“Rap was my life as I was growing up”
I have no doubt that was true for Robert Ritchie when “Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast” was released in 1990. In fact our age and life trajectory were relatively parallel at the time, aside from him being a few years older and living much closer to a major urban center. Kid Rock was able to hone his hip-hop skills hanging out in Detroit, rapping and deejaying at talent shows, competing with a far more diverse community than the one he grew up in. That’s the other place we diverge. Kid Rock’s parents owned multiple car dealerships, and mine certainly did not. I don’t knock Rock for it though because he did what any true head with dreams of rap stardom should do — he paid his dues and earned a chance to break through on a national level.
The unlikely (and only) single off his debut album is “Yo-Da-Lin in the Valley.” While most male rappers prefer receiving more than giving when it comes to oral sex, Rock decided to differentiate himself from his peers with “a delicious break from potatoes.” He details at great (and explicit) length how deep his game is: “Came out with hair on my tongue/but still I got the job done.” I have a hard time believing this got airplay, even if it was edited, even on the radio in his native Michigan. Nevertheless I respect the chutzpah that Kid Rock showed by breaking from the traditional role of rappers wanting women to “swallow it” while not ever reciprocating.
It seems weird to think that this version of Kid Rock turned into the one who whines about wokeness and cancel culture. What happened to the rapper who sound like a cross between LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C. on “With a One-Two” (and all that good shit) on his debut? This Kid Rock remixed the Doobie Brothers into a rap track and vowed to “never flip or trip” and “rock this party” with his rhymes. The album may have only sold 100,000 copies back in the day, but it made him a local celebrity in Detroit and hinted at a much bigger future for him in the music world.
Unfortunately “Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast” would be Kid Rock’s first and last release for Jive/RCA Records, and would mark a nearly decade long stretch before he returned to a major label on “Devil Without a Cause.” By then he sounded less like the traditional rapper heard on “Wax the Booty” and more like a “nu metal” rap artist comparable to Fred Durst or Mike Shinoda. In fact this Too $hort produced track sound like Todd Shaw should be rapping on it, and it wouldn’t be out of place on either’s album. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Shaw ghostwrote the song for him.
Too $hort’s influence can definitely be heard on songs like “Pimp of the Nation.” It certainly seems like a smart decision for the sake of his rap credibility for Kid Rock to focus on sexual exploits. As a white kid with rich parents he wasn’t going to have “street cred” amongst the originators of the hip-hop arts, but people are always going to enjoy having sex regardless of race, color, creed or background. (Other than asexuals though, and I respect the ace community, no offense meant.) If Kid Rock had tried to be meaner, harder, or more gangster than acts like Ice Cube he would have been laughed right out of the scene, but with “non-commercial raps that run like Herschel, Walker” his “Style of X-Pression” made that rap connection.
Now let me be perfectly frank — “Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast” isn’t a great album. It’s an average album for 1990. You’ll hear all kinds of theories about why Robert Ritchie got dropped from his record deal, including that the sudden rise and fall of Vanilla Ice immediately made all white rappers sus. I think the truth is far simpler. Jive/RCA saw a rapper with a limited regional appeal and no songs that could be played on the radio that only sold 100,000 copies of his debut and said “What do we need this kid for?” They weren’t wrong. I’m not a fan of what Rock has become, but I respect his debut album, even as I firmly tell you that it’s not anything to go out of your way for. Yo-Da-Lin in the Valley” is amusing and unconventional enough to be worth revisiting, but the album is largely forgettable. The unfortunate truth is that Kid Rock fit in so well that he didn’t stand out.