Monday Hero #9 – Kid Rock

Happy Monday fellow country fans!  Just like that, we’re almost one full month into 2018 and the country music coming from the airwaves has never been hotter.  Today we’re throwing it back and honoring one of the most versatile and widespread artists of the past two decades, (and not by coincidence that he put on a fiery display of music godliness yesterday at the NHL All Star Game’s halftime show).  Since his earliest albums back in the beginning of the 1990s, today’s #MondayHero has been captivating eardrums and shocking audiences day in and day out.  This morning we’re throwing on a fedora, whipping out our pair of Aviator sunglasses, and paying homage to the “long-haired, redneck, rock n’ roll son of Detroit”, the one and only, Mr. Kid Rock.

Throughout his three decade career thus far, Robert James Ritchie, a.k.a. Kid Rock, has found himself fitting into countless musical genres, including country, rock n’ roll, hip-hop, R&B, and any combination of these you can think of.  Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Ritchie was exposed to various genres of music, including classic rock, Motown, hip-hop, and country blues.  When listening to his songs and albums nowadays, all of these influences come through the speakers loud and clear, making each of his albums different from any other.  When you attend his concerts, you’ll see the crowd mosh pitting to his early rap hits, head banging to his perpetual rock n roll numbers, and putting lighters in the air during his slow ballads.  From one song to the next, he is as surprising musically as he is in personality, and that is what makes his concerts some of the best you’ll ever see.

As a hip-hop artist by nature, Kid Rock began his music career by using his talent and affinity for rhyming to create a new style of rap (on his first album, 1990’s Grits Sandwiches For Breakfast) that steered away from the quickly growing popularity of urban hip-hop.  Even from this first album he was defining his own style and doing everything on his own terms, even if that meant causing controversy with graphic imagery and explicit language the entire time. (Let’s just say the FCC wasn’t too fond of the Kid for the early part of his career, and probably still isn’t.)

Fast-forward eight years to the late 90’s, and Kid Rock’s career was heading in a new direction.  Throughout the decade he was making albums and recording different styles of music for independent labels, and over the course of those eight years realized that live instrumentation and more harmonious vocals could form a comforting dichotomy to his otherwise bold and brash hip-hop he had been so accustomed to.  After his self-branded “Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp” character was established in the mid-90’s, he and his newly-formalized Twisted Brown Trucker band released the Devil Without a Cause record in 1998.  The album featured everything from the trash-talking, hip-hop harshness of his early days (see “Cowboy”) to the slow-grooving, self-reflective ballads (see “Only God Knows Why”), and everything in between (“Wasting Time”).  

By the turn of the millennium, Kid Rock was shifting further and further away from his original hip-hop centric persona, and into the untouched territory of the country-rock and hip-hop duality.  Throughout the 2000s he released three additional studio albums, sold millions of records, collaborated with country superstars such as Sheryl Crow, Uncle Kracker, and Hank Williams, Jr., and ultimately turned his iconic persona into an iconic brand.  

By 2018, Kid Rock has twelve full-length studio LPs under his belt, spends time campaigning for politicians, and has a lengthy arsenal of “Badass” brand products in his website’s store page.  

His most recent album, Sweet Southern Sugar (2017), is the latest in his country-heavy album library of the past ten years. [Since 2007’s Rock n Roll Jesus, each album after (Born Free [2010], Rebel Soul [2012], and First Kiss [2015]) has been heavily country and southern rock influenced, and rounded out with the occasional Motown blues.]  Hip-hop, for the most part, has departed from the delivery of his new recordings, but at his live concerts these old-school hip-hop anthems are still some of the most coveted and supported songs from the audience.  

One thing is certain, by spanning almost three decades and more than three genres, you never know what you’ll get from Kid Rock.  By keeping audiences, fans, and haters guessing, the Kid has built a long and successful career by being true to himself and not letting negative influencers get in his way.  

If you haven’t seen him yet, put it the top of your list.  You’ll be taken to Planet Rock for a solid two hours and won’t ever want to take the return flight home.  Kid Rock is headlining the American Rock n Roll Tour 2018 with special guest A Thousand Horses at stadiums throughout this year.

Check out the Rhythm & Boots NYC Kid Rock playlist, and the rest of our #MondayHeroes.

Let’s take a brief look at Kid Rock’s country-flavored #FeaturedFour:

  1. American Rock n Roll” (2017) – As a single from his latest album (and the namesake for his upcoming nationwide tour), this song is a stadium country-rock anthem.  Through the lyrics Kid Rock details a country night that includes driving around town and reflecting on the power and influence of the great music of decades past.  Seemingly a windows-rolled-down and stereo turned all the way up song, the slow percussive nature and bluesy guitar riffs are exactly what you want to hear when you’re looking for a southern-rock banger.
  2. Drinking Beer With Dad” (2015) – From the slow, soulful intro to the steady, pulsating chorus, this song from his second-to-last album First Kiss portrays the father-son relationship as both a fun and laid-back, yet educational!, partnership.  While we all agree it’s not easy to admit when parents are right, often times it’s necessary.  Whether it’s a family member or close friend, grab a cold one and have a conversation with Kid Rock playing in the background; that alone will surely fire up some interesting discussion.
  3. Collide (feat. Sheryl Crow & Bob Seger)” (2010) – Throwing it back to arguably his first full-country album, this track is the third edition to the Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow duet, which in its own right makes him worth listening to.  These two have a knack for not only creating great songs on paper, but then harmonizing them perfectly in the studio to create a professionally blended, well-rounded record.  Another buzzed and lonesome country ballad, comin’ right up!
  4. Only God Knows Why” (1998) – Throwing it all the way back to the late ‘90s, this song is one of the earliest takes on the country, Motown mix that Kid Rock has made his signature sound in the latter half of his career.  Coming in as the 11th out of 12 tracks on his Devil Without A Cause record, this song even features a bit of vocal autotune to create even more reverberated effect on his vocals.  Undoubtedly still featuring the darker, more aggressive personality of his early career, this song was a door into the unknown for the Kid, and it seems he struck a match.  Plus, the sheer fact that this track is even on the same album as “I Am the Bullgod” speaks to his versatility and prowess in musical experimentation.

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