Rage Against The Machine
Every aspect of Rage Against the Machine throttled the status quo. Formed in 1991, the Los Angeles quartet took aim at oppressive systems of power – cultural, political, economic, and otherwise – and did everything they could to ignite a revolution.
Musically, Rage Against the Machine’s subversion mixed hip-hop, punk, metal, funk, and rock. The band’s self-titled 1992 debut and 1996’s Evil Empire ushered rap-rock into the mainstream and established Rage Against the Machine as a powerful force that harnessed strength from defying sonic boundaries. Zack de la Rocha’s stinging, hip-hop-inspired vocals drew on his days fronting a hardcore band. The rhythm section of bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk heightened the urgency of de la Rocha’s delivery with deep, heavy grooves grounded by a pummeling backbeat – no rhythm section could maximize volume while staying in the pocket more skillfully. Guitarist Tom Morello took the rap-rock hybridization further than contemporary groups. He used pedals, toggle switches, and alternative tunings to incorporate effects normally created by hip-hop turntables, samplers, and synthesizers into the language of heavy metal through Rage’s driving riffs and iconic solos.
Rage Against the Machine were part of a musical tradition indebted to the MC5, the Clash, and Public Enemy. While plenty of 1990s rock bands supported social justice issues, Rage Against the Machine’s rebellious politics stood head and shoulders above. Onstage and off, the band members gave a voice to the powerless, calling out local and global inequalities and railing against censorship, corporate cronyism, and government overreach. Their lyrics were smart and pointed – “Freedom” highlighted the plight of Leonard Peltier, an imprisoned Native American leader, while “People of the Sun” showed solidarity with tyrannized Mexican citizens. Even today, their lyrics remain relevant. “Killing in the Name,” a stark indictment of racism and police brutality, still resonates deeply in cities across America. Rage Against the Machine forged brazen protest music for the modern world.
Nominees: Tim Commerford, Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk
Cleveland, Ohio 44114