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Pop Music | Checking In With . . . Kid Rock

Freely Rocking Without a Care

The singer-rapper/party animal, happy with career and family, looks back.

May 28, 2000|RICHARD CROMELIN | Richard Cromelin is a Times staff writer

How do you follow up an album that has sold more than 6 million copies and established the artist as a larger-than-life figure who seems to be everywhere on the pop music landscape?

If you're Kid Rock, you don't. "It's not a follow-up to 'Devil Without a Cause,' it's a preview," says the singer-rapper and multi-instrumentalist.

Which is his way of saying that "The History of Rock," due in stores Tuesday, is a retrospective that collects some tracks from the independent albums he made in the early and middle '90s, before he signed with Atlantic Records and broke through with such hits as "Bawitdaba" and "Cowboy." The album also includes some unreleased songs and a couple of new recordings (see review, Page 59).

In an interview, the 29-year-old Detroit native, whose real name is Bob Ritchie, talked about the new release, his public image and his ability to be both parent and party animal.

Question: Why did you put out this retrospective now, instead of releasing a new album?

Answer: I have enough stuff recorded for a new album, but I have a lot of songs I've done over the years, and I thought it was important to put this out to show the kids that not everything I've done is great, but everything somehow led up to "Devil." I'm pretty content with myself now, so I don't have any problem with putting out something like that. The critics will get their shots at it, and I know it won't sell like "Devil"--it's not radio-friendly. But I thought it was important to put it out there.

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Q: Your mix of rap and rock has gotten you categorized with rap-rock bands like Limp Bizkit. What are your feelings about that whole genre?

A: There's good and bad in it, like any kind of music. The problem is now they're signing any white guy that can rap, the same way they're combing the malls for any boy bands that can dance.

My loyalty's just to good music. I can mix in straight rock with the hip-hop and do a sort of country thing and whatever I want. Everybody always said, "Pick a direction, you have to pick a direction, you can't have a ballad in the middle of a rock album like that, you can't have a banjo in a hip-hop record." But I did it. You can do whatever you want if you write good songs and you're talented.

So I don't know that the rap-rock thing will be the future. I think the future is in the mixing of styles, not in any one thing.

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Q: You and Eminem have been mentioned a lot lately in articles about race and rap--one issue being whether white rappers are exploiting a black style. Is that something you've thought about and dealt with?

A: I've always dealt with it. . . . But if anybody tells me I can't do the music I want to do, they can [expletive] my [expletive]. . . . It's just ignorant.

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Q: When you got into hip-hop as a teenager, did you wonder if your race would be an obstacle?

A: Yeah, it probably was. But I was out there with those guys, touring with Ice Cube and Too $hort, acts like that. Too $hort was very nice, but nobody went out of their way to really help me out. . . . I think they were worried they'd look like Uncle Toms if they were out there helping the white kid.

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Q: Talk a little about your public image, the Kid Rock character. How close is that to the real person?

A: I used to say that the character is pretty much me, and that's true in a way. But it is a character, and when you see me at my son's soccer game with my video camera, there's obviously a big difference.

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Q: The difference is that the Kid Rock character is known for hard partying. Have you always been that way?

A: I think that's just in my blood. My dad was into partying, my mom was into partying. They'd have keg parties, they'd have hayrides and just get wild. . . . But I've always been able to balance. I can be as wild and party harder than anyone, but when I have to get up in the morning and take care of business or deal with things I have no problem doing that.

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Q: Now that you've finally found success, is life in the spotlight all you expected? Are there any negatives?

A: I like it. I know it means when I go out I sign autographs and take pictures with fans, but I don't mind. I don't complain about it. Sometimes it's a little weird after you've been on a plane for 12 hours and it's 6 a.m. and a woman's yelling at you because you get in your limo instead of signing an autograph, but that's OK.

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Kid Rock appears with Metallica, Korn, Powerman 5000 and System of a Down on July 15 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 1201 S. Figueroa St., 2 p.m. $45 and $65. (213) 741-1151.

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