December 6, 2001

The American Bad Ass Returns Cocky

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Kid Rock (a.k.a. Bob Ritchie) exemplifies many characteristics, but humility is not one of them. On his new album’s rousing self-titled track, the self-proclaimed American Bad Ass boasts, “Got more money than Matchbox Twenty, get more ass than Mark McGrath/ They say I’m cocky and I say what?/ It ain’t braggin’, motherfucker, if you back it up!” After becoming a MTV and radio mainstay by selling ten million copies of his 1998 breakthrough Devil Without A Cause, and more than two million copies of his 2000 retrospective compilation The History of Rock, while placing his DJ, Uncle Kracker, on the map with platinum record sales (thanks to the top 40 hit, “Follow Me”), and currently dating blonde bombshell Pamela Anderson, Kid Rock has every right to be one cocky bastard. Backed by his talented Twisted Brown Trucker Band (minus 3’9″ Joe C., who passed away last November due to a lifelong struggle with an intestinal disorder), Kid Rock crafts another mostly likable and lowbrow, yet unique musical extravaganza.

On first listen, fans of Kid Rock’s previous efforts like “Bawitaba” may immediately hit the stop button on their cd players as the self-appointed Pimp of the Nation surprisingly trades in most of his trademark gritty rap-metal sound for the more varied styles of southern rock, blues, funk, and, most apparently, country, which was best typified on Devil’s “Only God Knows Why.” A great deal of Kid Rock’s former brash raps and hard guitar riffs have been transformed into crooning harmonies that combine steel guitars and banjos. With repeated listens, however, the masterful blending of genres allows nuances to emerge for many enjoyable future replays.

Cocky kicks off with an invigorating introduction by the Twisted Brown Trucker Band and Uncle Kracker in support of the boastful pimp straight out of Detroit, on “Trucker Anthem.” It is followed by the forgettable and disposable first-single, “Forever,” one of the few weak tracks on the album, which merely rehashes the generic rap-rock style Kid Rock could write in his sleep.

The first half of Cocky sounds like a broken record as the foul-mouthed Kid Rock only raps about how he is the man and how no one can ever fill his shoes. Despite his arrogant lyrics, the charm of the American Bad Ass is that he is a witty songwriter who can pen some hilariously over-the-top lyrics like “I got rich off keeping it real/ While you Radioheads are reinventing the wheel” on “Lay It On Me.”

However, it is the second half of Cocky that finds Kid Rock veering into more mature and varied musical territories. He duets with Sheryl Crow on “Picture,” a schmaltzy country ballad about two depressed lovers missing each other that could even make a grown man cry. “Lonely Road of Faith,” “Baby Come Home,” and “Drunk in the Morning” use country and bluegrass backdrops as well for greater personal and emotional depth.

The standout track on Cocky is “Midnight Train to Memphis.” The song begins as a wistful country ballad that finds Kid Rock pining for the girlfriend who packed her bags and headed for that midnight train, but halfway through comedian David Spade chimes in and says, “Kid Rock/ I thought he was American Bad Ass/ He’s putting me to sleep/ Nudge me if he gets over five decibels/ I knew his first album was the good one.” The song then kicks into a soaring power anthem with Kid Rock acknowledging that he is a strong individual who will carry on.

The album does rock hard on a few tracks though. “I’m A Dog” has a southern rock swagger that sports an explosive electric organ riff in the chorus. “I May Be Wrong, But You Ain’t Right” starts off as a soulful blues number that lumbers on for a full minute before a surprising shotgun is cocked and the album’s beefiest guitar riffs turns the song into a thrash number that would please any of Rock’s fans.

The only song that feels out of place on Cocky is the bonus cut, “WCSR (World Class Sex Rhymes),” a raunchy rap song with Snoop Dogg that consists of back-and-forth sexually explicit anecdotes. It achieves borderline offensiveness with its vulgar misogyny.

As a whole, the album is definitely less heavy and boorish than his earlier releases, but Kid Rock has evolved into a slightly more mature and distinctive artist with his new country niche. A large portion of his long-time fans will be partial to it and open-minded listeners who like some variety in their rock will appreciate Kid Rock being his cocky self.

Archived article by Brett Rosenthal