In Defense of Kid Rock: Try Hating These Classics
Kid Rock circa 1989
This Saturday, the Motor City's favorite cowboy Kid Rock plays New Jersey's PNC Bank Arts Center. He first Bawitdaba'ed into our hearts in the Spring of '99 during an impressive career-making performance during "MTV's Wanna Be a VJ Too" competition, and since then he's since gone 11 times platinum off of one album, stolen the show at Woodstock '99, briefly married Pamela Anderson, crossed over to a country audience and publicly endorsed both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. The "Devil Without a Cause" contains multitudes, and while he's understandably raised the ire of a wide-spectrum of listeners for one comment or another, his larger-than-life persona tends to overshadow his surprising longevity and proficient musicianship. In honor of this weekend's show, we decided to spotlight five examples of Rock's finer works so that, yes, even you might find something you legitimately enjoy in his catalog.
"Wax The Booty" 1990
A full decade before he was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy, Kid Rock released his debut album Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast on Jive Records. Rock, then with a flattop and opening for the likes of Ice Cube and Poor Righteous Teachers, was purely hip-hop in his earliest incarnation. His filthy mouth and penchant for storytelling made him a favorite of Too $hort, who took him on the road and produced a few songs for him, most memorably "Wax The Booty." More smooth and sinister than the record's other single "Yo-Da-Lin the Valley," it's a worthwhile tale of fornication from the era where sex in storytelling was king.
"Prodigal Son" 1993
After things didn't pan out for Rock on Jive, he went back to the drawing board and landed a deal with independent Detroit imprint Continuum Records. Still wildly popular in his hometown, Rock adopted a love and mastery of Paul's Boutique-esque sample-collage based production, beginning his approach's metamorphosis into painting with broad strokes of other genres in his work. While the record has some classic Detroit smack-talking like "Balls in Your Mouth" (a staple of Rock's live show for years to come) and invigorating sound collages on "Back From the Dead," you can hear the moment where Rock finally begins to find his voice on "Prodigal Son." Over a Zeppelin sample, Rock autobiographically describes the beginning of his quest to leave home to pursue music. In retrospect, the song today almost sounds like his outlaw manifesto.
"Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp" 1996
Detroit music has a long proud history of cross-genre influence. Prior to Kid Rock, Detroit's biggest rap artist was Esham the Unholy, whose entire career involved sampling from the darker and more aggressive areas of rock. By the mid-90s, a funk-blues-rock sound was spreading throughout the city, thanks to effortlessly cool groups like Howling Diablos. By now, Rock had become a multi-instrumentalist, and was incorporating all these elements and more into his third album Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp. The title track (which somehow wound up briefly in the movie Road Trip) captured the laid back pimp desperado persona that Rock had finally perfected. The reason the track works so well is because Rock's own love and incorporation of his musical references isn't rooted in a nostalgia or a "tribute," but rather in his actively engaging the elements he finds compelling into a wholly new hodgepodge of his own invention. Rock later re-recorded this for his History of Rock compilation, but awkwardly removed the Billy Ray Cyrus diss.