Review Summary: Now get in the pit and try to love someone!
The main reason I'm writing this review is because I know this site's community doesn't like Kid Rock. So I'm going to shove the awesomeness of one of my generation's best singer-songwriters in your faces. Kid Rock has been going strong in the music industry since 1990, and this album in particular celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. It's the favorite of many hard rock fans, though I actually consider his self-titled album to be his best over this one.
Devil Without a Cause
is a monster achievement hard rock album, though, and in my opinion, the
best rap-metal album ever made, and the most seemless fusion of rap and rock since Urban Dance Squad
. UDS is the best rap-rock band of all time, but Kid Rock and his band Twisted Brown Trucker achieved something different with their music: They made rock great again. Kid Rock was a shining example of classic hard rock in an era when hard rock was basically dead.
The late 90s "butt rock" radio blasted mostly "alternative", "nu-metal" and corny heavy metal. The underground metal scene was dominated by boring thrash metal. Kid Rock's brand of rock was sourced from richer, more powerful influences: Lynyrd Skynyrd
, ZZ Top
, Hank Williams Jr.
, the Beastie Boys
, Run DMC
and David Allen Coe
were among the long list of ingredients in Kid Rock's jumbo stew of hard rock.
Coming out of Romeo, Michigan and making hos bids as a young rapper in Detroit in the late 80s and early 90s (subjecting his autobiographical rhymes to Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp
, two tracks from which were re-recorded for Devil
), Kid Rock progressed with each album, evolving his sound to a finely crafted blend of Southern rock, hard rock and rapping showcased here: an alcoholic, redneck stoned pimp attacking the mic like "a razor-blade slitting through a wrist of hate", macking in a Fleetwood, finding his inspiration in a bag of weed and starting an escort service for all the right reasons, his goals are to paint the town red and the sheriff's wife white, and he can smell a cop from a mile away.
While the Kid has since expanded his setlist beyond rap, to the point where many of his subsequent albums don't even feature rapping anymore, in his rap-driven days, Kid Rock was the white Rakim. Devil Without a Cause
has the power of a classic like Rakim's Follow the Leader
, Boogie Down Productions
' Criminal Minded
, Run-DMC's Raising Hell
or the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill
, while also recalling Skynyrd, early AC/DC and some primo outlaw country, wrapped up in a haze of marijuana seen through a glass of Jim Beam.
Kid Rock knocks out one rocking tune after another, and one of Devil
's greatest feats is that it is so listenable, perhaps the most playable album of 1998: not a single-track is skippable, from the mosh-pit ready opener "Bawitdaba", dedicated to all of Kid's rowdy friends (gangstas, hookers, bikers, and drug addicts), to country-rap toe-tappers like "Cowboy", "Wasting Time" and "Black Chick, White Guy" to the Southern rock stoner anthem "I Am the Bullgod", where Kid Rock fires up a phat blunt to prepare to mow lawns for his paycheck while listening to his walkman.
And perhaps what's most impressive about Kid Rock is that while his live shows are defined by his powerful backing band Twisted Brown Trucker (including keyboardist Jimmy Bones and drummer Stephanie Eulinberg), Kid Rock actually played pretty much every instrument on this album himself, multitracking overdubs with additions by session musicians and some sampled elements. A former hip-hop DJ who cut for local rappers in Detroit, Kid Rock learned every instrument in his backing band, and one of the most impressive acts of showmanship in his live concerts was to solo on every instrument from guitar to turntables to drums. Woodstock '99 even saw Kid Rock conducting TBT with his drumsticks on some chaotic jamming.
While his other albums and live performances showvase other influences more (his music has incorporated everything from soul, blues, rock and country to jazz, funk and hip-hop), this album mostly focuses on Kid Rock's hard rock style, but the tracklist varies it's sound to keep things from being too repetitive: there's a country ballad (Only God Knows Why), a little blue-eyed soul (I Got One For Ya) and an old school hip-hop track (Welcome 2 the Party), and the lyrical content isn't all about cockiness and hedonism neither: "Black Chick, White Guy" is the real-life story about the mother of Kid Rock's son, who he met in Junior High and had a son with around 1993 (after finding out that he was not the father of her little girl). "Only God Knows Why" is pretty reflective, too, talking about how it's difficult for him to make friends and settle down with a woman because of his fame and fortune, as people sometimes are more attracted to the money than him.
There's also a couple of noteworthy guest verses, too: a young Eminem
fits perfectly into the wild sound of Devil
, dedicating his verse to "teenagers who hate school", and the late Joe C., a pot-smoking dwarf ("3 foot 9, with a 10-foot dick") turns up a memorable, awesome verse on the title track. And two of my favorite Kid Rock songs are programmed back to back here: "Someone's Gotta Feel This" and "Fist of Rage", both are basically in a Southern rock style
This album rocks, plain and simple. It's a classic that has played for 20 years, and another 30 years from now, this album will continue to be as influential on future and current hard rock and heavy metal bands as Black Sabbath
, Led Zeppelin
and Uriah Heep
influenced the 70s throwback hard rockers, because perhaps without one Michigan redneck in love with Skynyrd and the Rolling Stones
, modern devotees to classic rock like Tenacious D
and The Mooney Suzuki
wouldn't have achieved their level of success. So I don't give a rat's butt if you hate Kid Rock, he saved rock and roll with his Diamond-selling album. Alternative rock and nu-metal were killing real rock, and Kid Rock brought it back. He deserves applause for that alone, that because of Kid Rock alternative rock and nu-metal are dead and we'll never hear that garbage again. But Devil
stands strong. I am definitely down with the Devil.