A Man Named Scott begins by posing the question: Who is Kid Cudi? The question should have been, Who is Scott Mescudi?
Since the dawn of his career, we’ve received glimpses of Kid Cudi. We’ve gotten to understand the intuition surging within to create the music we love. But those glimpses of Scott were the subject of interviews and his online presence, which has allowed him to connect with fans and deliver connectivity through his struggles with depression and suicidal urges. And what Robert Alexander and Kid Cudi give us is a perplexing documentary that never knows what it wants to be – one minute, it touches on behind the scenes construction of the music in sync with Cudi’s mind – another minute it speaks on Scott Mescudi’s emotions within the rollercoaster of his career.
Split into two halves, A Man Named Scott does a decent job keeping itself focused and aligned with the mystique supposedly shrouding Kid Cudi. The journey starts with the music and ends with the person, but neither captures the essence of Cudi’s existence in pop culture and amongst his fans. Before the current trend of melodic drill and agro rap/hip-hop, some people weren’t privy to the kind of sing-song/rap hybrid that Cudi and Ye were trying to bring into the mainstream, and they explain the divide with hollow details – we never see the depth of influence Cudi’s sound had on a new generation of rap, except for a few clips and interview responses. It never goes beyond the broader scope of his influence, and it requires further research from the audience.
There must have been a lot left on the cutting room floor – tidbits that could have given the subject more dimension instead of just repeating the same things over and over – it’s a repetition of what has been said for years. I’m left wondering: what is the point of quick successions of interviews with people like a psychiatrist and the head of EPIC, who tell us what we already know? Fortunately, the editing gives A Man Named Scott a smooth progression that is interesting on the surface. There are some questionable interviewee choices like Timothee Chalamét and A$AP Rocky, adding nothing to the conversation. Rocky swiftly speaks on Cudi and the ambitious take on Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, while Chalamét (who shared an SNL episode with Cudi) speaks to the generation that grew up with Cudi; neither resonate as authoritative voices.
Schoolboy Q was another confusing interviewee. He talks about being a black sheep in hip-hop (at one point his version of gangster rap was outsider music), and was there to show that a tough hip-hop artist can respect another rapper keying in on his emotions. Kid Cudi’s music soars based on his moods exhumed through his melodies and words – it was outlandish for rappers to be in tune with their emotions, especially in Hip-hop as it was more a machismo-focused culture, and slowly it started breaking apart. His music personified his emotions which spoke to a larger audience that felt like the emotional connection with hip-hop was disappearing as pop hybrids were emerging with an influx of infectious production and flows and nonsensical/trite lyrics. The interviewees who try to bridge these ideas in hip-hop bring so little substance that you’re left wanting more, especially from Cudi’s longtime friend and early producer Dot Da Genius.
The best interviews came from Kanye West and producers like Emile Hayes and Jeff Bhasker. They act as the emotional gap that connects Cudi and his music, as they speak on the creation of music and the kinship/mentorship between their group. It adds a different perspective in these moments where the film contains the most focus. It includes the ending, despite skimming past the people his music helped, like myself, skimming past people saying he saved my life, he was going through the same shit, he understands me, and I’m suicidal, and his music got me out of this funk. This is an important facet of Cudi’s music, it’s unfortunate the documentary skims right through it.
A Man Named Scott is a run-of-the-mill documentary with a limited scope. It has enough for fans, but it never reaches further. It tries to subvert a few conventions between the narrative film structure and the more pragmatic editing of a documentary. For 94 minutes, you’ll be intrigued and entertained, but it doesn’t have the expansive emotional gravitas of Cudi’s TED Talk and discography delivers.