about the situation, so I was appreciative.”
Instead, the rapper, who says he became aware he lacked legal status as a teen, “probably like the age when you start to get your driver’s license,” after overstaying his visa, is focused on staying in the country. “My situation is important ’cause I represent poor black Americans and I represent poor immigrant Americans,” he says. “You gotta think about all the millions of people that ain’t 21 Savage that’s in 21 Savage shoes.” He is currently reportedly waiting for an expedited hearing. Oh, and despite how hard you all went, 21 Savage says he even liked your memes about how British he is. Or, at least, he acknowledges them. “Some of them was funny — I ain’t gonna lie,” he jokes. “I was appreciative of that.