When Scott Mescudi, better known as musician Kid Cudi to most of the world, released his debut studio record “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” in 2009, the latter half of the album included a groovy love anthem called “Enter Galactic (Love Connection Part I).”
And though a sequel to the song never came out, Mescudi figured out an innovative way to dive back into the track’s affection-drenched world 13 years later. “Entergalactic” is both a new animated Netflix program — the streamer is calling it an “event” — as well as the title of his 10th studio album. As of Friday (Sept. 30), they’re both now available on their respective platforms.
“It’s exciting, like, never in my wildest dreams did I feel like I would revisit that song in any type of way,” Mescudi tells Variety over Zoom alongside co-star Jessica Williams. “It was something that I recorded years ago — sort of as a simple love song — but it was nice to expand upon its ideas and take it to other places, adding in characters and other storylines to see where it could go.”
On the television side, “Entergalactic” is a 92-minute special on Netflix that follows the stories of young creatives Jabari (voiced by Mescudi), an ambitious comic book artist, and Meadow (voiced by Williams), a thoughtful photographer, two next-door neighbors in New York City whose immediate chemistry sends them on a path toward fervent love — its euphoric highs and prickly tribulations chronicled along the way. Following Mescudi and Williams in their leading roles are supporting characters voiced by the likes of Timothée Chalamet, Laura Harrier, Vanessa Hudgens and more.
And on the music end, “Entergalactic” will be the tenured hip-hop musician’s first studio album since late 2020’s “Man on the Moon III: The Chosen.” The 15-track album boasts features from the likes of Don Toliver, 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign, with multiple cuts from the record essentially appearing throughout the event as its score and musical guiding light. One particular example of this comes when Jabari freezes as he lays eyes on Meadow for the first time — syrupy synths and classic Cudi croons usher in the song “Angel,” the lyrics of which (“You’re such an angel, in your halo, where’d you come from?”) mirror Jabari’s immediate first impression of his potential love interest.
The event’s plotlines, story beats and visual language were created around songs from the record, Mescudi explained, as he first recorded a few tracks for the album and had them in hand before Netflix greenlit production on the TV special. Of the unorthodox process of building the story out of the music first, executive producer Kenya Barris said that in 2019 — after hearing the music Mescudi had been working on — he was instantly sold on pushing the project idea to Netflix, where he then had an overall deal. (Barris officially parted ways with Netflix in January 2021.)
“He played me ‘Willing To Trust’ in the studio, and I lost my shit,” Barris said. “I immediately called the Netflix executives and asked if they could come down to the studio, and they bought in. It was an expensive project and a big undertaking for Netflix, but they have gotten behind it in an amazing way.”
The commonality between Barris and Williams in what attracted them to the project was Mescudi himself, whose musical resume alone has influenced a subgenre of hip-hop where melody and honest introspection became a source of power — rather than a sign of weakness — for the artists that have since followed him in that lane. Says Williams, “I signed up for the project because I’m a fan of Scott’s, both as a musician and artist, but also as an actor,” who paused her response to turn to him directly and tell him that he is a beautiful actor, much to his excitement.
“I try to take jobs where I’m excited about the person I’m acting with, so it was kind of a no-brainer,” Williams continued. “And on top of that, the super top secret email I got about the project had a 15-second music clip [another co-sign for ‘Willing To Trust’] that made signing on a ‘Hell yeah’ for me.”
The TV event also pays direct homage to late fashion designer Virgil Abloh, who died late last year of cancer, which he’d kept private. Mescudi was especially close to Abloh, whose streetwear designs permeated hip-hop culture just as much as it seeped into luxury high fashion spaces, and the late Off-White founder was tapped prior to his death to design wardrobe for the event’s animated characters to further distinguish its visual language. As a tribute to Abloh, a clear shot of his likeness on a billboard is displayed in full view during a scene, along with one poignant word: “ICON.”
“We didn’t know what was happening while it was going on, he was very quiet and worked through a lot of pain, but his talent just speaks for itself,” Barris said of Abloh’s contributions to “Entergalactic.” “He gave us something that will live forever.”
Holistically, of presenting “Entergalactic” both as a television event and studio album, Mescudi said the idea stemmed from a desire to push himself after feeling like he had hit a creative ceiling as a musical artist, opting to pursue previously uncharted territory with an animated story that was informed by his own music.
“After linking with the writers, talking about the story with them and piecing it all together, it was something I felt like I needed to invest all of my energy into,” Mescudi said. “Every script I read after that, I just saw the vision coming to life and I just felt really proud of it, and I knew we were onto something special.”