Robert "Kid Rock" Ritchie is a master of being pissed off at somebody. So it comes as no surprise that he is now pissed off at Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson and the Detroit Free Press.
Henderson wrote about the string of six shows Rock was contracted to do as the grand opening of the new Little Caesars Arena. After pointing out Rock's previous embrace of the confederate flag as a symbol of America and the $324 million in tax dollars Detroiters are paying for LCA, Henderson issued a blunt assessment: "Having Kid Rock open this arena is erecting a sturdy middle finger to Detroiters — nothing less."
In response, after whining petulantly about the column, Rock denied the newspaper's reporters press access for his shows at LCA's opening extravaganza.
Hey Freepsters, welcome to the club. Kid Rock has been mad at Metro Times a lot longer than he has been mad at you guys. (He denied us credentials too.) His beef with MT goes back to the late 1990s. Kid Rock had been bubbling around for a while and MT had covered him and his Twisted Brown Trucker thing. But then he was breaking big. He had a new album coming out and a series of high-profile shows on deck.
Someone from Rock's camp contacted MT's music editor, Chris Handyside, and requested a cover story leading into the aforementioned festivities. Handyside said "no" — although Kid got a very nice half-page article instead.
Well, Rock got all pissed off about it and took to dissing MT from the stage about it. At a Detroit Music Awards event — something MT started and then sponsored before an independent nonprofit took it over — he explicitly said that he was there for the music community and not for MT. This paper doesn't count in his media profile anymore, but there has never been a rapprochement between the two.
So Freep folks, life goes on without Kid Rock. In fact, it may even be better.
However, the more distressing concern is that the Kid is making noises about becoming a much larger part of our lives by running for senator. He has made no official pronouncement, although he was announced at LCA as "the next senator of the great state of Michigan, Kid 'motherfucking' Rock," and is selling "Kid Rock for Senate" merch.
What has Trump wrought? Now that the circus has officially come to town in our political endeavors, Kid Rock sees his natural environment. Most of what I've seen of his public persona has been of over-the-top, overly gaudy, Barnum & Bailey, "there's-a-sucker-born-every-minute" showmanship. It was Kid Rock who was willing to come onstage dressed in all the accouterments of the Detroit black pimp in the white imagination — complete with a full-length white fur coat. (Liberace anyone?) There's no shame in his game.
Apparently he has changed his style. The video for his July release, "Po-Dunk" — actually a fine blues tune — revels in redneck culture, featuring a lot of babes in cut-offs, shooting guns, drinking, jumping in a mud hole, and ... flipping the bird. And — oh, yeah — there are some black people in it, in case you want to call him racist. But no fur coats here: Rock is either bare-chested, in a black T-shirt, or in a tank top with "Cocky 1" on the back.
I'm wondering if "Cocky 1" is an allusion to Air Force 1, the presidential plane. It shows as Rock enters an airplane. Maybe he's bragging about his friendship with President Trump. Then again, maybe he's pointing to a future where he is the president.
That's a scary thought. The Kid is 46 this year, and could well be considering a career change. As Hank Williams Jr. sings in "All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down," "the hangovers hurt more than they used to."
The thing is, parlaying your fame in the entertainment business into political punch is becoming old hat. Sonny Bono became a congressman from California; actor Ronald Reagan rose to be governor of California and later president; wrestler Jesse Ventura became governor of Minnesota; then Minnesota did it again electing Sen. Al Franken, a former Saturday Night Live writer. Arnold Schwarzenegger got to be governor of California, but the Constitution kept him from running for president.
Heck, Detroit elected Dave Bing, a former professional basketball player, to be mayor. And even though Gov. Rick Snyder came from the business world, he introduced himself to us with that cute little "one tough nerd" commercial and used the persona to his advantage.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a little pop culture fame can be diverted into political influence.
Rock has punctuated his music career with being pissed off at somebody. He had a famous feud with the Insane Clown Posse and punched Tommy Lee at the 2007 Video Music Awards. There's been bad blood with Steve Tyler, and he's dissed Justin Bieber and Beyoncé.
Kid Rock is one pissed-off white guy, and he's watching it work in politics. Trump got to be president in large part by being a pissed-off white guy, directing his anger at undocumented immigrants, Muslims, the media, NATO (they've since made up), China (they're thinking about it), Black Lives Matter (not a chance), and seemingly almost anybody at one time or another, except the Russians. Trump ran his campaign as an entertainment enterprise, breaking most traditional rules of presidential decorum — and it worked.
That's what Rock knows how to do well — play the badass, pissed-off rulebreaker. And he's already begun to appropriate Trump's language, ranting about the "fake news" during the Free Press dustup.
I'm pretty sure folks at Sen. Stabenow's office are taking this very seriously. It's pretty well known that the Trump camp didn't expect to win — but it happened. You never know what could happen once Rock gets on the ballot.
How weird is it that the previous most visible rock clown of the right, the cat-scratchin' Ted Nugent (who once billed himself as the prime manipulator of rock 'n' roll), also hails from Michigan — both sprung from our loins, so to speak. With the evidence in, I'm afraid to say that this may just be who we really are as a state.
Still, I don't know that Kid Rock is a racist. When he wrapped himself in the Confederate battle flag, it looked like a pimp coat to me. He's willing to wrap himself in whatever it takes to ingratiate himself to his audience. That's why he's a potentially scary politician.
I really don't know who or what he is behind the persona, or if he's been consumed by it and there is nothing else there. I do know that Rock can be an incredibly annoying motherfucker.
And about that "pissing him off" thing — oops, we did it again.