Before Donald Trump shocked the world by winning the presidential election, Prophets of Rage readied to challenge the Orange Menace with all their musical might. Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill sounded their anthems anew, but I passed on the super group’s emergence at the time. It seemed like a passing moment. Once Hillary Clinton trounced Trump in November, what would become of their “Make America Rage Again” rallying call? Besides, the Rage reincarnation was bereft of Zack de la Rocha, its own poet-prophet.
I couldn’t have been more wrong politically or musically. Now we find ourselves in Trump times and Prophets of Rage are staying in the trenches. The group is releasing a self-titled debut album in September, one that shows they aren’t a touring museum of 90’s rap-rock counterculture. And the first cuts off of Prophets of Rage are funky and radical in ways that the The Party’s Over EP never quite hinted at.
“Unfuck the World” sets a blistering tone with Tom Morello’s riotous riffs. Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk still form one of the deftest rhythm sections in rock. In other words, Rage Against the Machine’s musicians remain the mightiest around. But the biggest surprise on “Unfuck the World” comes at the microphone where B-Real and Chuck D are free of having to recreate de la Rocha’s rhymes. The two trade off each other for the song’s chorus that captures the urgency of the times: “No hatred/ Fuck racists / Blank faces / Time’s changin’ / One nation / Unification / The vibration / Unfuck the world!”
And then came the second single off Prophets of Rage this month. With homelessness exploding everywhere after the Great Recession, the group tackled the issue head on with “Living on the 110.” Both rappers deliver inspired, if disheartening, verses about homeless folks living in tent encampments along LA freeways. Always experimental, Morello summons new sounds from his storied guitar taking a bow to its strings. “Living on the 110” shows what Prophets of Rage are capable of and it’s damn powerful.
What the rest of the collection bring awaits to be heard come September. But the track listing suggests more social justice anthems are on their way. “Legalize Me,” “Hail to the Chief,” and “Hands Up” sound like sonic take downs of la migra, Trump and killer cops. Prophets of Rage are sorely needed, especially when Zack de la Rocha dropped a single last September off a solo album rumored to be released this year, but has fallen silent since. Save for YG’s “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” and a Tribe Called Quest’s “We the People,” there’s been a dearth of rebel jams in the mainstream, something the super group is poised to remedy.
Sure, Prophets of Rage articulate their anger without blood curling screams, but the late Chris Cornell didn’t rap either when at the helm of Audioslave. Prophets of Rage aren’t Rage Against the Machine; a lesson diehards, like myself, begrudgingly learned to accept just like we did when we learned to love Audioslave. Don’t make my mistake by steering clear. Make way for the Prophets of Rage!