By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
Kid talks more about sex with black women than Eminem does (in fact, he seems to enjoy sex more in general), but they've got plenty of obsessions in common: their middle fingers, their mushrooms, their misogyny, their my-name-is songs, their misplaced (and much mentioned) hostility against homosexuals. The Nugent rip on Kid's Historyis a gonzodelic father-and-son-debate fuzzbuild epic called "My Oedipus Complex"; on Marshall Mathers, Eminem raps oedipally aboutgrab your barf bagraping his own mama (who, in real life, sued him last year). Mostly what the pair share, though, is vulnerability: a vulnerability that manages to keep their middle fingers interesting. They both give every indication, even, that they're loving fathers in real life. Watching his youngest son helps Kid Rock (whose seven-year-old Junior comes up constantly in interviews) pass the time; Eminem (whose four-year-old Hailie does) imagines being 40, cooling with a 40, baby-sitting two grandkids while his daughter's out getting smashed. "Kim," the intensely-wailed-and-teary-eyed new marital-squabble duet where he kills his old lady (who in real life he's since married, then just last month reportedly pulled a gun on) 'cause he caught her messin' 'round with another man, actually starts with Eminem convincingly goo-goo-ing and powdering and diapering their little girl.
Not vulnerable enough for you? Depressed that such a sick motherfucker could have the summer's most popular record? Worried what that says about the youth of America? OK, here's my Minnesota friend Molly, on hearing "Kim" for the first time: "I can't figure out why I feel sorry for [Eminem] when he breaks down and confesses to his wife, while he's slitting her throat, that he loves her instead of 'hating [her] so fucking much.' Plus, I can't remember the last time I took an album so personally. I feel violated listening to it, or like I've accidentally seen some domestic dispute that I can't get out of my mind. . . . I want to like it because I think 'art' should make you feel, it should make you think, and it's been so long since a record freaked me out. But, at the same time, I wonder if he's just full of shit." Which he is, of course. But that's half the fun.
Kid Rock recently helped legendary country outlaw David Allan Coe compose a similarly themed wife-murder spectacle called "Wreckless" for an upcoming collaborative EP; for Coe, who was splattering spouse-blood then his own all over walls on the "Sui-side" (as opposed to the "Happy Side") of his Human Emotions album 22 years ago, and who claimed to have served time on death row in Ohio, this is not exactly something new, but whatever. The Kid/Coe EP has plenty of bottleneck and slide and crap about titty-bars, plus a slowed-down-and-censored version of Kid's gorgeous power ballad hit "Only God Knows Why" (which version Kid recently re-covered himself on Saturday Night Live). Coe is slated to appear, along with Iggy and a TLC or two and maybe Axl Rose interpreting Lynyrd Skynyrd, on an album due this fall by Kid Rock's vastly underrated Twisted Brown Trucker Band. Mostly, though, DAC exemplifies yet another tendency Kid and Eminem share: They really like helping out their friends. Though their friends are rarely as newsworthy as David Allen Coe.
Double Wide, the just-out roots-rock Hootie-hop debut album from Kid's DJ and best friend, Uncle Kracker, peaks with a charbroiled-on-the-crossroads ZZ Top rip about whiskey, a fingersnappy Myrtle Beach tuck-you-in doo-wop, and a beige bopper about how "if heaven ain't a lot like Dee-troit"if it ain't got no Eight Mileit might as well be Hell or Salt Lake City. Kid also cameos on the album by Blowfish-brand jamless jam-band Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise; mushmouthed deep-soulster Bradley moans sweetly about how he was born on a farm in Alabama, but now he's motoring down the road take-one-guess-where.
And then there's 3'9"-with-a-10-foot-dick Joe C, of course, whose debut album has been postponed, which might be just as well seeing how his purpose in life, obviously, is to serve as a sidesplitting free-lunch sideshow break in Kid Rock's circus. Last year he squeaked about having the highest voice like Aaron Neville and being down with the devil; on History of Rock, he insists he's vertically challenged but ain't no goddamn midget. On Saturday Night Live, hugging Florence Henderson and mugging for the camera in Mickey Mouse ears and dolled up in a wedding dress as Jerry Lee Lewis's underaged cousin, he stole the show from Kid Rock and Jackie Chan both.
By contrast, Eminem's own height-identified protégé, Royce Da 5-9, has an amusing name but not much vocal presence. In fact, pretty near the only rapper whose dexterity and energy have kept up with Em so far is Kid Rock himselfin "Fuck Off," which notably got lost in the shuffle on Kid's octipussal-platinum Devil Without a Cause but which jumps right out of Eminem's useful-if-illegal duet-and-remix-and-compilation-cut-compiling bootleg CD Fucking Yzarc. "This planet belongs to me and this hippie with long hair," Eminem raps in it. The Snoop/Dre G-funk-era interlude on Eminem's new album is summery and smooth, but too often, whenever anyone else joins in, we get snooze city: mere underground Method acting by dimwits trying too hard to sound hard.