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321 It felt like being part of this secret in Detroit that soon the whole world was going to know about. —Tommy Valentino W hy is Kid Rock so big in Detroit? BecauseKidRockgotaheadstartinDetroit: a decade of building his name, grooming his sound, and reinventing his persona from scrappy hip-hop street kid to swaggering rock-rap showman. In 2015, Rock’s album First Kiss marked his departure from Atlantic Records, the company that launched him into the national spotlight with 1998’s ten-million-copy-selling Devil Without a Cause. Getting to that point wasn’t without struggle.The teenage Kid Rock had been dropped by his first label, andhereturnedtoDetroitintheearly’90sdisillusioned but determined to make it on his own terms—driven not by money but by an intense thirst for fame. Here’s a look back at those early Detroit years, 1990 through 1998, when a young Bob Ritchie hustled hard to get noticed—and molded himself into the Kid Rock the rest of the world knows today. CHAPTER 1: A SETBACK AND A BOUNCE BACK Romeo-born Ritchie was a little-known seventeenyear -old rapper and DJ when he was signed by the New York hip-hop label Jive Records, which issued his 1990 debut album, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast. He’d spent his teen years playing east-side house parties and making connections in Detroit’s fledgling hip-hop scene, and Grits was his Beastie Boys–inspired record of bawdy, boasting rap. Jive booked Kid Rock on that year’s Straight from the Underground package tour with Too Short and others—a shot at a national audience. But his Jive stint was brief, and the young rapper was soon back in Detroit plotting his next move.It would be the key stage in Kid Rock’s evolution, as his hair grew longer, his music grew louder, and his live show grew bigger. Mike E. Clark (Producer-mixer): I cut his demos as a kid before he got signed in 1989. I was working with mostly young black teenagers then. I didn’t know he was white—we caught each other off guard when he came in. I thought,“Yeah, sure. A white guy is going to rap.”But he shut me up.He had his turntable,had his beats, his stuff already written. He had his shit together and blew me away. He was very confident, had the high-top fade, very sharp. You could tell right away he wasn’t bullshitting. He had a shitty little Casio keyboard and knew exactly how he was going to do it. He took those demos and got a deal with Jive. Joe Nieporte (Manager, the Ritz and State Theatre): I ran the original Ritz in Roseville, an 1,800-seat venue. Very large. He wanted a gig. He came in pretty Kid Rock before the Fame The Definitive Oral History Brian McCollum 322 deTroıT rocks ınTo The ’70 s and beyond cocky: “I’m going to fill this place.” Every band I talk to says that. But he had a lot of wits about him. Just a strong, cool personality. We did the gig and he put 1,200 people in there. I was blown away. He had a great street team, a lot of little kids helping him back then. Jerry (Vile) Peterson (Publisher, Orbit magazine): He had this giant Mount Clemens posse. The high school friends. You’d meet so many of them at once. Joe Nieporte: Bob was just straight-up rap then. He didn’t have a band. You’ve heard that early stuff—a lot of profanity, real edgy, hard-core. I wasn’t a big rap fan, but I liked his stuff. But I remember telling him, “Dude, if you’re going to make it to the next level, you’ve got to clean it up.” Mike Himes (Owner, Record Time shop): When Grits Sandwiches came out, he came in for an in-store [performance] at Ten [Mile Road] and Gratiot. He had the tall hair,spinning like he would at the bars in Mount Clemens. We had a decent turnout. Toward the end, this blond-haired skinny kid kept yelling out—“I’ll battle you! I’ll battle you!”Just persistently getting in Kid Rock’s face. I came up to him: “Dude, this is his day, his event. Maybe one day you’ll have your day, but leave the guy alone.” He followed him out to the parking lot still wanting...


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