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
Gold links and minks and shrimps on the bayou, these are the things he ain't gonna buy you. He's bad, he's nationwidelife's a bitch, but he deals with it. He's slept in Dumpsters, got high with kings. He's an easy rider dreaming of Winona and he rides all night 'cause he sleeps all day 'cause he wang-dangs more sweet poontang than k.d. lang (got a whirlpool, don't even ask, lickin' pussy underwater blowin' bubbles up your ass) 'cause yodelin' in your valley is a delicious break from potatoes. Causes chaos, rocks like Amadeus, finds West Coast kootchie for his Dee-troit playas, who might also be his heroes at the methadone clinic. He'll serve no rhyme before its time, and he's got more time than Morris Day, and he's so greasy you can call him mud, and he can feel a little Hank running through his blood. Ayn Rand couldn't stand him, so she banned him, but he doesn't steal from the rich and give to the poor; he steals from his bitches and gives it to his whores. He's a Capricorn, and Detroit City's where he was bornat night, but not last night, baby. Maybe he's also a sexist pig. But you better not need to be born in Detroit City yourself to detect a ferocious witnot to mention an enviable IQhere.
Even his kiss-my-grits "aggression" feels good-natured. Being punk is not his talent: Warmth is, and humor, and craft. It took a lotof work to get all the jokes and choruses and piano breaks on Devil Without a Cause into the right places, and even more to make them sound so tossed off. Kid's louder Rage Against the Machine-type harangues (despite commendably frequent "Immigrant Song"-like twisted propulsion)the ones where he shows you some metalactually tend to be his leastinteresting stuff; for months, in fact, they led me to underrate Devil as a whole.
It was in 1996 on Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp(which provided Devil with two songs and History of Rock with three) that Kid Rock truly forged both his redneck image (on the CD cover: long unwashed hair, tattoo, wifebeater tank top) and his groove: descending symphonic blaxploitation wah-wah slinkin' round the block (three years after his White Room Studios stablemates Big Chiefthe Michigan band most responsible for Motorbooty magazinemade a fake blaxploitation concept soundtrack), hard-boiled barbecue-rib-joint boogie drama, soul-sister backup winding upward, high squealing drop-the-bomb-on-the-white-boy-too nuclear synth sirens, Rufus/Frampton vocoders, "Freddie's Dead" falsettos, shotgun blasts, spy-movie organ. The vocals, chanted as much as rapped, were schooled largely in Too $hort's bootiliciously beeyatch-baiting Oakland pimpitude, but also in badass shit older than old-school: the JBs, Blowfly, Rudy Ray Moore, John Lee Hooker, Swamp Dogg, Parliament's live album, the dozens. So despite his welcome antinostalgic claim that "everything that gets old gets overrated/old to me just means outdated," Rock really does have a sense of historyon Devil, remember, he based "Bawitdaba" 's MTV-smashing chorus on an old Sugarhill Records mantra, and he threw up his Zodiac sign in "Ain't Nothin' but a Party" like one of the Furious Five (Cowboy, maybe?) at a roller rink.
The History of Rock,despite being not nearly as funny or fruggable, despite mostly haphazardly handpicking rerecorded renditions of old songs that are no match for new hesher-hop product by upstarts like Kottonmouth Kings and Brougham, and despite leaving such fuzzily boinging Beastie-beatboxed scratch-rap goodies as "Live" and "Classic Rock" in the vault, is still a keeper. Previously unheard tracksfor instance, the soaring road anthem "Dark & Grey" (complete with expert Appalachian banjo break)head in a dirgeful sort of biker-metal direction. "Abortion" (neither manifestly pro- nor anti-) is snarled with the same tough horror-movie Zappa tongue that Monster Magnet used in "See You in Hell," which similarly ascribed a personality to the unborn. In "American Bad Ass," Kid even catalogs his record collection: everything from the Clash to Johnny Cash to Grandmaster Flash. Not to mention, ick, Korn and Limp Bizkit. But "boy bands are trash," he tells us (and on Saturday Night Livehe dissed Britney Spears for lip-synching the week before); Eminem's current single, too, words-up Fred Durst and disses your typical teenybop targets. Em's Will Smith and LFO parodies are admittedly entertaining in their grossout way, but both Detroit boys are suckers for clichéd "keep it real" baloney. "Vanilla Ice was fake," Eminem told the L.A. Timesthis year. "3rd Bass was real." Even though "Ice Ice Baby" (and "I Want It That Way" and "Oops! . . . I Did It Again") have more life in them than 3rd Bass or Fred Durst (or Royce Da 5-9 or Robert Bradley) ever will.
Kid also furthers his 1993 Polyfuse Method hair-loss obsession in "American Bad Ass" by bragging about not needing Rogaine. Then he boasts about going platinum seven times, though he was more likable when he was bragging about how he was goingto go platinumback in Devil's title track, after a truckload of albums that didn't sell diddly outside Detroit. He made like Babe Ruth calling the shot, and wound up not eating crow: No more floozies, just high-class 'hos! But in the rock world, success can be failure, and failure can be accomplishment. This is something he and Eminem instinctively understand. Kid says he doesn't like small cars or real big women, but somehow he always finds himself in 'em; Eminem says he hasn't had a woman in years, his palms are too hairy to hide. These guys brag about being fuck-ups in ways black rappers never would (though, then again, black rappers would never disrespect their own moms the way Eminem does, either). "Fuck high school," Kid proclaims. "Pissed on my diploma." "I never went to college/Ain't got no skills/I got hair on my shoulders and a bottle of pills." "I ain't no rough guy/Ain't no tough guy/Don't get out much/And don't dress up fly." This beat is for Sonny Bono: In "Black Chic, White Guy," he even concedes that people listening might be laughing at him.