Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Album of the Week: Kid Rock - Devil Without a Cause

Kid Rock has since done a great job of creating and capitalizing on a caricature of himself-  but a decade before becoming everyone's favorite sellout rappin' redneck he burst onto the scene with an album that was undeniably groundbreaking.  For children of the 90s, this album simultaneously provided the most accessible initiation to heavy rock music as well as rap.  Perhaps it has since been filed into the "guilty pleasure" category; but upon revisitation, its better moments hold up surprisingly well.  

Devil Without a Cause was Kid Rock's last album to be labeled as hip-hop, but at its heart this thing is straight-up rock.  Courtesy of his backing 'Twisted Brown Trucker Band', Devil was a pioneering record in the late 90s rap/rock consolidation, and to this day stands out over its counterparts as a bright spot on the doomed genre.  The guitars here grind and squeal with the intensity of classic grunge and stoner metal, while the old-school drum sound makes for a unique yet fitting backbeat for the rapped verses.  

Which brings us to our centerpiece- Kid Rock's white-trash anthems, delivered aggressively with shameless self-awareness.  On this album he is still classifiable as a rapper, but makes no secrets of his country-fried values.  With Cowboy he predates many modern acts by seamlessly incorporating rap and hard rock into the now-familiar country music lyrical formula.  Even as he goes hard on the title track and I Am the Bullgod there is never any doubt that this guy is a proud redneck spitting strip-club ready jams with no fucks to be given.  Throughout the album you get the sense that he is on a collision course with fame, and he knows it.   Later in the album Only God Knows Why brings his country side to the forefront.  The unfortunate overuse of auto-tune has aged poorly to say the least, but beneath the dated production is a daring change of pace and hint of things to come; not to mention a great tune in general to bolster the album's lackluster second half.  

Kid Rock has, for better or worse, come a long way since this breakthrough album.  Like him or not, it is a testament to his talent as a musician that he has found ways to evolve and outlive his rap/rock and nu-metal counterparts.  Regardless of the act he has become, one can't deny that he has a knack for upbeat backcountry rock music, on display in its purest form on Devil Without a Cause.

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