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The Low Times and High Life of Kid Rock

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Driving in a minibus to Kid Rock's Jamaican show, Kid Rock's older sister, Carol, undoes the braids in her hair. As she does so, she talks about it and happens to use the word crimp. Kid Rock's ears light up.

"It's another word that rhymes with pimp!" he declares. "Put that in your article, so I can remember it."

It's midafternoon, and they perform in the blazing sunshine. They play their hits and a few covers: Sublime's "What I Got," a medley of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" and "We're an American Band," a Detroitcentric version of country renegade David Allan Coe's "Son of the South." The crowd is small, but it all works well enough. "When they come to my shows, it's a release," Kid Rock says. "There's nothing to think about. There's no country to save, no donation to be made. It's for personal self-healing. You come and let it all out. Show your tits if you're a girl, drink some beers if you're a guy."

After the show, Kid Rock goes out to meet a gaggle of overeager fans.

"I want a topless picture – would it be top much?" a girl in a Confederate-flag bikini asks. Kid Rock is already topless; she means herself.

"OK," says Kid Rock. "Twist my arm."

She slips down her bikini top; Kid Rock holds her left breast and faces the camera. Her friend asks for the same, so he stands behind her, cupping both breasts. "Thank you," the friend says. "That was so sweet." (Later, I ask him what he is thinking at moments like these. "Man, I've got a really cool job," he says.) Another girl comes up and starts stroking his bare stomach, over and over, only pausing to flick her fingers through the fluffy whiskers on his chin. The stomach-stroker says to him, "I've got naked a hundred times at your shows."

He smiles, "Thank you for participating," he says.

A Jamaican man interrupts. "I'm Jamaican, I listen to reggae, man. I'll be honest, I never heard of you, but dat one – 'I'm a cowboy!'– that's a good one. I don't lie . . . I'm in the music business, too. You should give me your number."

"I probably should," Kid Rock replies. "And the chance of me giving it is probably slim to none."

The guy grins, slaps his hand. "You're not a typical white guy," he says.

One girl asks why Joe C isn't here.

"They wouldn't let him in," he says. "He was too small." (Joe C prefers not to travel much.)

Behind me, the stomach-stroking girl, clearly in a bad mood because her attentions have not produced more concrete results, mouths to her friend, "I want to fuck him."

Some of the girls – but not her – ride on the bus back to the hotel. One of them hands out Skittles and talks about her homework. A girl says, apropos of nothing, "I'm not a girl who takes off her clothes and shoves a beer bottle up her crotch."

"Pull over, captain!" shouts Kid Rock's manager.

From listening to Kid Rock's records or reading his interviews, these girls may imagine that this bus journey is going to lead them to a land of intimate Kid Rock depravity. He is, of course, used to these temptations, expectations and invitations. "I think I was pretty ugly a year ago," he tells me, "but after 7 million records, I'm a sexy son of a bitch."

But their timing is off. He doesn't do that anymore. These days, Kid Rock has other thoughts, other priorities. Kid Rock has a girlfriend. He is dating model and actress James King. She will be arriving here tomorrow. They met two years ago at a taping of MTV's Fashionably Loud, only she had a boyfriend, he had a girlfriend. This year they attended the Grammys together, but just as friends. He concedes that during that evening together, he was beginning to wonder. "It's going through your head," he says. "It's kind of that weird thing: 'Hmm . . . 'It's like you want to slip someone a note: 'I like you – do you like me? Circle one – yes/no. Return.'"

When he got back to Michigan, he realized he was missing her a bit. He'd rather keep the rest private, but at some point the note was returned, with yes circled. The next week they were seen out together in Detroit.

Does this mean you've taken a vow of monogamy?
Yeah.

That's not the Kid Rock they know and love on the road.
No, but, you know . . . whatever. That's the way it is. I kind of think I've done all that, and I did it about as good as you can do it. I had a lot of fun, man; nobody got hurt, I'd like to think.

And you can just switch that off?
Yes, that's the type of motherfucker I am. Totally.

So earlier today in Jamaica, in the dressing room, Kid Rock formally passed the torch to Jason, the younger of Twisted Brown Trucker's two guitarists and the one who handles the metal riffing. "Yep, Bob passed me the torch," Jason later reflects. "I guess I get the key to the stabbing cabin. That's the back room of the bus. It was going that way anyway."

Questions occasioned by puzzling or provocative moments in the Kid Rock lyrical canon, Number Three [with particular reference to most of the Kid Rock catalog]:

From your songs, there are plenty of reasons for people to think that you can be pretty disrespectful and sometimes even hateful to women.
Sometimes I can. Sometimes I am. It's no secret.

Why do you think that is?
Because I've met some really nasty women in this lifetime, and those types of women I have no type of respect for. And I've met the same type of woman a few times, and it might be my own fault for jumping into that situation, but it's still a nasty fucking type of woman. It's a fucking life-sucking bitch, and there's quite a few of them out there. I know some guys that are bitches, too. What characterizes that to me is someone who is a liar, that is manipulative, deceitful, has an agenda. Two-faced, you know.

And if someone interprets, from the way you sing about those people, a generalized hostility toward women and is offended . . .
[Laughs] That's their prerogative. But I'd say a good percentage of the times they're probably one of them women.

That'll definitely calm the waters.
It's true, man. That's my first instinct – a girl that listens and goes, "All he talks about is woman and bitches," well, she probably is the fucking biggest bitch on the face of the earth. Because a real woman listens to it and she's, "Whatever, I know who I am."

But, to clarify, you don't agree that as a general rule you're hateful toward women?
No, of course not. I mean, I live. I'm a nice guy. So, no, not at all. [Shrugs] I really don't give a fuck if someone thinks I am. They can suck it, too.

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