Rage Against the Machine
The name says it all. Rage Against the Machine was a political and musical force that could not be reckoned with.
Combining guttural screams, deep funk grooves, and the in-your-face ferocity of punk and metal, Rage fought to end injustice around the globe.
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 foment a revolution.
Musically, Rage Against the Machine’s subversion involved molten hybrids of hip-hop, punk, metal, funk and rock. In particular, the band’s self-titled 1992 album and 1996’s Evil Empire ushered the burgeoning rap-rock movement into the mainstream, and established Rage Against the Machine as dangerous rabble rousers who harnessed strength from detonating sonic boundaries.
Accordingly, the band members were an aggressive, unified force. Frontman 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, meanwhile, bolstered the urgency of de la Rocha’s delivery with gouging grooves and a pummeling, gale-force backbeat. And Tom Morello’s scathing guitar style utilized distorting effects and tuning to create abrasive sounds that amplified the band's confrontational stance.
Above all, although plenty of ’90s rock bands espoused social justice issues, Rage Against the Machine’s rebellious politics stood out. 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 – for example, “Freedom” highlighted the plight of Leonard Peltier, an imprisoned Native American leader, while “People Of The Sun” showed solidarity with tyrannized Mexican citizens – and tapped into timely issues.
Yet Rage Against the Machine’s lyrics continue to feel formidable and relevant: For example, 1992’s “Killing In The Name,” a stark indictment of racism and police brutality, still resonates deeply today. Rage Against the Machine were part of a musical tradition indebted to the MC5, the Clash and Public Enemy, but forged brazen protest music for the modern world.
“Bullet In The Head,” “Freedom,” “Killing In The Name,” Rage Against The Machine (1992) • “Bulls On Parade,” “Tire Me,” Evil Empire (1996) • “Guerrilla Radio,” “Sleep Now In The Fire,” “Testify,” The Battle Of Los Angeles (1999) • Renegades (2000)