One of the unlikeliest success stories in rock at the turn of the millennium, Detroit rap-rocker Kid Rock shot to superstardom with his fourth full-length, 1998’s Devil Without a Cause. What made it so shocking was that Rock had recorded his first demo a full decade before, been booted off major-label Jive following his Beastie Boys-ish 1990 debut, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, and toiled for most of the decade in obscurity, releasing albums to a small, devoted, mostly local fan base while earning his fair share of ridicule around his home state. Nevertheless, Rock persevered, and by the time rap-metal began to attract a substantial audience, he had perfected the outlandish, over-the-top white-trash persona that gave Devil Without a Cause such a distinctive personality and made it such an infectious party record.
Bob “Kid Rock” Ritchie (born Robert James Ritchie, January 17, 1971) grew up in Romeo, Michigan, a small rural town north of the Detroit metro area. Finding small-town life stiflingly dull, Ritchie immersed himself in rap music, learned to breakdance, and began making the talent-show rounds in Detroit. Inspired by the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill — white performers fusing rap and hard guitar rock — Kid Rock recorded his first demos in 1988, and eventually scored an opening slot at a Boogie Down Productions gig. That performance, in turn, led to a contract with Jive Records, which issued Kid Rock’s debut album, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, in 1990. Produced by Kid Rock, Too $hort, and D-Nice, the album was heavily derivative of Licensed to Ill. Rock briefly became notorious when a New York college radio station aired the album’s profanity-laced ode to oral sex, “Yodelin’ in the Valley,” and was fined over $20,000 (a judgment later rescinded). However, despite a tour with Too $hort and Ice Cube, Jive didn’t see much of a future for Kid Rock and dropped him from their roster.
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