A Man Named Scott is a vanity project doc that pushes a hip hop-savior narrative at the expense of any meaningful substance or study.
If you were listening to rap music in the mid-2000s, chances are that Kid Cudi saved your life. Not in a literal sense — he’s not a doctor by night, rapper by day — but the vulnerability he expressed in his music made listeners feel seen when it seemed like nobody else cared; as his former label boss Kanye West puts it, it’s “healing music.” It’s a powerful statement that speaks to the degree that the Cleveland rapper has been able to connect to his fans on an almost spiritual level, even as critics have rarely seen much merit to the famous hummer’s musical output. To the former, he’s something of a Christ figure, one whose career has been resurrected a few times over in equally impressive fashion; to the latter, he’s been running on creative fumes for a while now. If you were to buy into the narrative that Robert Alexander’s A Man Named Scott is attempting to sell — which is an affair strictly for said fans — then you’d have to believe that Kid Cudi is the greatest and most inspirational musical genius of the last few decades. This isn’t a matter of opinion; it’s practically a prerequisite for watching; as we’re told several times by several different voices (including an insufferable Shia LaBeouf), it’s not Cudi that’s ever the problem, it’s you for not seeing the vision. If you couldn’t already tell, this is the type of documentary about making art that heavily pushes the naïve idea that being creative is a wholly noble cause that must always be praised.
Along with accepting this already shoddy thesis statement, one must also share the opinion that his debut album, 2009’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day, is a game-changing masterpiece that will forever stand the test of time. That’s at least what the cavalcade of celebrity talking heads constantly reaffirm every time they get to speak (A$AP Rocky looks super sleepy as he compliments the titular Scott; Timothée Chalamet, the whitest person here, shows up to discuss Cudi’s “relatability”), including not one, but both of Will and Jada Smith’s offspring paying lip service. It’s also what Cudi himself probably believes: he’s credited as an executive producer on the documentary — always a tell-tale sign that things will totally be as objective as possible, definitely not a vanity project — and to some degree seems to trust his own abilities enough to legitimately relish the sentiment, considering the making of this supposed opus takes up most of the film’s runtime. Truth be told, the main pitch here does carry some validity: Cudi’s artistic influence over the last ten years is undeniable, heard most prominently in the moody music of Travis Scott (who’s seen twice, yet not actually interviewed). As Cudder puts it, you now need to sing about your feelings to get on the Billboard charts. But it’s a sentiment that feels flimsy the further things drag on, as Cudi’s remaining discography is quickly discussed with little depth — his infamous Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is all but ignored, written off as “a dark time” in his life — making it blatantly apparent that the majority of his cultural impact could be easily reduced to only one album in the grand scheme of things. But as Cudi expresses at one point, he isn’t concerned about petty things like his legacy (which is why he’s in and exec-producing a documentary about his career, sure) or commercial viability. He’s here for the ones who need him most: internet teens and twenty-somethings (like Pete Davidson), all of whom will gladly buy whatever their hip-hop savior is trying to peddle to them.
You can currently stream Robert Alexander’s A Man Named Scott on Amazon Prime Video.