Kid Rock Raps With The Devil

On his new album, Devil Without a Cause, rapper fuses hip-hop rhymes with metallic rock.

Two months in the studio with "a hot tub, some girls and some illegal substances" -- that's how Kid Rock describes his recipe for recording Devil Without a Cause, his just-released, fifth full-length album.

Now the rocking rapper's having second thoughts about the process.

"Looking back on it, I wouldn't have brought that f---ing hot tub down," he said last week from an Orlando, Fla., stop on the summer Warped festival tour. "That thing was nothing but trouble. I think I lost like three girlfriends over that thing. It was bad news, man."

To be sure, the Kid's hot-tub method was a far cry from the more typical rap/hip-hop production approach, involving months of painstaking recording sessions and bevies of A-list guest rappers and guitarists.

But then, Kid Rock's brand of heavy-metal licks and rap riffs isn't exactly typical.

Though the hot tub may have gotten him into hot water with his lady friends, it also produced a heated-up, party-fueled atmosphere for Devil Without a Cause's mixture of rat-a-tat rhymes and superchunk guitar licks -- much of it reminiscent of the early works of Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys.

As a result, the Kid's served up another boiling tubful of his patented rap-meets-rock formula, upgraded with a few new ingredients.

Songs such as "Where You At Rock," for example, provide a steady hip-hop dance groove punctuated by rough-edged guitar, while "I Am the Bullgod" (RealAudio excerpt), the album's first single, and "Rolling Gangster (Rollin')" sound a lot like a mix of Alice in Chains and Public Enemy. "Wasting Time" sports a lazy groove and is perhaps the first hip-hop song to reference Fleetwood Mac, as the backing vocals are an interpretation of Fleetwood guitarist Lindsey Buckingham's "bow-bow-bow" scatting from "Second Hand News."

"I came up in the rap scene and grew up around Johnny Cash and the Beatles and Hank Williams records, so it was just natural for me to mix the [genres]," explained the 27-year-old rapper (born Bob Ritchie). "I got on the turntables and learned how to play guitars, and so I was like, 'Screw it! Lets give 'em some corn-fed Lynyrd Skynyrd/Run-D.M.C. stuff and mix it all together so it has a little bit of melody and it's a little bit different.' "

"So many kids are doing it now," he added. "So it's not like I invented it or anything."

True enough, but Kid Rock isn't new to the world of mixing hard-rock guitars with hip-hop beats. Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, he established himself when he was a teen as a white kid with tight rapping skills. He first hit the national scene in 1990 with Grit Sandwiches for Breakfast on Jive Records, a straight-up rap album that featured production work from such hip-hoppers as Too $hort, D Nice and Chuck Chillout. He was eventually dropped from Jive, but, in 1993, he picked up the rock/rap mix where the Beasties and Run-D.M.C. left off when he released The Polyfuze Method on his own Top Dog label.

In early 1996, Kid Rock dropped Early Morning Stoned Pimp, a more eclectic collection of funk, rap, soul and rock. He later signed with Atlantic and set out to record Devil Without a Cause after doing battle with the hot tub in his suburban Detroit studio.

A few of the songs on Devil Without a Cause have seen the light of day before, although in slightly different versions, and not on such a wide scale. "I Am the Bullgod" originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Polyfuze Method, while "Where You At Rock" and "Black Chick, White Guy" were originally performed on Early Morning Stoned Pimp. "Somebody's Gotta Feel This," meanwhile, is a refugee from the soundtrack to the video game "Road Rash 3D."

For Kid Rock fans, a return to the sound he sported on The Polyfuze Method is welcome news. Rusty Wolsleger, 24, of Riverside, Calif., said that The Polyfuze Method is his favorite Kid Rock album and that he was looking forward to Devil Without a Cause. "I think it's about time he gets the recognition he deserves," Wolsleger said. "He's non-commercial and hasn't sold out. He's down to earth, tells it like it is."

Kid Rock, though, said that for his second chance on a major label, he's all about letting the good folks at Atlantic guide his career. "When I decided to do this big deal, I said, 'I'll let them do their job and I'll do mine,' " he said. "If you get in this business and you're like, 'I want my creative control,' then don't sign to a label."

"Part of the reason I wanted to sign with a major was to really get music out there," Rock continued, saying that he had built a strong fanbase selling records out of his basement but that he still wants more people to hear his music. "I think they've helped me put together a rocking album. We've got a great, radio-friendly single and we're ready to break some markets open."

"When I make my money off this," he concluded, "I probably won't be so upset about the hot tub."