If there's a single artist that best signifies America as we bum-rush the millennium, it's Kid Rock. He oozes white trash and he's proud of it, blazing across the country and winning audiences over with a devilish charm and coy irreverence to anything that gets in the way of his pimpin' ain't easy persona. He's as smooth as a frosty cold one, but kicks back with the sting of a warm malt liquor. He's rock, he's rap, he's country, and he's blues. He probably smokes bluegrass, and his stage show rolls with the rocking and rolling curves of female dancers and big-bottomed bootieful backdrops. He's impishly sexy, yet slyly chauvinistic, something his female hordes of fans are ready to lap up with a tease me, please me grin and an enthusiastic baring of their chests to get backstage. Call it all what you will, but it's rock 'n' roll, and it's something mainstream music has been without for too damn long-Kid Rock's a superstar, the likes of which American audiences haven't had since '80s hair bands left women wanting to be sexy, and made it fashionable for men to be sexist. It's all about living in the U.S. of A., and Kid Rock is here to make it fun again. "I just call it true, red-boned, American music. That's exactly what it is," says Rock of the rock 'n' roll hybrid that has pushed his Atlantic Records debut, Devil Without A Cause, beyond quadruple platinum status. That's more than four million records sold, and counting. "It's just American music to the fullest, right here. People like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash did it in their day. My hang up was always with The Stones and The Who, and a lot of the bands like that who just mimic blues music and stuff, and are probably some of the greatest rock bands in the world-They are nothing compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd or Marshall Tucker. Those were the only bands that could get onstage and blow them off. So what I'm doing is just a hybrid of true American music, everything from blues to rock 'n' roll to metal to hip-hop to jazz. Anything that sounds good-rockabilly, country, anything-I put it in there."
The results-while they can be confusing to fans of traditional, straight-forward styles that don't span competing genres-are infectious in their musical energy and primal enthusiasm.
"It's just attitude," Kid continues. "That's what I love from metal, and that's what I love from hip-hop. That's what I love from any music that's hard, that's got an edge to it-The attitude in it. People tell me, 'You've got the most punk-rock attitude of anybody I've seen.' Well, I don't know that much about punk, because I was never exposed to it. I like a lot of it now, but when I was younger I was exposed to everything else, everything from Marshall Tucker to Bob Seger, to Van Halen to Run D.M.C."
Now, he's exposing America to the whole shebang. And even better, he's candy-coating his musical tour-de-force with a visual bang that screams Las Vegas, while remaining as laid back as a down south, backwoods getaway.
"If you give me a guitar, I can sit here and entertain you just the same," says Rock, nursing a drink in the back lounge of his tour bus. "But the bottom line is, if people pay $10, $20, $30 a ticket, you want to give them a full-blown show. At the same time, I don't want to jade them and pull the shades down over their eyes and be like, 'Ooh, we have strippers and a little kid running around onstage!' I've had a lot of people say to me, 'Why don't you get rid of that stuff? You're talented, you don't need it.' Maybe not, but it adds to the entertainment value. There are a lot of bands that have the entertainment value that don't need the stuff to do it. Like Pearl Jam, they're just good and talented guys who play. Then there are other people-like KISS and stuff like that-who do have good songs, but it's all about the antics. Pink Floyd-You go to see the light show, and shit like that. I wanted to put all of that together. You're gonna see total talent, and you're going to be entertained at the same time. That's what a lot of people are lacking today, they don't do both. They do one, but they're not smart enough or talented enough to add the other. That's about 99% of the bands I see out there."