A Rock in a Hard Place
The sweet smell of secession
In five years, we will mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the bloodiest war in U.S. history, and yet a stupefying number of people still don't comprehend how flying a flag associated with treason and -- more to the point -- racism might not be the best idea:
Kid Rock is set to receive the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Detroit chapter's Great Expectations Award this May.
The avid fan of soul and hip-hop music is under fire, however, for his use of the Confederate flag during his concerts, the Huffington Post reports. Several NAACP members are protesting his impending recognition for that very reason. [...] In an old interview Rock once did, the Post notes, he's quoted saying, "Sure, [the Confederate flag's] definitely got some scars, but I've never had an issue with it. To me it just represents pride in southern rock 'n' roll music, plus it just looks cool.
Shocking, I know, to think a white person born and raised in Michigan would "never have an issue" with the Confederate flag. Almost as surprising to me is the implied proposition that the South's leaving the Union wasn't spurred by the issue of slavery, but rather the right of those below the Mason-Dixon line to bellow "Freebird!" at concerts in perpetuity.
Looked at in that respect, you could almost say they won.
But what should prevent Kid Rock from receiving the Detroit Branch NAACP's award is not that he, like so many other Americans, continues to ignorantly glorify the Confederate flag (technically the "Battle Flag" of the Confederacy), the standard of failed traitors. No, the organization should shun Rock because his music is an affront to all mankind, black and white.
Kid Rock claims to be a huge fan of soul music and hip hop, which may be true. Unfortunately, songs like "Bawitdaba" and "American Bad Ass" exemplify the most derivative and paleolithic aspects of the latter. I have no idea what's behind the reasoning for this particular local chapter of the NAACP, but maybe the "great expectations" of the award in question are that Rock will one day release a song that will actually appeal to the non-meathead population of our fine country.
He's gotten a lot of credit in recent years for branching off from his early aggro rap stylings and doing things like recording a duet with Sheryl Crow and fashioning himself as something of a troubador in the vein of professed influences like Jim Croce and Bob Seger. But even then, his efforts come up short. Rock's highest charting song to date, 2008's "All Summer Long," owes its entire existence to two superior (and dead) songwriters: Warren Zevon and Ronnie Van Zant, whose "Werewolves of London" and "Sweet Home Alabama" were combined, with little enhancement, to make the end "product."
And product it is. That a Yankee like Rock, who grew up and DJ'ed alongside black people, would adopt the de facto standard of "rebel country" isn't (I believe) so much indicative of actual racism as it is his desire to shift as many units as possible. His status as a pure hip hop act was always in jeopardy, coming as it did so close on the career demise of white rap's most notorious figure. I imagine Kid Rock looked out on his overwhelmingly white male audience at Woodstock '99 and experienced something of an epiphany, realizing he could better hold onto maturing brohams by tempering his hip hop shtick with a "Southern" rock sound.
"Michigan" rock being ably handled by Bob Seger and the White Stripes, I guess.
In the meantime, Rock himself is too much of a media "bad boy" to take a lasting hit from this. He can continue to feign ignorance while the celebrity media attention flares out, leaving him with an eventual coveted lead story slot in the 2020 edition of VH1's Name That Has-Been.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.