Last week, as the Internet failed to remind you, was the 15th anniversary of the Kid Rock album The History of Rock. No, seriously, it happened. Even in this age of thinkpiece-after-thinkpiece and 25th anniversary spectacles that are merely the 5th anniversary celebrations of 20th anniversary coverage, the decade-and-a-half mark for Kid Rock's follow-up to his Diamond album Devil Without a Cause went entirely unmentioned. Unsure of why a nation of websites would leave all that money on the table, we at the Weekly are here to heroically right this wrong and pick up the torch where lesser sites have dropped it and embalmed their credibility. This is Kid Rock's History of Rock, 15 years later.
All kidding aside, History of Rock is worth looking back at if only for what a strange its release and the circumstances surrounding it truly are. Music fans and industry-types tend to idealize the year 2000, and perhaps understandably so. It's the single biggest year that the music industry ever had. More labels were releasing more albums that more music consumers were purchasing than any point in recorded history before or since. Music stores seemed like good investments and were popping up all over, the outlets by which people witnessed and heard music were still unchallenged and it made each major label release feel like nothing short of an event. May 2000 in particular was as loaded of a release month that the TRL Generation ever had. In successive weeks you had Britney Spears breaking the record for most albums sold by a solo artist in a single week with her sophomore album Oops…I Did It Again, and then Eminem breaking that record one week later with his game-changing The Marshall Mathers LP. The stars of the industry never shined brighter, sophomore albums were creating legends and fresh off of the excitement of Memorial Day Weekend was Kid Rock's History of Rock.
If you ever wanted to explain what an exorbitant powder keg the music industry of 2000 was to someone, History of Rock's mere existence is quite the snapshot. In a year where the current President's infidelity made him a subject all candidates vying for that office were avoiding despite the media's widespread celebration of his administration, where Surge cola flowed endlessly to fuel a nation willing to wear jorts and Big Johnsons shirts while spelling "extreme" without that first "e," and where entertainment was so prosperous that all walks of life regardless of ideology were never more proud to be loud, it was practically a future predicted by Kid Rock on his debut album ten years prior.
If you've never had the pleasure, Kid Rock's Grit Sandwiches for Breakfast is a 1990 traditional (ie. No metal guitars) rap album co-produced by Too $hort that's as blue as everything before or since. While Rock's trademark long hair was still frozen in a hi-top, the same wanton obnoxious subject matter that made him such a provocateur a decade later is clearly established. From the oral sex ode "Yo-Da-Lin The Valley" to the (SPOILER ALERT) booty-finger-licking climax of "Wax That Booty," Rock's was Jive Records' raunchy answer to Vanilla Ice that stemmed from a question nobody asked. While it's admittedly cool for what it is, its shortcomings lead to Rock to return to a journeyman lifestyle and culminated in the cornucopia of influences that resulted in his independent follow-ups The Polyfuze Method and Early Mornin' Stone Pimp where he would perfect the style that got a nation to get in the pit and try to love someone on 1998's Devil Without a Cause.
But while Devil's success, fueled by the four (!) released videos, made it seem like Kid Rock was a volcano of gold, History of Rock didn't quite reach these heights. When compared to Rock's contemporaries who were immediately releasing albums right before him, Devil Without a Cause had sold over twice the amount of Eminem's Slim Shady LP and roughly the same amount as Spears' …Baby One More Time. Certainly their first week sales setting new records and becoming two of the biggest selling albums or all time was going to translate to Rock, right?
Well, not so much. And there's a few possible reasons for that.
First of all, Kid Rock's lead single "American Bad Ass" could be seen as not having quite the pop sensibility of Spears' title track or Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady," both of which absolutely dominated pop radio. Rather, "American Bad Ass" is significant for Rock using his newfound clout to actually clear a sample of Metallica's "Sad But True," something he teased while DJing an MTV New Years Eve party 18 months prior, only now the notoriously sample-rejecting band felt enough about Rock to back him up on the song for his live television performances. Being this was three years removed from the last Metallica studio album and a few-months after their symphony experiment S&M, it was a really the last favorable moment of Metallica in the pop culture realm before getting music listeners to turn on them thanks to the Napster lawsuit two months later.
But as inspired as "American Badass" may have been, the label made it a point to promote the album as a "History" of the rap-rocker. In a move that wasn't uncommon of a 2000s music industry that was somersaulting through money, Rock's label Atlantic decided to re-release Rock's best songs from his now out-of-print two independent albums. Yes, the big touted follow-up to Rock's juggernaut of an album was going to be a heavily promoted garage sale. With only two officially new songs as a part of it (one of which already being six months old as it debuted on the Any Given Sunday soundtrack at a time when soundtracks were going Platinum) Rock's songs from the Polyfuze Method album were remixed and the Early Mornin' Stone Pimp record, due to being unable to relocate the masters, were just entirely re-recorded. These new resources did allow Rock to flush out some of the better moments, namely how "Ya Keep On" went from this:
As well as the track "Early Mornin' Stone Pimp," perhaps Rock's magnum opus (and often the subject of "I hate all Kid Rock songs EXCEPT" conversations 15 years later) which he was able, in the full spirit of the release, able to make amazing in probably the best realized example of his artistry.
Of course, that version removes the Billy Ray Cyrus dis (he was busy starring into direct-to-video action movies at that point) and adds the late Joe C, but this was what Atlantic wanted to serve us as the next offering from Mr. "Bawitdaba." Audiences either weren't as taken with the lead single or weren't that into playing retail for a photo album of old friends they hadn't met yet as the album debuted at #2, only selling 450,000 copies in its first week and eventually only going double platinum.
Rock seemed to fall behind his contemporaries when it came time for his next official follow-up Cocky whose debut single "Forever" struggled to catch on with audiences. It wasn't until quite a while after the album's release when that album's duet with Sheryl Crow "Picture" opened him up to country audiences, setting him on the course that allowed him to thrive for another decade. But between the genre jumps that gave him a career, there's the curious case of The History of Rock.
There. Now, in 2020 on the album's 20th anniversary, you have a commemorative 5th anniversary of this piece to write about.