Kid Cudi is a hip-hop artist who has often been criticized for straying away from rap norms. His popular song, “Pursuit of Happiness”, is unique because it has two different music videos. In the first a common theme is seen on its surface, as Cudi is an attendee of a lavish party. The excess the party symbolizes, through its usage of alcohol and presentation of irresponsible behavior, is emphasized by the lyrics of the song itself. The attitude of living in the moment at first glance seems to be the deliberate message of the song.
A different perspective is approached in what is believed to be Cudi’s “secret music video.” The lyrics become increasingly morbid as Cudi is seen drifting along a dreamlike world only to continue to wakeup on his couch. His well-known troubled past is more obvious than in the first video through the lyrics of recklessness being not recklessness for the sake of really living, but a result of having nothing to live for.
Cudi questions what is meaningful in life, and it can determined by the end of both videos that he still has not found what is. A fan of Cudi for quite a while, I remember watching the second video for the first time and feeling daft for not having realized what the song had meant from the start. Many believe rap music encourages the idea of ignoring societal obligations and of doing whatever one wants to do because death is imminent. Usually it is hard to argue to the contrary, and with its catchy beat, “Pursuit of Happiness” could easily be thought of as any other rap song. It is only by delving deeper into the lyrics that the true meaning and its criticism on how society dictates one to live can be discovered.
Often one gets wrapped up in day-to-day pressures and can easily fall into believing the pursuit of wealth to be equated to the pursuit of happiness. The first video, a presentation of what money can bring, finishes with Cudi finding himself drunk and alone in a bathroom still searching for what makes him happy. The second shows the repetition of life, of getting up and looking for something though one might not be sure what it is. This search leads to repetitively being back in the same place, with the disorientation of realizing how meaningless everything is.
I have watched both music videos countless times by myself or alongside friends. Finding the second more cinematographically impressive, I have shown it to several people and wait to see whether they are equally as impacted by it as I am. Some have contented me with expressions of how great Cudi is, of how they have never thought of the song in that way. Others have simply said it is a strange video and changed it to a pop song. I oftentimes wonder if those who are not affected by the song and its message have already found the happiness Cudi is looking for, or whether they never even noticed its absence.
For me, I find a connection with Cudi as I watch him waking up on that couch time and time again. Repetition is possibly the strangest thing one encounters in life, everything being eerily cyclical when enough thought is put into recognizing it. In this song, the lyrics are not a promotion of angst or counterculture, but are an ode to the search for the exit from repetition. A pursuit to eliminate boredom, to find more meaning to life than what we have been programmed to believe is meaningful. I suppose the final question of this video is whether those who are not on a pursuit are living correctly. The often quoted, “Ignorance is bliss,” rings true to those who do not understand finding difficulty in not being bored by a regular life.