"Devil Without A Cause" is Kid Rock's coming out party, the title track to his first album with Lava Records, a division of Atlantic. The song is basically an extended boast, telling his story of coming up in the Detroit music scene, paying his dues, and landing his big record deal. Now he's making "Matchbox Twenty money," referring to the Rob Thomas-fronted group that was also signed to Lava and sold 12 million copies of their 1996 debut album. But unlike the clean-cut pop acts like Matchbox Twenty, Rock exists to cast shadows on the establishment music scene with his bawdy, unkempt version of rap-rock that anyone near an ocean tended to despise.
It wasn't his first go-around with a major label: Rock was signed to Jive Records, which released his debut, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, in 1990. Jive specialized in hip-hop acts, and couldn't find an audience for Rock in that market. Dropped from the label, he released two independent albums before Lava found him and figured out how to market him. With national exposure, his career took off, bringing his bold predictions in this song to fruition.
The title is a play on the classic James Dean movie Rebel Without A Cause.
In the chorus, Rock repeats, "I'm going Platinum," meaning the RIAA certification of one million album sales in America. Rock spread a story that his record company asked him to take out the line because they thought it was too cocky, but that was likely a hype for his rebel/devil image. Remarkably, the album didn't just go Platinum, but 11x Platinum, selling 11 million copies. A tremendous feat, but still less than Matchbox Twenty.
The main groove on this song was sampled from "Down on the Avenue," a 1976 soul track by Fat Larry's Band.
Rock's 3' 9" sidekick Joe C. gets a verse on this song, rapping about how he's "got more game than Coleco." Joe had a number of medical problems, and died in 2000 at age 26.
The "we like to party, rock the party" chant at the end of this song originated with Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force, which did it on their 1983 track "Looking For The Perfect Beat."
Rock performed this with Joe C. at the 1999 Woodstock festival, which is remembered for the violence and looting that took place. Rock's set though, took place early on the second day before most of the mayhem ensued. It was a big moment for him, as he was building a substantial audience far outside of his Michigan stronghold.
Rock's guitarist, Kenny Olson, and DJ, Uncle Kracker, both earned songwriter credits on this one.