Behind the Stage Name: Kid Rock

For those only recently introduced to the musician and social media entity known as Kid Rock, here is a reminder of where the artist came from and how he got his name.

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While many recently came across a video of Kid Rock (born Robert James Ritchie), shooting a lot of Bud Light beer cans, which is assumed to be a protest of one of the beer company’s new spokespeople, Rock has been a celebrity for decades.

Let’s dive in.

The Name: Kid Rock

It’s funny how a name will stick.

As a teen, before he was signed, Ritchie would hear from club owners and audience members that they liked to see and hear “that white kid rock.” Ritchie, who was inspired by groups like the Beastie Boys and others from Def Jam that blended electric guitars with lyricism, was adept too at bending genres. So a rapper with the name Rock in his moniker? Perfect.

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Indeed, there is a lengthy history in hip-hop music of its participants using names like Young, Lil, Little, or even Kid. Music, whatever the genre it comes from, is a youthful endeavor. So, to have a lengthy career you must, in the words of Bob Dylan, stay forever young. How do you do that? With a name like Kid. Rock, another important word when it comes to music, and entertainment, is a natural moniker to adopt, too.

Kid Rock, of course, was nothing if not capable of attracting eyes and ears. He came to love his name so much that onstage early in his career, he’d put on a light show with pyrotechnics, dancers, and a light-up backdrop that displayed, Kid Rock.

Coming Up in Rap

Born January 17, 1971, in Romeo, Detroit, some 35 miles outside of Detroit, Rock came up as a rapper in the ’80s in the Motor City scene, tangentially acquaintances with Eminem. Rock’s rap group in the ’80s was known as the Beast Crew.

Rock signed with Jive Records when he was just 17. He released his debut LP, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, in 1990. Rock, a budding star in Detroit, toured with the likes of Ice Cube. He became pals with Eminem and the two often battled in rap ciphers and competitions. Sadly for Rock, Jive dropped him after he began hearing comparisons to Vanilla Ice.

Change in Sound

For his sophomore album, Kid Rock, well, went more rock. He even began covering Hank Williams Jr. and Billy Joel songs.

As Rock’s sound continued to transition, ranging from rap to rock, incorporating DJs and hype men, ranging from hard rock and hard rap to outlandish stage performances and garish clothes, Rock soon found his niche and in 1998 released his album, Devil Without a Cause. That album included the crossover hits, “Bawitdaba” and “Cowboy.” It was a rather magnificent blend of rap, rock, and Americana. Aggression with a pinch of pop and self-deprecation.

Rock married model/actress Pamela Anderson around this time (2003) and his career continued into a blend of rock, country, and excessive partying. He released more hits, like “American Bad Ass.” But his time in the limelight was fading.

Later Years

In 2004, he played the Super Bowl but received criticism from the Veterans of Foreign Wars for wearing an American flag as a poncho.

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In 2010, Rock released a country album, Born Free, that featured Sheryl Crow and Bob Seger and was produced by Rick Rubin.

Around this time, Rock began to get more political. He’s talked about running for office in Michigan. In 2015, he was asked to renounce the Confederate Flag after the Charlestown church shooting, and did not. That same year he was seen holding a dead cougar he killed with controversial rocker Ted Nugent.

A supporter of former President George W. Bush, Rock began appearing on Fox News more often. He even formed a bond with then-President Donald Trump.

In 2018, he released a greatest hits album, and in 2022, he released his latest album, Bad Reputation, which featured the Joe Biden-protest song “Let’s Go Brandon.”


Rock is still capable of making good, catchy music. But almost all the time it is now wrapped up in a political protest or association. He’s become an anti-liberal rocker where he once was a bridge between rock and rap and country.

For fans who grew up with him in the ’80s and ’90s, there is at least that music to go back to. Bawitdaba, indeed.

Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

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