Part old school rap, part metal rock, and likened to rap artist Eminen for his often profane lyrics, as well as for his roots near Detroit, Michigan, Kid Rock proved that he stood apart from the hip–hop crowd with his wild and diverse music. In fact, Rock (born Robert Ritchie), with his skillful heavy metal guitar playing, shares more in common musically with metal assault groups such as Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit. For example, as described by Mark Seliger in Rolling Stone magazine, the single “Bawitdaba” from 1998’s Devil Without a Cause “mixes cries of ’up jump the boogie’ with guitar aggression, coming off like a White Zombie [rock metal band] cover of a Grandmaster Flash [funk group] song.” And the Atlantic Records website concluded, “Kid Rock unleashes the full–on motherlode: a rambunctious cocktail shaker of blue–eyed hip–hop, freestyle rap. spaced–out funk, psychedelic rock, jazz, blues and everything else under the sun up to and including the proverbial kitchen sink.”
When the rap/rock star boasted “I’m going platinum” in the title track of Devil Without a Cause (a phrase that record company executives tried to persuade him to remove), he must have somehow known thatthis confident statement would become a reality. Moreover, the success of Devil Without a Cause eventually surpassed this prediction, going triple platinumfollowing his crowd–pleasing show for the music festival Woodstock and headlining with Limp Bizkit for a worldwide tour in 1999. After this, his music was featured on popular television shows such as MTVs Beach House, ESPN’s X–Games, and ABC’s Wild World Of Sports. Priortothesuccess of album “My big feat before that had been selling 14,000 records out of my basement,” he admitted to Seliger. Furthermore, Rock became the first white hip–hop artist to embrace and glorify “white trash” culture and to gain the respect of several African American rap artists, namely Sean “Puffy” Combs and Ice Cube, as well as heavy metal bands like as Metallica.
While Kid Rock seemed to personify the so–called white trash culture, his true background proved otherwise. He actually grew up in a more affluent environment, faraway from the trailer park world he glorifiedsin his songs. Rock, born Robert Ritchie (known as Bob tof riends) around 1972, spent his childhood in the rural town of Romeo, Michigan, near Detroit, in a lakefront home with six acres of land. Rock’s chores at home included mowing the lawn, picking apples from the family orchard, and feeding the horses. His mother, Susan Ritchie, stayed at home with her three children: Rock, older brother Billy, and older sister Carol. And his gregarious father, Bill Ritchie, owned a successful business.
Nonetheless, Rock’s childhood was not as happy as one might expect. Throughout his upbringing until the time he
Born Robert (Bob) Ritchie in Romeo, MI, c. 1972; son of Bill and Susan Ritchie; two siblings: older brother Billy and older sister Carol; children: son Robert Ritchie, Jr. (known as Junior).
Started as DJ at parties and clubs throughout high school in and around Detroit, MI; made demo tape, signed with Jive Records, released first album, Grit Sandwiches for Breakfast, 1990; toured with Ice Cube and Too $hort, 1990; debut record failed in sales and Jive dropped Rock from label, C 1991; released two albums and one EP on independent labels, including The Polyfuze Method, 1992; Fire It Up EP, 1994; Early Morniri Stoned, 1996; signed with Atlantic Records, c. 1997; released Devil Without a Cause, which later reached triple–platinum status, 1998; performed at music festival Woodstock, toured worldwide with Limp Bizkit, 1999.
Addresses: Home —Royal Oak, MI. Record company —Atlantic Records, 9229 Sunset Blvd., Ste. 900, Los Angeles, CA 90069; 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10104. Website— http://www.atlantic-records.com, Kid Rock Official Website: http://www.kidrock.com.
succeeded as a musician, Rock had a troubled past with his father, as documented in his song “My Oedipus Complex” from the EP Fire It Up. He described his father as a workaholic and an often distant and demanding parent who never approved of Rock’s lifestyle and musical pursuits. When his father sold his profitable Lincoln–Mercury car dealership in 1999, hetried one last time to persuade Rock to take over the business and leave music for the weekends. However, Rock and his father, who became less judgmental after Rock’s success, finally made peace sometime later that year. With their relationship more or less amended, Rock’s father proudly wears a Devil Without a Cause t–shirt and calls himself “Daddy Rock.”
As Rock grew older, he started to develop more urban interests, like break dancing and listening to hip–hop records, and often backed out of his duties around the family home. “How can I say it? He was original,” sister Carol, who manages Rock’s finances, told Seliger. “He always did what he wanted to do. When Michael Jackson was on TV with his white socks up to here, Bob was upstairs the next day having my mom hem his pants. Music was all he cared about.” In addition to hip–hop and dance music, Rock also enjoys rockers such as Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as the music of country legends Dwight Yokam and Hank Williams, Jr. Then at around the age of 13 or 14, Rock received his first set of turntables for Christmas from his mother, and soon thereafter, he went to his first party in Detroit with some African American girls from Romeo High School.
At the party, the DJ noticed the only white kid at the party, Rock, eyeing his equipment and let him join in. Consequently, Rock’s self–taught scratching so impressed an amateur promoter that he offered Rock a gig to DJ in the Detroit suburb of Mt. Clemens, and before Rock knew it, he was spinning records for all–black crowds around the Detroit area. “Atfirst people would be like, ’Who is this white guy?’” Rock’s friend Chris Pouncy recalled to Seliger. “But once they heard him scratch, he always got love in the neighborhood.” Inspired by the overwhelming acceptance, Rock earned enough money picking apples at home to upgrade his equipment and also added rapping to his DJ shows.
By now a well–known name around Detroit, some local dealers helped Rock finance a demo tape on the condition that he mention their names in his songs. Subsequently, he signed a deal with Jive Records and released his first album in 1990, Grit Sandwiches for Breakfast, a Beastie Boys–sounding record with explicit lyrics. The exposure also landed him spots to perform with rap artist Ice Cube and the rap group Too Short. Although Rock thought he had broken into the music industry, the release failed to sell, and Jive dropped the young rapper from the label.
Much of the remainder of the 1990s saw Rock making albums for independent labels, including 1992’s The Polyfuze Method, which featured Rock’s growing musical ability with country–inspired rapping alongside rock guitar riffs; 1994’s Fire It Up EP, a predominantly metal rock release; and 1996’s Early Mornin’ Stoned, which included contributions from Black Crowes keyboardist Eddie Harsch and the vocals of soul singer Thornetta Davis. This album, financed by a loan from Rock’s father, drew critical acclaim and caught the attention of the major label Atlantic Records. When company executives came to see one of Rock’s shows, they signed him immediately. During this time, Rock also added more rock influences to his songs and assembled his backing group called the Twisted Brown Trucker Band, which featured guitarists Kenny Olson and Jason Krause, keyboardist Jimmie Bones, drummer Stefanie Eulin–berg, and Rock’s midget sidekick Joe C. In addition, his best friend, Matt Shafer learned to use the turntables from Rock and later joined the group as DJ Kracker.
Enthusiastic about his major label contract, Rock then set out to write and record his next release. But from the start, Rock experienced problems with writers block and in working with Atlantic, who wanted him to focus more on rock rather than rap, for the Devil Without a Cause album. “Even though they were tellin’ me I could do anything I wanted, they still wanted it a certain way,” he revealed to Hobey Echlin in Alternative Press. “The first time I turned in ’Cowboy, ’ I said, This is the best song I’ve ever written.’ I sent it in, and they [Atlantic] told me they didn’t hear it.” As a result of Atlantic’s lack of support, Rock’s writer’s block persisted and worsened. After traveling with pal DJ Crackerto Memphis and New Orleans in search of musical inspiration and arriving back in Detroit with nothing, Rock was left with just one more week to complete the album.
In spite of the battle between Rock and Atlantic, he finally determined to make the music he wanted, as he told Echlin. “I thought about everything I’d been through in the last 10 years; all the music I’d made. And I thought, ‘Well, what the label wants is something I can do.’ But I made what I wanted to.” Therefore, with his intentions set, he completed the music in the remaining week, complete with a sample from classic rock group Fleet–wood Mac for the track “Wastin’ Time.” And although his label again thought the finished product seemed too “all–over–the–place” and pleaded with him to cut out the line “I’m going platinum” from “Devil Without a Cause,” Rock stood by his former decision, and the album reached record stores in the late summer of 1998.
After songs from Devil Without a Cause, including the hits “Bawitdaba” and the country–rap influenced “Cowboy,” played on the radio and videos aired on MTV, millions of kids across the United States became instant followers of Rock. Soon, Rock saw his platinum dream come true, followed by sales reaching double platinum, then triple platinum levels after his notable performance at Woodstock in the summer of 1999. Many agreed that Rock stole the show at Woodstock as he took the stage with a fur coat, covered Creedance Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” and played guitar riffs from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” during “Cowboy.” Rocktold Seliger, “Everyone’s trying to do something special for Woodstock. I covered every base I thought I was good at. It solidified ten years of hard work for me.” During Rock’s worldwide tour with rock group Limp Bizkit beginning in the late summer of 1999, his flamboyant shows would continue to turn heads and promote further sales of Devil Without a Cause.
Even with his fame and fortune, Rock declined to change his lifestyle, and those who know him insist that his real–life persona doesn’t match the swaggering rock star image he displays in public. Instead, Rock made his home in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, where Rock, a single parent, shares a bungalow with his young son, Robert Ritchie, Jr. (known as “Junior” or “June Bug”). His sister, Carol, cares for Junior, who was born out of a relationship during Rock’s teenage years, when Rock tours. Rockstill drove around town in his souped–up 1983 Coupe de Ville and admitted to Seliger that he does feel like “white trash” in certain ways, regardless of his more privileged upbringing. “I guess I just want to let everybody know it’s all right to be who you are, it’s all right where you come from. I do feel like white trash…. I am technically. I like to drink beers, smoke… I’m not trying to date the prom queen.”
Grit Sandwiches For Breakfast, Jive, 1990.
The Polyfuze Method, Continuum, 1992
Fire It Up (EP), Continuum, 1994.
Early Mornin’ Stoned, Top Dog, 1996.
Devil Without a Cause, Atlantic, 1998.
Alternative Press, August 1999, pp. 51–58.
Rolling Stone, July 8–22, 1999, p. 98; September 2, 1999, pp. 69–72.
“Kid Rock,” Atlantic Records, http://www.atlantic-records.com (August 27, 1999).
Kid Rock Official Website, http://www.kidrock.com (August 27, 1999).
"Kid, Rock." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/kid-rock
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