‘A Man Named Scott’ Flips The Script On The Hip Hop Come Up Doc In An Honest And Refreshing Way

“I was suicidal and I was at a place where I was trying to plan it.” So admits Scott Mescudi aka Kid Cudi in his new documentary, A Man Named Scott currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Rare is the hip hop doc that features its protagonist exposing such raw emotion and vulnerability, but A Man Named Scott is anything but your typical hip hop doc and Kid Cudi has never been your typical hip hop artist.

A Man Named Scott charts Cudi’s rise from Cleveland kid with a dream to MySpace star with a mixtape, to becoming what friend and frequent collaborator Kanye West has referred to as, “the most important artist of the past ten years, the most influential,” and who Travis Scott has called, “my favourite artist of all time.” While the hip hop come up doc has been done many times before, it’s never been done quite like this. There are no montages featuring endless and enviable parties with bottles popping, no palatial purchases, and no parade of beautiful women. Instead, A Man Named Scott features a real and frank examination of mental health, the pressures of fame, substance abuse, and acknowledgment that it’s okay to not be okay all while defying conventional hip hop tropes.

Kid Cudi burst onto the scene in 2009 with his debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day. He had already earned a lot of attention for his mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, the year prior, and for his work on Kanye West’s 2008 genre-bending fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak. Cudi’s single Day “N” Nite released earlier was already a bonafide hit and the album went on to redefine what hip hop could be. Cudi sang about being a lonely stoner, sleepless nights, night terrors, realizing that “everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold,” and the seemingly endless and unattainable pursuit of happiness. If Kanye helped to introduce the idea of “emotional rap” with 808s, Cudi mastered it with Man on the Moon. His influence and impact is not lost on the artist, saying in the doc, “I felt like the rap game needed more of that. Now it’s like you can’t get a deal unless you sing and talk about your emotions. And we singlehandedly infected the industry with that shit in 2009.”

But while Man on the Moon‘s success should have sent Cudi well, over the moon, the doc spends a goodly amount of time exploring the deep depths of depression into which he sank, his addiction to drugs, his loneliness, inability to form healthy romantic relationships, his general unhappiness “people look up to me but I’m not a happy person. I felt like a fraud” and ultimately, his aforementioned suicidal ideation. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s an important one. While hip hop has certainly evolved since the nineties and early aughts (thanks in no small part to Kanye, Cudi, Drake and later “emo rap” artists like Lil Peep, and Juice WRLD) so much of the culture is still centered around braggadociousness and perpetuating toxic ideas around masculinity.

A Man Named Scott includes input not only from Cudi himself but from other artists and entertainers like Kanye West, ASAP Rocky, Lil Yachty, Timothée Chalamet, and Jaden and Willow Smith who all help to articulate and contextualize the importance of, not only Cudi’s music, but his candor around mental health. A clinical psychologist even weighs in with her expertise, putting Cudi’s struggles into context and makes them relatable to us non-famous folk. An unfortunate and inordinate amount of time is given to Cudi fan and friend, Shia LaBeouf, whose presence might not be so jarring and unwelcomed if we didn’t know what we know about his volatile and allegedly abusive relationship with FKA Twigs. It’s hard not to see the regrettable irony of Shia appearing in a doc so focused on mental health. You know what’s really bad for mental health? Being in an abusive relationship.

But our beef with LaBeouf aside, A Man Named Scott is the latest piece of pop culture to shatter the shiny celebrity sheen, puncturing the belief that money and fame can buy happiness, and offers an essential, and entertaining, continuation of the dialogue on the importance of mental health, particularly for men. Plus, it’s got the added bonus of featuring the music of Kid Cudi. Like a therapy session, A Man Named Scott is worth the investment of your time.

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