The Early Days
Kid Rock grew up in Romeo, Michigan, located forty miles north of Detroit where there was not a whole hell of a lot to do. Therefore, he had to basically create his own fun. Having one of their children getting into trouble was nothing new to Kid’s parents. Kid got into his share, (playing with matches and denying it, lackluster performance in grades and citizenship, running away from home at 17, hiding in the bushes and throwing apples at passing cars and the school bus, smashing mailboxes with baseball bats, threatening the babysitter and her boyfriend who came to straighten Kid out) but this is all pretty normal to any kid growing up. Kid would not go unpunished. Kid was raised in a catholic household where going to church every Sunday was expected and the sound of shit, fuck or god damn were all punishable with a bar of soap. With high moral expectations came the responsibility of hard work. Kid’s early chores included feeding horses, cleaning all the sh*t up, getting up at six in the morning when it was 20 below zero to drag unfrozen water down to the horses. Kid then went on to dominate a push lawn mower. This is long before the days of self propelled push mowers.
A predominantly-white Detroit 'burb, where he absorbed the rock 'n' roll that sprang forth from the FM radio as well as the bad-ass beats emerging from the urban underground. Inspired by the energy of hip hop pioneers like Run DMC and Whodini, the Kid began hanging out in the projects of nearby Mt. Clemens. He was a member of a local breakdancing crew - The Furious Funkers (!) - and first put the wheels of steel in motion while still in high school. Grabbing thunder across the largely-black local talent show scene, Bob earned himself his moniker spinning at subterranean basement parties: Watch that white kid rock!
Grits Sandwiches For Breakfast
In 1988, he laid down his first batch of demos, recordings which earned him an opening performance spot with Boogie Down Productions. That gig brought Kid to the attention of Jive Records, who signed him immediately. 1990 saw the release of the Kid Rock debut album, "GRITS SANDWICHES FOR BREAKFAST," produced by Kid Rock with Too $hort and D-Nice, and featuring a flat-topped, 40-guzzlin' cartoon Kid on the cover.
Controversy on the Radio
The record included what would be the first of many Kid Rock ditties about the joys of oral love, "Yodeling In The Valley." That track led to the largest-ever government fine to be leveled at a college radio station, when the FCC decided that the State University of New York at Cortland's WSUC-FM owed them $23,750 for airing "obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication." Though the base fine would normally be $12,000, the FCC adjusted the figure, stating that "the egregious nature of the material exacerbates the violation." Fortunately, after being on the butt end of mucho bad press (and the losing end of a New Music Seminar debate with Kid himself), the FCC eventually dropped the fine altogether.
Tour & Polyfuze
Further street cred came when he found himself the opener on a 20-city U.S. tour with hip hop luminaries Ice Cube and Too $hort. Kid Rock eventually moved east to NYC - Crooklyn, to be exact - and in 1993 laid down his sophomore salvo, "THE POLYFUZE METHOD," which included yet another dirty anthem, the Howard Stern-samplin' "Balls In Your Mouth." The album nevertheless displayed Kid Rock's growing musicality, with country-inspired raps banging head-on with rock balladry as well as unexpected samples such as the Doors' "Soul Kitchen"... five years before Smash Mouth followed suit on their hit "Walking On The Sun"! In addition, the album even included the surprisingly mature and poignant "My Oedipus Complex," the Kid's straight-faced rap about his estranged dad. The Village Voice hailed "THE POLYFUZE METHOD" for "joining rap and metal with love for both and reverence for neither," noting that Kid was "a born rapper, effortless and thrilling."
Fire It Up & EMSP
The hot rock-and-heavy metal "FIRE IT UP" EP followed, but was barely issued by the Kid's baffled label. He returned to Detroit where he began to focus his energies towards his own Top Dog indie label. In '96, Top Dog gave the world "EARLY MORNIN' STONED PIMP," a hardboiled collection of G-funk filtered through Kid Rock's distinctly Midwestern whiteboy worldview, featuring Black Crowes' keyboardist Eddie Harsch and the sultry vocals of Sub Pop soul diva, Thornetta Davis. The Kid's entrepreneurial skills have proven to be as deft as his musical gifts as Top Dog has become quite the money-maker, as has his red velvet-walled studio, Temple of the Dog.
The Breakthrough With Devil
Now, at long last, comes "DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE." Here Kid Rock and Co. tear the roof off the sucka with a bounty of B-boy boogie and streetwise throwdowns, liberally injected with a dose of the ol' metallic K.O. The headbangin' opener "BAWITDABA" take a classic old school crowd chant and doses it with axe riff that screams raw power, while "F-ck Off" sees Kid Rock dropping lyrics with his pal, Eminem, a white rapper from Detroit who recently signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath label.
In addition to Eminem, the record sees guest appearances from a number of the Kid's Motor City homies, including bluesman Robert Bradley. And like the previous Kid Rock-ers, "DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE" also incorporates an allotment of unlikely samples, ranging from Fleetwood Mac's "Second Hand News" (on "Wasting Time") to the Politicians' 70's hit, "Free Your Mind" (on "Welcome 2 The Party").
Though he's happy to kick out the jams with just his raps and his decks, Kid Rock has himself a big-ass rock 'n' roll combo and he knows how to use it. On tracks like "I Got One For Ya" or the title cut, Twisted Brown Trucker burn down the joint while the Kid fiddles with his 808.
TBT's live-in-concert cosmic slop has made the Kid a major act in his home territory, selling out Midwestern venues of varying size, including the 2,200-capacity State Theater in Detroit. The band's amalgamation of two-guitars-decks-and-drums rock with pounding beats, keyboard virtuosity, explosions, midgets, strippers, pimp suits and the indomitable Kid in the spotlight can hardly be contained on any stage, inspiring equivalent madness in the booty-shakin' throngs.
Perhaps the most striking thing about "DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE" is the Kid's almost-effortless way with blending sounds and styles, a habit he picked up in his youth and refuses to give up. His ingenious cut-and-paste studio techniques seamlessly merge hip hop production to a rock foundation, all done in the most immediate of fashions. Upon realizing his deadline - and a number of angry record execs - loomed near, Kid wrote and recorded the bulk of "DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE," in a little over a week. For example, on the "Free Bird"-ian ballad, "Only God Knows Why" (conceived while Kid cooled his heels in a Mt. Clemens drunk tank after the excessive celebration which followed the signing of his Atlantic contract), the Kid wrote, produced and played every track in a remarkable three hour period! Here's the point: in the freewheeling sonic world of Kid Rock, absolutely anything is possible.
Kid Gets Cocky
Kid Rock strutted back into the spotlight in Nov 2001 with "COCKY." Packed with brash tracks like the swaggering first single, "Forever," "COCKY" sees Detroit's Favorite Son doing what he does best - stirring up a multitude of musical styles into his own unique brand of genre-smashing rock n' roll. After heating up radio and MTV with such hits as "Bawitdaba," "Cowboy," "Only God Knows Why," and "American Bad Ass," Kid Rock now takes that unstoppable, undeniable sound to the next level and beyond. From larger-than-life arena anthems like "Lonely Road of Faith," to balls-to-the-wall rockers like "You Never Met A Motherfer Like Me," the self-produced "COCKY" burns with rambunctious energy, thanks in large part to the always-brawny backing of the Twisted Brown Trucker band, along with special guest shots from Sheryl Crow and Snoop Dogg. Hilariously funny, powerfully emotional, and utterly unique, "COCKY" is the Bullgod at his rhyming, rocking best - bigger, better, and badder than ever
"Music today is in a big fog," Kid Rock says, "a haze if you will. No one's sure where its going, but I like to think that I've got the best set of fog lights out there."
After nearly three years of nonstop worldwide touring, Kid Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band - guitarists Kenny Olson and Jason Krause, keyboardist Jimmie Bones, and drummer Stefanie Eulinberg - settled into their new Clarkston Chophouse studio in early 2001.
"It's a home we purchased on 13 acres out in Sticksville," he says. "We've got a studio with a vintage analog setup, a Trident board from London, all the bells and whistles. We've got a nice live room with all the cool gear we've collected. And we put all the fun shit in, the legendary strip pole, pool tables and pinball machines and karaoke machines, all that fun stuff. There's some bedrooms too in case anyone has too much to drink."
Over thirty songs were recorded at the Chophouse, most of which were penned during the band's stay at the studio. The bucolic facilities - located "north of Detroit, south of Heaven" - gave Rock and TBT a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere where they could still get their kicks while getting down to the serious business of making a record.
"We spent a lot of time there as a family," says Rock. "Cooking food, riding four-wheelers, throwing horseshoes. We usually have some great jam sessions out there, with Aerosmith coming by, Hank Jr., Billy Gibbons and Tim McGraw. It's turned into kind of a cool place, when people are in town they come by and jam. They know it's gonna be a good time - good music, good food. That's what it's all about."
If there's one thing Kid Rock knows about, it's good times. Since the success of "DEVIL" the Bad Mamajama From Detroit City has partied with a remarkable range of artists and celebrities, from pornstars to pop icons to presidents. "COCKY" shows off Rock's amazing artistic growth - as singer and songwriter, producer and musician (including guitars, bass, turntables, B3, and more) - which he credits to the influence and inspiration of his musical idols.
"It's three years on the road and being exposed to all the people that we have," Rock says. "It's Hank Jr. teaching me how to play an open G; it's Steven Tyler, you can hear some of his influence on how I'm using my vocal range; it's Billy Gibbons showing me that swamp boogie bounce. We've learned so much from all our heroes over the last few years, it's just elevated us. It's like having great teachers."
The elegiac country-flavored "Picture" sees Kid Rock joined by his friend Sheryl Crow, while the album-closing "WCSR" finds the Kid trading lewd and lascivious raps with none other than Snoop Dogg.
"We could've just gone and filled up the album with a lot of guests," Rock says, "but I think it's a lot more challenging to write a record with just you and your band. But this way, it kinda covers what I am. Some days I'm laidback and focused on my talents like Sheryl Crow, and other days I'm just having a ball, kicking sex rhymes with Snoop, just having fun.
"I mean, talk about completely different sides of the spectrum! With Sheryl it was laidback, we drank some beers, played some songs, had a wonderful time together, everyone enjoyed each other's company, became great friends, and did some jams after that. With Snoop it was just chaos! A bunch of rednecks from Romeo and Snoop's whole crew, all having the time of our lives. It was a scene like no one's ever seen, man! It was great, we had a lot of fun hanging out with those guys."
One person who wasn't around for the making of "COCKY" was Rock's usual musical cohort, Uncle Kracker. As the sessions kicked into high-gear, Twisted Brown Trucker's DJ was busy touring his own RIAA platinum-certified smash album, "DOUBLE WIDE." Nevertheless, Uncle Kracker did manage to make his mark on "COCKY," co-writing a number of the album's tracks.
"He's usually the guy that sits there and has a beer with me, I go 'You like that?' and he goes 'Yes' or 'No' and I make my decision," Rock explains. "This time he was touring a lot, but he did make time. We got together as much as we could to write, do different stuff. I'd bounce tracks off him. A lot of Federal Express was involved."
From the kinetic mayhem of "I'm Wrong, But You Ain't Right" and "I'm A Dog," to the sexed-up soul groove of "Lay It On Me," the album finds Kid Rock working with a stunningly diverse musical paintbox. Hardcore punk rhythms, bluegrass harmonies, and metallic riff-o-rama collide and combine to create an utterly original sonic stew.
"I'm just into cool sounds," Rock says, "whether it's a vocoder or a lap steel, man, they both have these phenomenal sounds to them that I really wanted to capture. I like a wide variety of music, and that's cool in a lot of ways - it might expose people to a lot more music. There's a lot more music than just mine out there that I think people should listen to."
While Kid Rock has long been an outspoken fan of such Southern Rock legends as Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band, new songs like "Drunk In The Morning" and the mournful "Midnight Train To Memphis" see him incorporating such down-home instrumentation as harp, banjo, and pedal steel guitar into his twangy hard rock.
"Country and blues is the biggest shit ever," Rock says, "and it always will be. I'm talking about the Stones, Skynyrd, Zeppelin, the biggest bands that ever were had a country and blues influence, that's where it all stems from. Kids might hear my record and not even know what they're listening to. I didn't when I was young, but it became apparent when I became older. This common thread through music was the blues. And country's just the White Man's Blues."
"COCKY" also sees the Pimp Of The Nation styling and profiling with some pumping old school rap-rock. "Forever" and the title track are painted with the spectacular self-aggrandizement and puffed-up braggadocio of such B-Boy legends as LL Cool J and Run DMC.
"I always loved old school hip-hop," Kid Rock laughs. "I just cannot outgrow that. The boasting, the easy-to-understand raps, the very cleverly thought-out words. There's a flow, there's an actual song structure, and a rhythmic structure to the words. There's a lot of new hip-hop I like - like DMX and Jay-Z - but for me, there's just something about that era that I can't get out of."
Like those artists that came before him, Kid Rock's Number One goal is to make music that'll stand the test of time. With the blindingly eclectic "COCKY," he fully delivers on that promise, while raising the ante for the rest of today's rock 'n' roll.
"I want to be making great music that people can listen to in a lot of years," Rock says. "I mean, some songs are the kind that'll be fun for a few years, but then I make other ones like 'What I Learned Out On The Road,' 'Lonely Road of Faith,' songs like that, which I think will last forever. I just want people to know that this record is something I'm really proud of, and I think they are gonna dig it as well."
Rock Returns With Self-Titled Album
In November, 2003 Kid Rock released his self-titled album. "KID ROCK" is Rock's most emotionally naked collection to date, with songs like "Cold and Empty" and the album-opening "Rock n' Roll Pain Train" finding him looking at his life thus far and acknowledging that even an American Bad Ass needs to stop and smell the roses: "On that rock n' roll pain train/After the lights go down/I live out in the woods now/It helps me keep my feet on the ground/Life's been good to me so far/Hope it's been kind to you/Stand strong in the storms of life/The sun will always shine on you."
The album's stunning centerpiece is the epic "I Am," an anthemic statement of purpose in which Rock affirms his freedom as an artist and as an American. Patriotism is invoked all too often in these troubled times, but Rock has long put his money where his mouth is, performing for the United States Armed Forces whenever and wherever he has been called to serve, in both peacetime and in war.
None of which is to say that the original Pimp of the Nation has gone soft - far from it, in fact. "KID ROCK" is packed with a wide load of Rock's trademark good-time raucousness, from the swaggering cover of Bad Company's '70s classic, "Feel Like Makin' Love" (the album's first single), to the self-explanatory "Rock n' Roll," to "Son Of Detroit," Rock's chest-thumping autobiographical adaptation of outlaw country legend David Allen Coe's classic "Son Of The South" - "I'm a redneck rock and roll son of Detroit/I don't like no new wave techno bands around/I'm a drink a couple dozen beers, go out and jam some gears/I'm a longhaired redneck rock and roll son of Detroit."
Backed, as ever, by the amazing Twisted Brown Trucker - guitarists Kenny Olson and Jason Krause, keyboardist Jimmie Bones, and drummer Stefanie Eulinberg - Kid Rock also invited a few special guests to sit in. Blues guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd and tenor man David McMurray kick out the jams on "Black Bob," while ZZ Top's one and only Billy Gibbons lends guest vocals (and beer!) to the rowdy "Hillbilly Stomp."
Elsewhere on "KID ROCK" - recorded at the Allen Roadhouse (north of Detroit, south of Heaven) - Rock is visited by some of his dearest friends and fans, such as Hank Williams Jr., who shares vocals on the outrageously bawdy rave-up, "Cadillac Pussy." Also joining in is Sheryl Crow, who collaborated with Rock on last year's hugely successful single, "Picture." The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter co-wrote and sings backing vocals on "Run Off To L.A." A back-to-the-future highlight of the album is "Hard Night For Sarah," penned by Motor City icon Bob Seger. The song - which was recorded for Seger's 1979 classic "AGAINST THE WIND," but ended up on the cutting room floor - is Rock's way of spreading the word to a new generation about one of his all-time favorite songwriters.
"KID ROCK" closes with a poignant bonus song, "Single Father," co-written with David Allen Coe. The tender track - described by Rock as a "tearjerker" - is brutally honest and powerfully emotional, as Kid Rock expresses profound love for his son while lamenting the difficulties of being a one-man parent: "He says daddy explain/If it's not too much bother/While it's just you and me/Living here in this home/I don't understand it/And either does he/Why there's just two/When there should be three of us/Sharing this moment/Lord I feel so alone."
With this sonic powerhouse of a record, the Son of Detroit has crafted his bravest, ballsiest collection thus far -- a wide-ranging, far-reaching assortment of songs that truly warrant the name "KID ROCK."