When Kid Cudi’s first hit, 2009’s “Day ‘N’ Nite,” introduced listeners to the Cleveland-based singer’s sonic universe – its deceptively uptempo production, its melancholic lyrics, its rhythmic and engaging vocal delivery – the song’s popularity underlined a much greater movement in pop and an energy that still ripples through contemporary music.
“Day ‘N’ Nite,” which would eventually appear on Cudi’s era-touchpoint debut Man on the Moon, plainly showcases Kid Cudi’s emotional musical blueprint. He wrote “Day N Nite” in 2006, after the passing of his uncle, New York-based jazz drummer Kalil Madi. Around that time, Cudi crashed with his uncle in the Bronx, and a rift grew between the family members. They avoided one another, leading Cudi to the vampiric lifestyle alluded to on “Day N Nite.” When Madi died, Cudi felt immediate regret that he hadn’t repaired the relationship, an ache that he crystallizes on “Day ‘N’ Nite.”
Cudi couches these feelings of loneliness and ambition within a total earworm. He weaves through the song’s glowing, descending loop, dispensing his world-weary ideology; “I look for peace, yet I don’t attain,” Cudi sings. Everyone else might be having fun, but he sure isn’t.
“Day ‘N’ Nite” is Cudi, distilled: his downcast moods and textures, paired with dramatic, moving production techniques. In a pop landscape filled with hedonistic party anthems like LMFAO’s “Shots,” Cudi’s music represented a more thoughtful and existential alternative.
“Day ‘N’ Nite” represents one of the earliest viral hits, a song that took years to hit the pop mainstream. Initially uploaded to MySpace in 2007, it rose to prominence through the slow trickle of blog pickups, culminating in a tailor-made party edit by the bloghouse collective Crookers. The song reached No.5 on the Billboard charts, Cudi’s highest-ever chart position. “Day N Nite” was music for the internet, by the internet, a Trojan Horse for Cudi’s singular musical instinct.”
Cudi’s honest, heart-on-his-sleeve approach resonated with millions of young Americans, many of whom felt the sting of a global recession and needed an artist to relate to. A cult fanbase was born, one that has kept in lockstep with Cudi’s music career across two decades.
Cudi would go on to be one of the most important artists of the modern era, connecting a searing emotionality to the depth of his referential music. Many of Cudi’s songs contain the flavor of classic rock – Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd – sounds he seamlessly updates with drum-heavy rap production. As the 2010s arrived, Cudi would explore other avenues for his broad vision, including acting (HBO’s How to Make It in America) as well as the side project WZRD, Cudi’s formal foray into the rock category.
“Day ‘N’ Nite” is now remembered as one of the most arresting breakthroughs of the late ‘00s. No doubt encouraged by his then-mentor Kanye West, Cudi broke the mold for what a rapper could sound like, and what dimensions of their personality they could communicate. Following West’s 808s and Heartbreak, “Day N Nite” represents Cudi taking the baton and creating intense, emotional pop music that would inspire a whole new generation of artists, performers like Travis Scott, Tyler the Creator, Juice WRLD, Lil Peep, A$AP Rocky, and many others.