Kid Rock's Early Days:
Kid Rock exploded onto the scene in the late 1990s, but it took almost a full 10 years for his ascension to stardom. He was born Robert James Ritchie in a small town in Michigan in 1971. Influenced by hip-hop and the Beastie Boys’ ability to merge rap and rock, Ritchie – who went by the stage name Kid Rock – released a series of albums in the early ‘90s, including Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, that failed to inspire major sales or airplay. He jumped from different labels and even started his own label, but success seemed elusive.
Success at Last:
Kid Rock’s fortunes changed dramatically with the release of Devil Without a Cause
in 1998 on Atlantic Records. At a time when rap-rock
was proving to be a popular musical genre, Devil Without a Cause
came on like a fun party-record model of the form, featuring tons of attitude, arena rock riffs and sex jokes. Kid Rock’s persona, a white-trash goofball who loved rapping and head-banging in equal measure, was instantly appealing, and on tracks like “Bawitdaba” he wielded tough-guy bravado while having a ball at the same time. Devil Without a Cause
went on to sell 11 million copies in the U.S.
Getting 'Cocky' and Going Country:
After releasing The History of Rock
, a collection of songs from his pre-Devil
obscurity, in 2000, Kid Rock returned with his next studio album a year later. Cocky
expanded Rock’s interest in Southern rock icons like Lynyrd Skynyrd
while maintaining his allegiance to hip-hop and arena anthems. But demonstrating that Kid Rock would not be pigeonholed into any one musical genre, Cocky
’s biggest hit was the sensitive country ballad “Picture,” a duet with Sheryl Crow
couldn’t match Devil
’s extraordinary sales, but at four-times platinum, it proved that there were still many people in Kid Rock’s diverse fan base.
Around the same time as Cocky
’s release, Kid Rock was starting to become as famous for his music as for his personal life. He began dating model and actress Pamela Anderson
in 2001, eventually marrying her in 2006, only to divorce
several months later. But while his romantic escapades made him tabloid fodder, his musical interests continued to morph. 2003’s Kid Rock
toned down the hip-hop influences for a collection of country and rock songs, including a cover of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Lacking a breakout single in any radio format, Kid Rock
stopped at platinum status.
The Return of Kid Rock:
Four years passed between solo albums, but 2007’s Rock N Roll Jesus
further indicated his preference for arena rock over rap. His first album to top the Billboard
album chart, Rock N Roll Jesus
pursued Kid Rock’s penchant for country and classic-rock radio, most notably including Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” in his song “All Summer Long,” which managed to be a hit on the pop, country and rock charts simultaneously.
Kid Rock waited three years to release his follow-up to Rock N Roll Jesus
, but on November 16, 2010, Born Free
was unveiled, which found him continuing to map out his territory in the world of country-rock. The album’s release was preceded by heavy promotion of the title track during the baseball playoffs in October.
Essential Kid Rock Album:
Devil Without a Cause
Often called the rightful heir to Licensed to Ill, the Beastie Boys’ breakthrough mixture of hard rock heaviness and rap bravado, Devil Without a Cause ignites with the opener, “Bawitdaba,” which announces the arrival of one of rock’s most indelible personalities of the late ‘90s. Also like Licensed to Ill, Kid Rock’s greatest album is unapologetically rude, willing to offend anyone who doesn’t find the humor in juvenile sex jokes. Certainly not appropriate for the whole family, but definitely a rocking, hilarious good time.
Kid Rock Discography:
Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast (1990)
Devil Without a Cause (1998)
The History of Rock (2000)
Kid Rock (2003)
Live Trucker (live album) (2006)
Rock N Roll Jesus (2007)
Born Free (2010)
Rebel Soul (2012)