Kid Cudi wants audiences to know that his current project WZRD -- which just released its self-titled set -- is not a side project. However, it seems his problem with Universal Republic is that the "weak ass label" is treating it as though it were a side project.
WZRD is a collab between Cudi and Dot da Genius, who has worked with the rapper-slash-rocker since 2006.
Kid Cudi Tweeted some dismay this week that Universal only shipped 55,000 units of "WZRD" to physical retailers. In a series of Tweets:
Ok so just a heads up, my weak ass label only shipped 55k physicals cuz they treated this like some indie side project tax [sic] right off.
So i apologize on behalf of my weak ass major label. And I apologize for the lack of promo, again, my weak ass major label
They tried to rush me thru this so i can just give em another MOTM ["Man on the Moon"], but guess what? F*ck that, next album is WZRD. MOTM3 on hold til 2014
So its def gonna be tough to find one in the stores guys, I'm sorry about that.
Im lettin Universal Republic have it, f*ck it. What they gon' do, spank me?? hahahaha
AND Teleport 2 Me, Jamie aint on the radio!!!! like helloooooooooo????? HIT HIT HIT!!
Cudder (real name: Scott Miscudi) was also driven to shaming some talkative attendees at the "WZRD" listening party in New York last week.
"When two individuals who are putting their life out there through song and they ask for your attention, you give it to them," Cudi told the crowd. "You came here for a purpose... to hear our music. So f*cking listen to it because we're trying to educate you on what we're doing... it's as simple as that!"
Hey, I'd hate that too, if it happened to me. But aside from his fans' inattentions at that event, Kid Cudi seems to be suffering from unrealistic expectations. Below, I outline some problems I see with his expressed misgivings:
1) It's hard to get a hip-hop following to follow you to rock. Look at Universal labelmate Lil Wayne and "Rebirth." That album sold a fraction of what his rap efforts did, and Weezy is one of the biggest names in pop recording today. Kid Cudi has plenty of rock influences in his hip-hop records, but that's what "Man on the Moon: The End of Day" and "Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager" were: hip-hop records. He's picked up guitars at his concerts, but that's not what he's known for. He may want to "educate" listeners on expanding the boundaries of guitar and urban music, but they're not forced to go there with him. Lil Wayne may start skating on a half-pipe at his shows, but that's not why folks are there.
2) Even for hip-hop fans who go with him there, they'd have to have enough exposure to the name WZRD. That wasn't even the final name for the duo until the latter half of 2011, and he'd already changed the name once. Nobody knows who Dot da Genius is, so that doesn't help with two parties earning the one visibility. WZRD wasn't mentioned through Cudi's other Twitter handle; it's being promoted by Kid Cudi himself as something different than Kid Cudi. If that's his game, how could Universal help but follow suit and treat it as a separate entity?
3) Breaking through to rock audiences from scratch is hard. Cudi earned his name because of his "alternative" status, with some material veering outside the normal rap zone. Same goes for rock listeners, and going to where they are. Certainly, it was up to Universal Republic to promote and market partly to rock audiences with this Pixies and Nirvana-inspired effort, but it's not like "Teleport 2 Me, Jamie" was going to be an instant radio hit. Has Cudder even looked at a commercial radio playlist recently?
4) There is no such thing as Universal releasing an "indie" side project. WZRD would probably do better in the hands of an indie, considering the genre and the listenership. It was up to Cudi to sign the line to a label that will support his creative endeavors no matter the genre. Universal isn't a non-profit organization: of course they want albums that sell in excess of 100,000 copies in their early weeks of release, which MotM I and II did. They've done their research...
5) …and according to a report, the number of physical copies that Universal shipped was realistic. Billboard spoke to retail experts, who agreed that buyers would be split between digital and brick-and-mortar purchase, and 55,000 sounds about right. Of course, if Universal put a ton of cash and a few extra months out for WZRD, then those numbers would be better. You could say that about any album. But Universal knows where the money's at. Cudi said that promo and release was rushed, but he at no point mentioned that its quality was compromised, only its sales. (Consider, too, it leaked six days out from release.) Cudi wants to cash a fat paycheck as much as Universal does, but the latter has done the numbers crunch and wanted to move forward, regardless of how good an album it is.
I'm not condoning how traditional major labels do business and treat art and artists. I like "WZRD," though I feel it could have been a little fleshier, a little more developed. It is a perfectly fine album, and if you like your garage rock a little loopy and you love Cudi's voice and raps, you give it a try. I'd hate to think that someone who wants to buy it would have trouble finding it (though look at what consumers have done to the consolidation of record stores already).
However, Cudi's expectations and complaints are shaped by his passion for this project, without similar consideration of its logistics. Now he's telling his fans what to expect, if he has his way: more WZRD, less MotM.