The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author Shad Reed (@Shad1424) and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com.
Kid Rock is currently in the midst of a series of shows as the first musical act to perform at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Last week, at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, he received national attention for delivering a politically-charged message early during his set from behind a podium with a faux presidential seal after being introduced as “the next Senator of the great state of Michigan” (referencing the buzz he created recently with a website aimed to generate interest in him running for public office, kidrockforsenate.com). He addressed a variety of topics ranging from welfare to racism to “The Star Spangled Banner.” The momentum he generated there carried over into his first of six performances at the new venue in the Motor City. In a press release prior to his September 12 performance, publicists for the man born Robert Ritchie released the following statement, "On this historic opening night, Kid Rock will not only give patrons a performance to remember, but following the first song, he will be giving his fans exclusive insight on his political views and aspirations for Michigan while on stage." That same day, the National Action Network’s Detroit chapter also had protesters there prior to the show opposing Rock for his support of this country’s sitting president, criticism of Colin Kapernick (an NFL quarterback who refused to stand for the national anthem as a form of protest against how the United States oppresses black people and people of color), and previous use of the confederate flag during performances. Rev. Charles William II, president of the Detroit chapter, said, "When you hire Kid Rock, who is known to be dog-whistling and cat-calling to white supremacist organizations and the white supremacist community, alt-right, whatever you want to call them, and you take our tax dollars to do that? That's wrong." Additionally, Peter Hammer, director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Detroit's Wayne State University, referred to the move to have Kid Rock play the shows as "incredibly tone deaf."
I am a man who has brown skin, grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was raised by a white woman, has always had a genuine love for Hip-Hop music, took an interest in Kid Rock's career when he became a staple on MTV's Total Request Live with his hybrid of rap and rock, votes democrat in a wonderful republican community, and graduated from college in Nashville at country star Brad Paisley's alma mater. While I am just one person and would never want to presumably speak for anyone else, I believe that my views on Kid Rock are special in the sense that, due to my diverse life circumstances and experiences, they are somewhere in the middle at a time when he is a very polarizing figure in popular culture. I am not making the classic mistake of trying to please everyone. On the contrary, I believe that Kid Rock, a white artist who started his career as an anomaly in the black areas of Detroit as a DJ and rapper and has gone on to succeed in country music, is someone who can help bridge the gap between the sides of the left and the right in America because of his wide range of experiences. I agree with him on some issues, but not on others. I do understand that he is an entertainer and master showman, so I take everything he says, as well as the words of every other entertainer, with a grain of salt. His upcoming 2018 tour is even called, “Greatest Show on Earth.”
That being said, the man has never been afraid to speak his mind on any issues and the following are subjects which have come up as of late as a result Kid Rock’s connection to them at one point or another. And regardless of whether or not my views align with his, I respect the fearlessness in which he has addresses each topic. I think his type of brashness is what’s needed to truly start taking steps in a productive direction. And so in an attempt to better understand someone who I’ve been a fan of musically, but don’t always concur with politically, I’ve chimed in with my opinion in regards to how he has positioned himself with these hot button issues and given him the benefit of the doubt out of my respect for him as a fellow human being. Music can connect people like nothing else, while, at the same time, bring together real world opposing perspectives. My hope is that this helps spark something that brings about real change for the better.
The United States National Anthem: I support our troops and am forever grateful for the sacrifices they make to protect our country and allow it to prosper to the level it has. In fact, I believe that one of the things they fight for is freedom of speech and Kapernick’s actions are an exercise in just that, so to shame him for peacefully fighting for equality via one of many rights that our country has gone to war to defend is appalling. America is a wonderful country, but just like how Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted into the army to fight for a country that didn’t treat him equally, I believe Kapernick is doing the modern day equivalent. He told NFL Media, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” For all of Kid Rock’s noble patriotism, I think it’s worth noting that he hasn’t been very vocal about the cops because, perhaps given his experience in and around African-Americans, he is aware that there is a disconnect between law enforcement and that community because of the way some police officers treat them. And I say that to point out that Kid Rock has also been all over the planet and he knows how free America really is and how people are treated differently for ridiculous reasons in different parts of the world. One of the liberties American citizens have is that the United States is not a fascist country, and so the same rights that give Rock the ability to say “F**k Colin Kapernick” give Colin Kapernick the ability to kneel during the national anthem. Kid Rock has to know that and so when people not standing during the national anthem pisses him off, I’d like to think that it’s because that song is about such a free place and not because he opposes the injustice that Kapernick is trying to fight.
Appropriation of Black Culture: I take issue with those who accuse Kid Rock of selfishly exploiting black culture solely for his own personal gain. For those who may not be aware, he took a big risk. In an interview with Touré for Fuse, Rock said, “I gave up everything to be where I’m at right now - a job in the family business, a shot to go to college, and there was no back up plan.” He struggled for many years trying to make it as a rapper in the 90s when he could’ve gone a much easier route. Then, near the end of the decade, he was able to combine his Hip-Hop involvement with his rock influences to create Devil Without a Cause, one of the decades highest-selling recordings and a career-changing one for him as well. Hip-Hop is an African-American art form and it is critical to show that respect and acknowledgement (which he always has). But just as how Eminem, under similar circumstances, acknowledged that his white race played a major role in his success in a predominantly black medium (“White America”), I would hope that Kid Rock does the same if he hasn’t already. And for those who think he sold out by transitioning to country, I beg to differ. He understood that popular music was shifting and so he made that move sincerely before so many other pop artists and rappers did the same thing superficially as a means of capitalizing on the influence of country in chart-topping music. I can’t think of another artist who could embrace two such seemingly different genres and be embraced to such a degree (who else could successfully collaborate with Run-D.M.C. and Hank Williams Jr.?) Diversity like that is something to be celebrated, not criticized or looked down upon.
The Confederate Flag: After its affiliations with states during the Civil War that supported slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, those who were in favor of segregation, and its use by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, the idea that such a racist symbol would ever be presented for entertainment purposes is disgusting. Kid Rock has argued that he “never flew the flag with hate in [his] heart” and many white southerners see it as a symbol of regional heritage and pride. However, it is nothing to take pride in. I do understand having dignity in where you come from and I can appreciate why the south is loved by so many. Some of the best years of my life were spent in Tennessee with people from all walks of life basking in the wonders of southern hospitality. However, there are better ways to support states below the Mason Dixon line than displaying a flag with such a known and documented terrible history. In Kid Rock’s defense, he stopped using the flag in his shows years ago (hopefully because he realized its damning implications, learned from it, and moved forward ... in addition to receiving an award from the NAACP) and in a video for his new song “Po-Dunk,” a pregnant woman can be seen wearing a shirt with the flag on it while smoking a cigarette. While it has been specifically cited as a possible dog whistle, I disagree. My interpretation of the image is that it’s an example of something that needs to be fixed because that is clearly not the only thing wrong in the picture.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section!