When, in the near future, we look back at the state of "alternative music" circa 1999, the big story will most likely be the emergence of (choose one, since all of these "genres" are equally unsatisfying): aggro, rap-rock, or asshole-rock. Still, it really isn't fair to paint Limp Bizkit, Korn, Rage Against the Machine, and Kid Rock with the same broad, dismissive brush stroke; at least one of their ilk is worth saving, worth savoring. "They say that persistence pays," Bob Ritchie told me around this time last year. "Well, if that holds true, I'm gonna buy this fuckin' planet." It does, and Ritchie -- better known as Kid Rock -- is getting close to the point where he might be able to, thanks to the quadruple platinum success of his fourth album, Devil Without A Cause.
Unlike the others on this rap-rock list (remember, Tom Morello was in a Poison-ish glam band prior to Rage's inception), Ritchie's roots run deep, and he pays homage to them even beyond inviting Run-DMC and Aerosmith to jam with him on the MTV Video Music Awards. He grew up as a white-trash, rock-lovin' hick in suburban Detroit, but he soon found himself DJing at house parties in the inner city. There, he was accepted because of his way with a tune, his skills at the mic, and his raunchy sense of humor. Signed to Jive Records at 18, the Kid scored big with "Yodeling in the Valley," before Vanilla Ice came along and made all white rappers passé, if not the enemy, if not marked men. But Ritchie didn't scare that easily.
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The second phase of Kid Rock's career brought Ritchie to the East Coast, where he spiraled out of control, recorded for the independent Continuum Records, and wound up with a child as the result of a turbulent relationship with a crackhead. The hard-learned lessons of this era inform the lyrics of his current triumph, and the human being who can be glimpsed in jams such as "Black Chic, White Guy" and "Only God Knows Why" nicely balances the pimp-suited cartoon caricature of randy party anthems such as "I Am the Bullgod" and "Bawitdaba."
Another reason to stop worrying and love the Kid is the Lynyrd Skynyrd-meets-Bob Seger riffing of his band, Twisted Brown Trucker. Simply put, they make for one of the most energizing live acts today -- in rap, rock, or the asshole realm. So come on: Give in, buy a couple of 40s, smoke a blunt, and party stoopid with ol' Bob for a night. It doesn't mean you have to approve of Fred Durst, his nookie, or anything else from the sorriest story of this sorry year.
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