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Detroit Rock City

The local legends who defined the sound of the city

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When the late Rob Tyner of the MC5 implored his listeners to "kick out the jams!," he was barking on behalf of all the great rock & roll musicians yet to come from his hometown. In Detroit, they've been turning out an assembly line of ass-kickers with guitars since the heyday of the Studebaker. The fourth-largest city in the U.S. in the Fifties, known as the "Paris of the West" for its impressive architecture, Detroit began a long, excruciating decline to its present crisis. But for all its troubles – or maybe as a result of them – the city has never lost its rock & roll spirit. Here are the local legends who defined the sound of the city, from the postwar boogie of John Lee Hooker to the postmodern blues of the White Stripes.

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After emerging in the late Nineties as the prankish chameleon of hip-hop, Marshall Mathers paid serious tribute to the rap battle scene that spawned his career in the feature film 8 Mile. Eminem's rap superstardom stands in sharp contrast to the cult stardom of J Dilla, the stage name of the late James Yancey, whose eccentric crate-digging production for A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Common and others made him nearly as influential in the sound of latter-day hip-hop. 

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After taking up breakdancing at a young age, a suburbanite named Bob Ritchie was one of the city's biggest names on the underground rap scene when he appeared on the Insane Clown Posse's debut LP in 1992. Kid Rock, as Ritchie is now known, later aligned himself with Detroit's meat-and-potatoes rock heritage by befriending Bob Seger, whom he inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

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