Call him a fool, call him a savage, call him a pagan sex god, a tattooed love boy, a Murder City madman with Pabst Blue Ribbon in his veins. But don’t call Kid Rock a new artist, because he’s been here for years, even if nobody outside the Detroit methadone clinics ever heard of him until his hip-hop thrash tantrum Devil Without a Cause. On The History of Rock, the Bullgod collects odds and sods from his past, mostly either remixed or rerecorded entirely, to sell his millions of new fans on the idea that he was a neglected master back in the day when he was taking up fanzine ad space alongside early-Nineties hip-hop not-quites like Downtown Science, Dream Warriors, Kwame the Boy Genius and the Afros.
The verdict: Devil Without a Cause still sounds like a breakthrough, with “Bawitdaba” giving up more hooks than all fourteen of these tracks combined. But The History of Rock is proof that he’s always been able to smell a good line from a mile away. The Kid plays up Southern rock more than hip-hop, declaring, “I’m hittin’ home runs like Rusty Staub/ I’m kinda anal ’cause I ain’t no fuckin’ slob.” For the record, Rusty Staub hit only 292 homers, more than House of Pain’s man, Wade Boggs, and not as many as the Beasties’ man, Sadaharu Oh. But for all the crude kicks of “Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp,” it’s a good sign that History peaks with the two new songs: “American Bad Ass” shouts out to Johnny Cash and Grandmaster Flash, David Allan Coe and “No Show” Jones, over wailing metal guitars. And “Abortion,” which has nothing to do with abortion, is a genuinely frightening anti-drug ballad that finds common ground between the Geto Boys and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The best thing about The History of Rock is that the realest Rock may be yet to come.