Throughout the 1990s, often considered a peaceful time in American culture, no band shined the spotlight on political corruption worldwide quite like Rage Against The Machine. Historically speaking, I consider Rage Against The Machine to be the most important band of the 90s – they sonically merged the most emotionally riveting elements of hip-hop, hard rock, and funk into this thrashing display of relentless anarchy. Their lyrics read like academic journals that focused on the American military industrial complex and inspired millions of listeners to think outside the political spectrum and question their government’s course of actions.
In 2016, there is no rally cry for music listeners at a mainstream level outside of Kendrick Lamar. This year has been such a divisive eye opener for citizens to recognize the internal issues that plague the United States. In hard rock and heavy metal, very few bands have voiced their political displeasure. No excuses whatsoever, too many bands are afraid to alienate their fanbases. Quite frankly, the world needs Rage Against The Machine more than ever.
Earlier this year, longtime listeners became ecstatic after a mysterious countdown appeared on Rage Against The Machine’s website and implied the possibility of a reunion. Ultimately, this reunion never materialized. Instead, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk regrouped with hip-hop legends Chuck D, DJ Lord, and B-Real to form a new band called Prophets of Rage.
There has been some controversy over this decision as there is such a massive demand for a full-fledged Rage Against The Machine reunion. Take one look at the 2016 Presidential Election; we need a modern LP such as Evil Empire in 2016 just as badly as we did in 1996. Even if Zack de le Rocha couldn’t come to an agreement with his bandmates, anthems such as “Guerilla Radio,” “Take The Power Back,” and “Know Your Enemy” must be heard in 2016.
In my opinion, the formation of Prophets of Rage was the best-case scenario – outside of the Rage Against The Machine reunion – considering the negligence of political protest in mainstream rock and hip-hop. When Chuck D was introduced in the press release, I was thrilled to see one of hip-hops greatest voices carry the torch for one of hard rock’s greatest musical assembles. Let’s be straight up, there might have never been a Rage Against The Machine if it weren’t for Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” and 1991’s hip-hop/metal crossover “Bring The Noise” featuring Anthrax. Chuck D is no stranger to summoning lyrical poetry atop of heavy riffs and pulsating rhythms. Especially in Public Enemy, his baritone voice hits like Mike Tyson and spikes the adrenaline level in a way that is equal to Zack de le Rocha.
When Rage Against The Machine originally broke up in 2000, B-Real was rumored to have collaborated with the remaining members as a potential replacement for Zack de le Rocha. Looking back, this musical partnership has been in the works for over 16 years. Detractors cannot discount Cypress Hill’s longstanding contributions to hip-hop, especially their historical impact as the first Latino-Americans to reach platinum status. B-Real lives up to the term “real,” this man is 100% authentic to his craft as an MC and in no way tries to replicate Zack de la Rocha.
In the words of Tom Morello, “We’re 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.” The newly formed supergroup just released a brand new EP The Party’s Over – a five-song collection of two originals and three covers that reinterpret a few Rage Against The Machine and Public Enemy staples.
Let’s also acknowledge this fact – The Party’s Over – features the first batch of new material from Morello, Commerford, and Wilk since Audioslave’s 2007 LP Revelations. It has been nearly a full decade since this legendary trio wrote original music together.
Opening track – “Prophets of Rage” – will instantly harken listeners back to Evil Empire as the hard-hitting riffs and rhythms recall the likes of “Bulls On Parade” and “Vietnow.” Morello, Commerford, and Wilk show no signs of rust whatsoever and the aggressive tonalities within the guitar, bass, and drums sound just as maniacal as ever. This track is technically a hybrid: it is an original number from a musical standpoint but it also reinterprets Public Enemy’s 1988 classic “Prophets of Rage.” The bounce back between Chuck D and B-Real demonstrates a natural chemistry between both frontmen; they have survived every trend over the last 25 years and their wisdom brings an awe-inspiring vocal dynamic to the forefront of this track. The musical delivery is viscerally nonstop and exceeds the expectations one might hold for a supergroup comprised of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill.
“The Party’s Over” also contains some silky smooth riffs and political chants that translate very well in a live setting. However, this song does not match the energy level of its predecessor. Chuck D and B-Real absolutely bring the noise, especially as Chuck D yells, “It’s fucking over!” However, the music falls into the Audioslave category; it is certainly aggressive but needs a heavier dynamic and extra oomph to win over the listener. “Prophets of Rage” created a funky foundation that capitalized on Chuck D and B-Real’s strengths as vocalists; that song was more inclined for hip-hop virtuosity while “The Party’s Over” felt more suitable for Chris Cornell circa 2002.
“Killing In The Name Of” will forever be the definitive masterpiece for future generations to revolt against political tyranny. Once again, Chuck D and B-Real utilize their distinct voices during the appropriate verses to properly pay homage to Zack de la Rocha’s anthem. Timing is everything; Chuck D and B-Real inject this track with high doses of legitimate disdain that will have listeners lose their collective minds. “Fuck you/ I won’t do what you tell me,” doesn’t suffer any drop off in terms of pissed off resentment. The band proceeds to bash away as if they performed this track for the very first time.
“Shut ‘Em Down” starts off with a brilliant display of Tom Morello’s virtuosity as he summons the maestro melodies of Eddie Van Halen’s “Cathedral.” This trailblazing guitar intro eventually transitions into a live remake of Public Enemy’s “Shut ‘Em Down.” I have to admit; this track does not properly recreate nor match the rawness of the original. DJ Lord is listed as full-time member in Prophets of Rage but his scratches are nowhere to be found across this EP. Terminator X’s distinct scratches turned “Shut ‘Em Down” into a hip-hop staple back in the early 90s and I wish Tom Morello would replicate those scratches live if DJ Lord isn’t allowed to replicate them. Rather than rely on their funk laurels, “Shut ‘Em Down” might be a track that is best delivered in the hip-hop vein of Rage Against The Machine’s “Mic Check.” In the future, the band should draw inspiration from The Bomb Squad rather than decorate “Shut ‘Em Down” with familiar Rage-like rhythms.
“No Sleep Til Cleveland” simultaneously takes a political stand against the Republication Party and pays homage to the birthplace of hip-hop – New York. Listeners should take a moment to appreciate the glorious era of late 80s hip-hop, specifically Def Jam Records. The original “Fight The Power” is the musical equivalent of “Killing In The Name Of” – both tracks forever changed the landscape of their respective genres, lyrically and musically. Even in 2016, “Fight The Power” is more relevant than ever and this interpretation condemns the racist and harmful statements made by the Donald Trump and the Republican Party throughout this election cycle.
Overall, The Party’s Over should not be viewed under the same lenses as a full-length debut. This EP is a small sample size of a band that possesses the credentials and potential to blossom into something truly unique. The remaining members of Rage Against The Machine should reconnect with their favorite hip-hop records and push their sound into unexplored territory that is best suited for their frontmen. Capitalize on the musical strengths of Public Enemy and Cypress Hill and create the dramatic climate that best utilizes the sensibilities of all three respective groups.
One of the most unique aspects of Morello’s guitar playing is his ability to create DJ inspired effects through his six-strings. However, I would love to hear Morello collaborate with DJ Lord and utilize the best of both worlds. Imagine if the majestic samples of Fear of a Black Planet merged with the heaviest moments of The Battle of Los Angeles, this would be the rawest display of funk-induced hard rock/hip-hop in recent memory. The band should not be afraid to invoke the essence of late 80s/early 90s hip–hop since that era of musical innovation so heavily influenced the foundation of Rage Against The Machine.
Both Chuck D and B-Real stay true to their individual sound and make no attempts to replicate Zack de le Rocha. Live shows will only help them understand the strengths of their new bandmates as well. Let’s not forget; Prophets of Rage are still finding their chemistry. I would imagine their overall goal isn’t to replicate Rage Against The Machine. I trust in Morello, Commeford, and Wilk’s ability to create musical portraits and time will only benefit their future endeavors. I am confident their full-length debut will likely see a much more motivated and distinct side to their musical prowess as they “Take The Power Back.”
The Party’s Over Rating: 6.5/10
All Photos Credit: Saidy Lopez