Photographs by Neil Van.
For Kid Cudi fans who made their way to Toronto’s Rebel to catch the rapper, his return with the Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin’ tour meant more than just another concert. Cudi created a space in rap by openly discussing the struggles of depression, suicide, and mental health, stories and music that resonated early on in his career. Though a consistent narrative across his albums, Man On The Moon: The End of Day and its sequel, Man On The Moon: The Legend of Mr. Rager, are particular works that stuck with fans because of the storytelling, disco-galactic sounds, and assurance. That’s why when Cudi announced late last year that he was going to go to rehab for suicide and depression treatment, there was a passionate, supportive response from fans who identified with his circumstances and acknowledged the role he played in their own lives; he provided solace. His struggles, were his fans struggles as well.
Nearly a year later, those supporters came out to celebrate Cudi’s ultimately positive turn, the love strong. Speaking on his own journey, Kid Cudi said, “I’m just focusing on myself, being healthier and happier, you know I’m the best I’ve been in a long time.” Standing there, amidst the hanging foliage adorning the stage, you could feel the love circulating back around.
Though newer fare from his sixth studio album Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin’ was known, there was a notable difference when older songs like “Marijuana” and “Mr.Rager” were pulled out, and made you wish for more of the old days. “Cudi Zone” erupted into rap-a-longs, with Cudi pointing the mic outwards because the audience carried the lyrics so well. After all, Cudi’s record “Day ‘N’ Nite” made its way around Toronto much earlier and faster than it did in the United States. Any less of a delivery would’ve been a serious disappointment.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case, especially throughout the heavy wave of classics that swept through in the last third of the show. Cudi jumped from “Memories” to “Day ‘N’ Nite”, then “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” to the unshakeable “Pursuit of Happiness”. “Father” was particularly striking, given that everyone from Kanye to Travis Scott to Chance the Rapper shared performances of The Life of Pablo standout in the last year. Seeing Kid Cudi sing his hook, and the words “I just wanna feel liberated”, was a quick but important moment. It reminded you that, in a year where we lost legends like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, artists and individuals who battled depression, that our struggles will always be a part of us; that hope is sometimes a hard thing to find, especially in the darkest of hours. But we can stretch our hands, and capture it, and perhaps manifest it into something better for ourselves. That’s how this Kid Cudi show felt.