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Kid Cudi Opens Up About Mental Health With Jada Pinkett Smith & Willow Smith
Rapper Kid Cudi rose swiftly into the spotlight with his GRAMMY-nominated debut single "Day 'N' Nite" in 2008, along with a budding friendship with Kanye West, who signed him to his G.O.O.D. Music label that year. Fast-forward to 2018, with plenty more successes under his belt, Cudi has revealed that at one point he was silently—yet deeply—struggling through it.
"I was very good at keeping my troubles hidden. Even from my friends, I was really good at that," Cudi shares in a recent conversation on "Red Table Talk," a Facebook Watch show hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, along with her daughter, Willow Smith, and mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris. The topic of discussion was mental health, with Cudi sharing his personal struggles with stress, depression and substance abuse, and how he was finally able to heal.
The episode, titled "Confronting Mental Illness," opened with a discussion with the three generations of women, who brought in Cudi as their special guest. As he sat down, Jada shared how special it was to see one of the artists her children looked up to (including Willow, who has put out two albums of her own) live up to his name.
In turn, Cudi revealed how he felt pressure to be someone people could look up to, which caused him to feel he didn't have space for how he really felt.
"It's like my life was like this show and I was always supposed to be on, but when the show was over I was completely miserable. For a long time I was not happy when I woke up in the morning," the rapper said. "It took me a minute to realize there was something going wrong with me."
He shared that he had struggled with drug use when he first was in the public eye, and quit after getting arrested in 2010. When the spotlight came for him in 2008, he felt new stresses and had no outlet for his emotions, nor did he feel like he had anyone to really help him through this new lifestyle in a healthy way.
"Being famous…was weird for me early on. It happened really fast for me, and nobody coached me, no mentorship, I was just kinda in it. I was a kid. 23, 24 is still a kid…it was like, 'Oh, maybe if I try drugs I can be okay,'" Cudi explained.
He also shared that he always hid his drug use from everyone in his life, and in addition to feeling pressure to keep up his image as "everybody's hero," he also kept his struggles to himself "because I was ashamed." This led to a rollercoaster of bottled emotions, secret on-and-off drug use and deep levels of unhappiness. He said that by 2016 "when I wasn't at work it was a nightmare. So I used drugs again."
Jada asked if he thought he had been using drugs to try to manage the depression, to which Cudi agreed, and revealed he eventually reached a breaking point which led him to find help where he could face his pain head-on. "[Rehab] finally helped me talk through it…I don't think I ever really did that in my life. I never really thought about 'Well, why am I depressed?'"
Towards the end of the conversation Willow tearfully brought up young people dying, like the late rapper Mac Miller: "So many young people are just dying because of trying to satiate those emotions with drugs."
Cudi's story is triumphant and points to the struggle so many young people in the public eye and the music industry face. It also demonstrates how artists’ honesty about their pain can not only help them process, but it can help others struggling with depression and addiction relate as well.