Punk Rock! The Clash! Boy bands are trash! I like Johnny Cash and Grandmaster Flash!"
In his hotel room in Jamaica, Kid Rock plays me a demo of his new song "American Bad Ass," shouting along with the parts he loves the most, grabbing his crotch. He wrote the lyrics two days before coming to Jamaica, over the riff of Metallica's "Sad But True." The song is the centerpiece of The History of Rock. He hollers loudest of all when he reaches the lines, "I won't live to tell! So if you do! Give the next generation a big fuck-you!"
He plays me some other, very different songs on his boombox. There's a raucous, rapped-up cover of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" and a beautiful country version of "Only God Knows Why," sent to him by David Allan Coe. Aside from "American Bad Ass," the best new song he plays me is "Lonely Road of Faith," a sad, piano-driven Southern-rock ballad with a beautiful, wordless chorus. Singing it, he sounds somewhere in between Paul Rodgers from Bad Company and Axl Rose. "I'm really good at writing that type of shit," he notes as it finishes.
Kid Rock excitedly cues up one more song. "This is the baddest rock & roll song I ever made. It's called 'I'm a Dog, Bitch.' It's about riding across the desert in a convertible with shotguns, with two chicks with platinum-blond wigs on." He whoops along. "This last verse is sweet," he shouts. "This is right on the money."
"Live it up, sucker," his voice booms, "because they're saying my days are numbered. Who wants to live long anyway? I'm going out with a blast, getting some ass, smoking grass, leaving all my cash for my little boy. You wouldn't understand, you don't know where I come from."
"That's fucking rock & roll right there," he says when it finishes.
His little boy, Junior, is six and a half. And until you understand about that, you barely understand anything about Kid Rock.
On the plane to Detroit, we talk while James King dozes. Kid Rock doesn't plan to fly commercial too much longer. He recently had a guy over to explain the financial practicalities of private jets. "It's not as expensive as you think," he enthuses and showers me with details. "People don't research these things." It's his new goal; he keeps the brochures by his bed.
As we fly, I ask him about his recent encounter with the President when, as recently detailed in Rolling Stone, he showed some metal in their photograph. "That's badass, right there," he says with pride. "Who else is going to go up to the President and show some metal? That was pretty sweet."
True, but this encounter prompts some other questions. For instance, last year he was in the habit of announcing from stage that as political as he got was the knowledge that "Monica Lewinsky is a fuckin' ho, and Bill Clinton is a goddamned pimp."
Did you mention to him your theory that he's a pimp?
No. I would love to, if ever he's got some time; I'd love to sit down and speak with him about it.
Do you think he'd be happy about that?
Probably not. Well, I don't know. I'd have to say that maybe behind closed doors, if me and him were sharing a Budweiser or something, it might be kind of funny – if we knew each other. But probably in public, rampin' it out in magazines and doing it on shows, he's probably not too appreciative of that.
What are his pimplike qualities?
He got a fuckin' blowjob in the Oval Office! How fucking pimp is that? And then he got off! He got out of it! He's still got his wife! The guy's my hero.
I'm also suspecting that you didn't reprise for Bill your couplet, "I gave an invitation to the president just for kicks/It said, 'You're cordially invited to suck my dick'" ("Freestyle Rhyme," 1996).
[Sniggers] I'm pretty good with the one-liners sometimes. Setting people up and watching them fall, in a roundabout way where no one gets hurt, is fun.
Nor, I suspect, did you mention your theory that "Tipper Gore is my highest-paying whore"("Pimp of the Nation," 1990).
No, he probably wouldn't have appreciated that, either.
At the airport in Detroit, Kid Rock and James King head off. He has something important to do tonight. It's his son's first-grade parents' night.
The trail of truth: on his 1996 album, Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp, Kid Rock recorded a song called "Black Chick, White Guy," which he also re-recorded for Devil Without a Cause. It tells the story of a black woman and a white man. He was from a middle-class family; she was from a troubled background: "Her momma was . . . more like a friend/Had three different kids from three different men." It describes how they started seeing each other at school: "Fuckin' during lunch in the junior high bathrooms/Drinking champagne and trippin' on mushrooms/His dick was metal, her pussy was a magnet." In ninth grade, she told him she was pregnant and had an abortion. "It might have been right, it might have been wrong/But one thing's for sure, it really fucked his head up." Later, she moved to the city, still seeing the white guy on the side, but she was mostly with a black dope dealer. She got pregnant by the dope dealer; when he was sent to jail, she hooked back up with the white guy, and they started raising her son together. In the next few years they had good times and bad times, and neither of them behaved impeccably. She got pregnant again, and a little girl was born on the front seat of his car. And not long after, they had a son. Only then did he learn that the little girl he had been bringing up as his daughter wasn't his. "Three different kids from three different men/History repeats itself again." So he splits up with her and raises the one son that is biologically his. "And now from her he's got a little boy that makes him laugh a bit/And he loves him/But still you don't know the fuckin' half of it."
Of course, he says, it's pretty much all true: "Obviously you have to rhyme words, but about ninety-nine percent." "Black Chick, White Guy" is his account of Kid Rock's relationship with the mother of his child, the woman he lost his virginity to in their junior high bathroom. (She denies much of this story and has brought suit against Kid Rock and Rolling Stone for recounting it in a previous article.) It's a delicate subject right now: Though Kid Rock has been Junior's primary caregiver since he was tiny, his mother is now suing for custody. "I know how solid I've been in terms of Bob Ritchie raising his kid," he says. "Nobody's going to take this fucking kid from me. I got all my documents from everyone involved, neighbors to teachers – everything. It's just ridiculous to think – the opportunities and the love that he's had, and the home life he enjoys and the environment he's in and schools he goes to, it's just ridiculous to challenge it could be better anywhere." The one thing that kills him is that the fight is ruining his relationship with Junior's older brother and sister, whom Kid Rock has always considered . . . well, it's hard not to notice that in "Only God Knows Why" he doesn't refer to Junior as his son but as his "youngest son." "I remember writing that song," he says, "and I was, 'Fuck it.'"
He knows that many people will take all that they know about Kid Rock and wonder how, if it is all true, he can be a fine and responsible father. "They don't know how I live my life and what I really do with my son when the door shuts and how he's handled and how he's raised and how well-mannered he is," he says. "They don't think it's possible to have the fucking unbelievably best time in the world, go out and party like it's 1999 and be able to raise your kid. People can't understand that there's a balance there and that someone can actually do it. Someone actually is doing it."
Kid Rock wanders out of his bedroom in Adidas pants, no shirt. Grunts an acknowledgment. Puts on coffee, sorts out the trash. There's a Skymall catalog on the kitchen counter next to the bananas, empty Miller Lite cans and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. "I love the Skymall," he murmurs. "I get a lot of shit from the Skymall. The bear halogen light . . . the Chesapeake Bay box." He says he also likes to pick up home-décor stuff from truck stops. His mother is helping redecorate his house outside of Detroit, and it drives her crazy. "I show up with my Elvis phone, which I bought at the Flying J, and my mom says, 'You've got a million-dollar home, and you're going to fill it up with ten-cent items,'" he says. "I'm, 'Mom, I pretty much haven't played by the rules up until now – I don't think I'm about to start.' I like Harleys and hot tubs and convertibles and pools with your name at the bottom of them. Elvis Presley shit. 'Cause it's luxury shit – shit you can enjoy, conversation pieces. It's life. It's living. To me, anyway. That's what I like. I like a lot of material things."
Junior and Kid Rock's sister Carol come in. They're going shopping.
"I've got twenty-one dollars," Junior announces.
"You're going to tear it up at Costco?" his father asks him.
When they've gone, he sips his coffee and stares out over the lawn into the woods. He talks to himself. "That's on the list of things to do this week," he says. "Pool table and new convertible."
The telephone rings, and he jumps over the leather sofa to answer it. He presses buttons, but the phone keeps ringing. "Don't even know how to work the phone system," he says. "It's got eighteen lines and shit." In the corner of the room, framed as if it were a platinum record, is a Speedo bathing suit that had belonged to, and was a gift from, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich.
Kid Rock shows me around. Downstairs is the jukebox that Atlantic Records gave him, crammed with his rap, rock and country favorites: Molly Hatchet, Steve Miller, Beastie Boys (Paul's Boutique), Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr., Bob Seger, Run DMC, Alabama, Grand Funk Railroad, the Marshall Tucker Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Allman Brothers Band, MC5, Dobie Gray, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric B. and Rakim, the Ultramagnetic MCs. He stabs on Lynryd Skynyrd's "You Got That Right" and says, "I'm gonna do a cover of this for the Trucker record, see if I can get Axl Rose to do the vocal with me." Somewhere down here, in a safe behind a locked door, is his gun: a sixteen-shot three-band Ruby. On weekends when Junior is not here and he's all alone, Kid Rock carries it with him from room to room. "I get paranoid," he says. People know he lives here. They drive up his driveway, playing his music. Smash his mailbox. "Just stupid shit I would do as a kid," he says. The gun's not for them. "There's fucking kooks out there," he says.
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