May 31 marked the launch of Prophets of Rage
, a new rap-rock group that combines members of legendary musical acts Rage Against the Machine
, Cypress Hill
and Public Enemy
. But don’t call them a super group – by the band’s own definition they are “an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing.” Like most other fans, I’d been anticipating their debut since I first heard the rumors of them forming; and thanks to the BREAL.tv family
, I was able to experience the elite task force first-hand. After attending not only their inaugural performance at The Whiskey, but their show at The Palladium a few days later as well, I can say with all honesty that Prophets of Rage delivered everything I had hoped for and more.
Prophets of Rage is comprised of Rage Against the Machine musicians Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, B-Real of Cypress Hill and Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord. Of the three, Rage Against the Machine is the only group that has been inactive in recent years; with uncertainty surrounding a full resurrection of the band since their initial break up and their last performance being as far back as 2011, I had despaired of ever seeing them live. Although the new assembly isn’t exactly the same in the absence of lead singer Zack de la Rocha (who many directly associate with Rage), I had early decided that I would take what I could get. And while I may not have a basis for comparison, I felt that Chuck D and B-Real really did the former front man justice. If nothing else, I suppose the politically charged shit-storm of an atmosphere that we’re currently living in produced at least one positive outcome: the formation of Prophets of Rage.
Courtesy of @Fotogasm
This is no supposition, either. It’s been well documented that Prophets of Rage came together as a direct result of our current political climate, with a line of text from their website defining the impetus for them coming together: “We can no longer stand on the sidelines of history. Dangerous times demand dangerous songs. It’s time to take the power back.” Guitarist Tom Morello has repeatedly enforced this message via multiple media outlets, including in an interview with Rolling Stone and more recently during his appearance on HBO series Real Time With Bill Maher: “Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are both constantly referred to in the media as raging against the machine. We’ve come back to remind everyone what raging against the machine really means.” They seem to be taking care to avoid expressing support of any particular candidate. However, it appeared that many expected at least a tentative endorsement of Sanders – and those who did were somewhat surprised upon hearing them describe Clinton as “the lesser of three evils.” What’s not surprising is how they feel about Trump. When asked by Maher how he would feel if Trump used Rage Against the Machine music for his campaign, Morello’s response was that he “…would go choke his ass out.” In fact, the Trump presidential campaign is something Rage mocked as far back as sixteen years ago. In the midst of his first short-lived run with the Reform Party in 1999-2000, they filmed the music video for “Sleep Now in the Fire
” in front of the New York Stock Exchange – which at 1:04 features a man holding a “Donald J. Trump for President: 2000” sign.
There’s no question that Prophets of Rage has assembled at a time when a political statement is most necessary; and I think most will agree that the men of the band are well-qualified to deliver a message regarding the affairs of state. The groups that POR members were culled from are all known for using their music as a medium to express (to varying extents) political beliefs. With B-Real and Chuck D stepping in to take on vocals, their mission comes across as authentic rather than manufactured – which likely wouldn’t be the case with any other candidates (at least none that immediately come to mind). The set lists from both shows were pretty much the same, each including a six-song medley of Public Enemy and Cypress Hill classics, a mash-up of Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep til Brooklyn”/PE’s “Fight the Power,” and two original songs (“Shut Them Down” and “The Party’s Over”). However, the bulk of their material came from the Rage catalogue – and I’ll admit that I did hear some pre-performance doubt about whether the new vocalists could pull some of these songs off. That uncertainty was gone before the opening song was over, with B-Real and Chuck D quickly proving that they could deliver convincing renditions that (I believe) even de la Rocha would approve of.
Courtesy of @Fotogasm
Groups that reunite after significant periods of time don’t always deliver during live performances. It’s nothing technical or fan-related; they sound the same, there’s a good turn out, people are still singing every word of the lyrics… but something is inevitably missing. I believe that “thing” is relevance. The songs just don’t apply in the same way any more, so they’re no longer relatable. However, its looking as if Prophets of Rage is one of the rare few who are exempt from this phenomenon. Every classic song they performed – no matter which group it originated with – was still germane to current situations, something that was clearly validated by the audience. At the debut show, it was obvious that everyone there was ready to embrace these tunes as anthems all over again. However, it was the crowd at The Palladium that truly confirmed that the Prophets of Rage collective musical catalogue had transcended time. I enjoyed both performances – small and large audiences each have their own pros and cons. But I must say, nothing quite compares to the energy generated by a massive crowd. Everyone is going crazy, living in the moment and enjoying the hell out of an experience together… And that’s exactly what went down at The Palladium. Fists were raised, people sang along, crowd surfers were rampant and the mosh pits were seething. Could it get any better? I really didn’t think so. That is, until they closed with, “Killing in the Name,” when everything was amplified ten times over and everyone in the building was screaming “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” as one.
Prophets of Rage has since announced their national 35+ city North American tour, “Make America Rage Again,” with a portion of the proceeds from each concert going to a local homeless charity. With tickets starting at $20, shows are guaranteed to sell out quickly. But don’t despair; there may be other chances to catch them. In a statement to Bloomberg Politics
, Morello said that “…there may be venues that will be spontaneous venues, it’s hard to say. This is the kind of thing you don’t broadcast to the local authorities prior to arrival.” What we do know is that the tour will officially kick off in Cleveland, OH on July 19. Having seen them play live twice in one week, I consider myself extremely lucky. But I have to admit, I’m a little envious of those who will be at the first official tour performance. It just happens to coincide with the second day of the Republican National Convention… and I have a feeling its going to be one for the history books.
Written by: Danielle Garcias @daniicalifornia_