Kid Rock may be a rapper and a hip-hop artist, but he’s a rocker at heart.
“I’m rock ‘n’ roll,” the suburban Detroit native said recently. “I’m a rapper, but I play rock ‘n’ roll. I love the Wallflowers, but I don’t see them as rock ‘n’ roll. Matchbox 20 isn’t rock ‘n’ roll. I see Tupac as rock ‘n’ roll, I see Monster Magnet as rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the attitude.”
Kid Rock, born Bob Ritchie in the mostly white Detroit suburb of Romeo, Mich., has had plenty of attitude since the mid-1980s when he had a revelation at his first Beastie Boys concert.
“I used to be the one of the only white kids at all these rap shows,” he said, “and I remember walking into Cobo Hall and seeing these three white kids onstage and my heart stopped. It’s like, ‘Oh, my god, somebody beat me to it.’ I knew I had to do what they did but with my own touch.”
He had a conspicuous start in 1990 when “Yodeling in the Valley,” a track off his Jive Records debut album “Grits Sandwiches For Breakfast,” made national headlines. The Federal Communications Commission handed out the largest fine ever for a college radio station, $23,750, against WSUC-FM at the State University of New York at Cortland for airing the “obscene” song about oral sex.
2 Live Crew made a career out of that sort of notoriety, but the Cortland case – which eventually was thrown out – neither hurt nor helped Kid Rock’s career.
“It just gave everybody something to write about for a while,” Kid Rock said. “My feeling was, ‘If you don’t wanna hear that kind of song, turn the dial.’ I thought at the time, ‘This is sweet, I’m gonna sell some records.’ It didn’t.”
He didn’t give up. Kid Rock toured with such rap giants as Ice Cube and Too $hort and released two more albums and an EP through his Top Dog indie label before signing last year with Lava/Atlantic. His label debut, “Devil Without a Cause” (released Aug. 18), isn’t going to threaten the Beasties’ supremacy, but it does have its share of fist-pumpin’ anthems and rapid-fire rhymes, particularly the revved-up leadoff track “Bawitdaba.” Backed by his Twisted Brown Trucker band, he marches a hip-hop beat through rock-oriented twists and turns.
“I’m all over the place … country, rock, metal, rap, hip-hop,” Kid Rock said. “I’m into Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, all the outlaws. I also love Run-D.M.C. and Whodini, but I don’t go out of my way to be influenced by anything. Anything that hits me, I go for it, whether it’s country rock or hip-hop. I didn’t go out one day and say, ‘I want to listen to country music.’ It was just something came through in the course of my life and hit me. I listened to country music back then as much I did rap.”
Kid Rock had the time of his life during the recording sessions, which included a guest appearance by Detroit bluesman Robert Bradley (on “I Got One For Ya’ “), but when push came to shove, he took matters into his own hands.
“I basically finished the record in seven days,” he said. “I kicked everybody out of the studio, sent the producer home, locked myself in the room and did it all myself, after everybody had helped a whole lot, don’t get me wrong.
“I think I’ve gotten everything right finally. This is the best record I’ve made, even though there’s going to be even better ones to come. The timing’s right, with 311, Rage (Against the Machine) and the Beasties out there.”
BWF (before we forget): Rock with Kid Rock on the Web @ www.kidrock.com. … The Kid Rock album discography – “Grits Sandwiches For Breakfast” (Jive/RCA/Top Dog, 1990); “The Polyfuze Method” (Continuum/Top Dog, 1992); “Fire It Up” EP (1994); “Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp” (1996); “Devil Without a Cause” (Lava/Atlantic/Top Dog, 1998); “The History of Rock” (2000); “Cocky” (2001); “Kid Rock” (Atlantic, 2003); “Live Trucker” (2006).