My Retrospective Review of Kid Rock’s Devil Without a Cause

My affinity for 90s music is well-documented. Beyond writing about this miraculous decade of music, I have an ever-growing 90s playlist on my phone that currently features 33+ hours of amazing, terrible, meh, and “I forgot about this one” songs. Days of the New?  I’ve got you covered. Oh, you want to hear “Save the Best for Last” by Vanessa Williams? Check.

My nostalgia for 90s pop culture propelled my retrospective review of Creed’s My Own Prison album. I wanted to review an album and band that I (somehow) enjoyed in the 90s but abandoned entirely around Y2K. Kid Rock perfectly fits the same category as Creed, so I am going to retrospectively review his Devil Without a Cause (1998) album.

Side note: did you know Kid Rock put out an album before this in like 1990?  I had no idea, and I am afraid to listen to it. Also, I currently have a document on my computer saved as “KidRock”. Is there anyone else on the planet right now with whom I share this distinct honor?

I already bared my soul in the Creed post about my musical taste in the 90s. No need to relive that exhausting therapy session. In summation, I used to love what I now call terrible music. Creed and Kid Rock form the tip of that spear.

Before reviewing the album, let’s first contextualize my first time hearing the “illegitimate son of man,” whatever that means.

Yep, here we are, back in high school in the late 90s. Where are we going?  Well, let me take you to the Sonic on Hulen in Fort Worth, TX. A strong and committed contingent of popular students from the class of ‘98 hung out at Sonic constantly. When I say constantly, I mean that at least one person (or car) from that group could be seen there Sunday at 2pm, Wednesday at 7am, and Friday at midnight. It was not uncommon to see 10+ cars of high schoolers inundate Sonic on any given weekend evening. Over time, more and more students from other classes started showing up, making Sonic on Hulen an undeniably miserable experience for all other patrons.  

Sonic, of all places, acted as the moon-tower from Dazed and Confused.

It became a haven for underage drinking and smoking. High schoolers could get drunk from the friendly, somewhat hidden confines of their ’97 Mitsubishi Eclipse, ’96 Mustang, or ’98 Camaro. People would often get out and move from car-to-car, or maybe just sit in the bed of some dude’s dad’s 1992 Ford F-150.

Every time you entered the parking lot of Sonic, you had no choice but to run the gauntlet of social judgment and acceptance. As your car weaved through the meandering teens on-foot, you were confronted with a sea of ominous stares influenced by Zima, Arbor Mist, and Boone’s Farm. What kind of car are you driving? Are you an accepted, trusted member of the Sonic moon-tower? Were you invited as a guest by one of the founders?  Or are you just showing up randomly for the first time? Oh man…good luck making it through the gauntlet unharmed if you fell into the latter.

In order to conquer the gauntlet, there was an unofficial playbook:

  • Before pulling in, push play on your removable cd player, roll your windows down, and turn up the latest from No Limit Records. Bonus points for playing Silkk the Shocker. HUGE bonus points for Radish or “Raindrop Juliette” from The Visitors.
  • Light up a Black and Mild, Swisher Sweet, or a cigarette and rest your hand outside the car window. Everyone must know that you smoke, or at least pretend to enjoy smoking.
  • Take a drink from your alcoholic beverage, ensuring that the label/brand is clearly visible to the gauntlet’s founders. (Driver proceeds to take a drink of the beer and wants to vomit from the taste, but outwardly gives an approving nod of taste-bud satisfaction, reassuring everyone that “this guy must drink a lot of beer.”)
  • Park the car and roll up the windows, leaving a small crack at the top.
  • Continue to smoke in your car. Although this creates an uninhabitable cabin of poor visibility, uncontrollable coughing, and teary eyes, you power through….for the brand.
  • Wait for people to come to your car.
  • Talk about what kind of beer you like, even though you secretly hate all of it. Then talk about where you are going next. You going to Benbrook Lake for the keg party? Maybe you are going to a small party on the down low in Candle Ridge somewhere? People have started to party in the empty field behind the new, but still-in-development subdivision. Want to go there? Or maybe you just stay there….at fucking Sonic.
  • An unknown car flies down Hulen as the unidentified passengers yell incoherently at the moon-tower guests.
  • After sitting there for hours, you never actually order anything from Sonic. Maybe a drink that you will use as a mixer, but that’s it.

I was in the passenger seat of an early 90s Ford Probe the first time I experienced the gauntlet. I know everyone is concerned…we DID thankfully pass the gauntlet. The driver was a loyal customer and well-known to the founders.

Still, we had to follow the playbook. As we approached the gauntlet starting gate, the driver lit up a Black and Mild, rolled down the windows and said to me, “check out this song.” It was “I Am the Bullgod” by Kid Rock. No bonus points (Silkk the Shocker).

We pulled into the parking spot and it was the typical scene:

Mitsubishi Eclipse in one parking spot

Ford Mustang in another

An old Jeep Wrangler or Chevy Trailblazer that was one trip to Stop-n-Go away from engine failure, but it had big wheels and all-terrain tires, which made it cool.

Wind pants

There was always the person who brought their boyfriend or girlfriend from another school.

Lots of people sitting in the car strategically resting their cigarette-wielding hands on the door…for the brand.

Mystery guest – someone in a car that never gets out, windows rolled up the entire time.

The younger student (freshman or so) who became the unofficial mascot for the “older” crowd. The mascot was like a college fraternity pledge. Yes they were accepted, but to maintain acceptance you had to do all the bitch work and get yelled at, but have a smile on your face the entire time.

Different songs blaring from car to car: the Mitsubishi 3000GT might be playing 2Pac, but over here we have “It Ain’t My Fault” in the K-5 Blazer. Which one do you pick?

The one car that had a “system” of speakers (probably Kenwood) that shook the entire property with every bass hit from the mastered drum machine on the rap song. Completely unnecessary, but a huge deal in the late 90s. You couldn’t hear any other part of the song, but it didn’t matter. As long as you had an earth-shaking kick drum emanating from the trunk of your car, nobody cared.

You may be asking, where was management?  How did this go on? I honestly have no idea. Can someone closer to the situation please clarify?

This is supposed to be about Kid Rock…here we go.

Anyways, my first Kid Rock exposure was “I Am the Bullgod.” My friend in the Ford Probe pumped it up at Sonic. I loved it. At the time I enjoyed 90s rap, 90s alternative, and some heavier stuff, which for me in 1998 meant the Metallica Load album and Godsmack. “Bullgod” seemed to capture all the things I liked about music in 1998: guitar, some melodic vocals in the chorus, and rapping, or whatever you call what Kid Rock does.  

Like Creed, I bought the album from Blockbuster Music and played it incessantly. Devil Without a Cause launched Kid Rock into the stratosphere. Although a popular song, public consumption pushed “I Am the Bullgod” to the endnotes to make room for songs like “Bawitdaba,” “Cowboy,” and “Only God Knows Why.”

I bought the album, but these are the only songs I remember. I know I listened to the whole thing back in 1998, but I just don’t remember the other 11 songs on the album. Oh god, here we go….I am going to retrospectively review all 71 minutes of a Kid Rock album, with comments in real time as I listen.

Bawitdaba

This dramatic intro reminds me of Kid Rock’s intro at Woodstock.

I am reading the lyrics along with the song and the first minute is hilarious. “Bawitdaba, da bang, da dang diggy giggy. Diggy, said the boogie, said up jump the boogie.”

I never knew this was so well-articulated. There is actually a distinct difference between da Bang and da Dang. Same thing with diggy and giggy.

In all seriousness, what is this song about? We’ve got chicks with beepers, all the homies in cell block six. Is there a central message in this song? It’s not a love song. Is he just giving shout-outs to his people out there?

The bridge: ”Love and for the hate.  And for the peace. War…” Is this Kid Rock’s attempt at dramatic lyrical irony? Is he trying to articulate the complicated juxtapositions tormenting his psyche? He is such a complicated individual. He should mash-up Sweet Home Alabama and a Warren Zevon song to try to make sense of this complicated life.

Cowboy

I think the lyrics to this song actually have some kind of purpose? (very heavy question mark)  He wants to be a cowboy. I think he is talking about all the things he is doing, or wants to do, in order be known as a cowboy on the West Coast?

He is going to buy a yacht with a flag that reads “chillin’ the most.”  Damn, that’s awesome. Reminds me of other inspirational late 90s lyrics such as Fred Durst warning us that he is “like a chainsaw” and if you aren’t careful he will “skin your ass raw.”

This song is worse than track 1, even though the lyrics make a little more sense. I guess.

Devil Without a Cause

There are recurring themes now across all songs:

wealth, strippers, Jack, Jim, beer, drugs, smoking, sexual conquests, Detroit, and platinum records. Wait, now I understand how this music passed the gauntlet. It is essentially the same as any No Limit Records song. This is making me wonder if music is actually a science, not an art.

I am not sure I can write about each individual song because they are all essentially the same.

He regurgitates the same shit about his life and his ambitions. I made it to “Bullgod”and it is so exhausting. This is bad. I would rather listen to Creed.  Wait, would I?  Yep. I would rather listen to an entire Creed album.

This album makes it abundantly clear, yet again, that I did not care about lyrical content in the late 90s.

Wasting Time

Completely forgot about this one. This has a catchy hook in the chorus, preceded by the amazing lyrics in the pre-chorus, “puffin a Winston, drinkin’ a 4.0”

Tracks 7-10

I just came out of a coma. Can someone tell me what happened from tracks 7 through 10? Oh, it’s just the exact same as the previous songs? Cool. I will continue.

Only God Knows Why

The kinder, gentler Kid Rock with an obnoxious amount of auto-tune. Kid Rock was ahead of the auto-tune game. I don’t think T-Pain and his annoying auto-tune obsession emerged until the mid 00s.

This song sucks.

Tracks 12-14

Uh Oh.  Eminem makes a guest appearance. Think he wants that one back? That Detroit credibility just got a huge boost. I wonder if they are still good friends today.

IT ENDED.  IT FINALLY ENDED.

That was pretty painful.

Other random Kid Rock thoughts

Whatever happened to Kid Rock, anyways? He had about a ten-year run of sustained popularity after this album. He had the duet with Sheryl Crow, the Lynyrd Skynyrd/Warren Zevon (shout out to Couch, RIP) monstrosity, and married Pamela Anderson.

I know he is still making music, but I guess the appeal of this kind of 90s music has largely expired. I bet you can still find him playing with Nickelback at the Sturgis motorcycle rally from time-to-time. Just a wild guess. Post-pandemic, Kid Rock would be wise to tour with Ted Nugent. I bet they get along well.

Think about this bill: Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, and Lee Greenwood.  I mean, who opens for who? Let’s say Lee Greenwood opens. Lee Greenwood plays “Proud to be an American” 10 times and then leaves. Ted Nugent comes on next. He opens with Cat Scratch Fever and fires flaming arrows at targets in the seating area. Those targets feature the faces of communist leaders throughout history. While everyone in the crowd cheers with every direct hit, they – including Nugent – secretly think to themselves “Who exactly is the person on that target? What exactly is communism? I have no idea, but I know it is really, really bad.” His second song is actually his last song, because he plays “Stranglehold” for 45 minutes. Then, believe it or not, Lee Greenwood comes out again and aptly plays “Proud to be an American” as the intro for the Kid Rock set. The crowd goes wild. As he sings, American flags drop from behind the stage and there is a fly-over. Kid Rock didn’t have the connections or the budget for F/A-18s or Stealth bombers, so he had to settle for the single-prop Cessna owned by the local skydive company. The crowd didn’t care because that plane was dragging a banner that read “Kid Rock supports the troops.” That is when Kid Rock came out and the world was right again.

VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE

The Sonic on Hulen has since shut down, but the unmistakable physical markings of Sonic remain: the drive-in parking spots, the columns that separate each spot, and the small structure that houses the kitchen. It is now an awkward-looking local restaurant with the same physical structures still intact, but a different color scheme.  I’m sure the food is great, but it looks like a Sonic tried to disguise itself with the Groucho Marx glasses-nose-mustache combo. “Sonic, we know it’s you. Come on out.”  Actually, I take that back. Don’t come out.  

Regardless of the location’s history of aesthetics and tenants, this property’s performance unquestionably peaked as a Sonic in the late 90s.

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