By: The Busted Amp Staff
Derek: Unless you live under a musical rock, you've probably seen or heard some of the hype surrounding Prophets of Rage, a super group featuring members of Rage Against the Machine, Cyprus Hill, and Public Enemy. I haven't been a big fan of the band's premise, and have bemoaned Joseph's liking of the band's released material leading up to the release of their self-titled debut album later this year. What transpires below is loosely paraphrased conversation that we had on the band, how it affects Rage Against the Machine's legacy, and how time and commercial success can muddy the waters of a band's message and purpose.
Joseph: So Prophets of Rage dropped three new songs in preparation for their impending album release!
Derek: I don't care at all. The first single sucked and I haven't listened to any of the others since.
Derek: Fine, I'll listen to them now.
Wow, the lyrics to "Radical Eyes" are f****** laughable.
"They say we're radicalized. See my radical eyes"
Joseph: See, on my first listen I didn't even notice the lyrics.
Derek: It's a band whose message is central to their reason for existing. How can you not pay attention to the lyrics?
Joseph: For me, Rage Against the Machine has always been about the instrumentation. Of course I like the lyrics too. But the number one thing for me has always been what Tom Morello is doing on the guitar.
Derek: Even the riffs are limp dick compared to what Rage Against the Machine was putting out in their prime.
Joseph: Yeah, I'm not going to defend "Radical Eyes", but at least "Living On The 110" started off a bit better. (said while listening to the song for the first time)
Derek: Even "Living On The 110". There's no edge, and I think it only solidifies why I'm glad Rage Against The Machine never got back together for new material. Morello has his dick so far up his own ass that he's the mixed ethnic poster child for socialistic idealism that he lost sight that the message of the music, which was supposed to be the most important thing.
Joseph: (after listening to the full song) I won't disagree with you on the lack of edge in "Living On The 110", but it doesn't change the fact that Tom Morello is a f****** great guitarist. He was 25 years ago and still is today.
Derek: Except he's been doing the same f****** gimmicks for the last 25 years. Yes, in the early nineties it was cutting edge, but since then bands from alternative to nu-metal have put similar effects on their guitars.
Joseph: Who cares. It doesn't have to be cutting edge to be good. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'd much rather a musician do the same thing over and over again if it works than innovate simply for the sake of innovating. (And fail miserably in the process)
Derek: That's not what I meant though. With Rage Against The Machine, he made this cutting edge music with a clear, defined message. At this point, it's none of those things anymore. It tries to be edgy, but it's still 40-something millionaires in a super group touring some of the biggest and most luxurious pavilions in the world. So it loses any and all of its remaining message's credibility for me.
Joseph: But you're hung up on the "street cred" of Rage Against The Machine. And the message. I don't care about that any more, and I never really did.
Derek: But that's the thing. For me, it was always one and the same. The effect they had on the social-economic environment in rock music, as a reaction to some of the same things groups like NWA were notorious for doing at the same time, was unprecedented. To say that we're just going to ignore parts of that is, to me, destroying the very meaning of their legacy and existence. Which is why I have nothing but respect for Zach de la Rocha for NOT getting back together with them. Because the aspect that was most important to him has been lost. At least, that's what I like to believe.
Joseph: I'm not sure we'll ever see that effect again on such a large scale. I guess I've just lost that feeling of authenticity in music over the past decade or two to the point that it doesn't matter to me any more.
Derek: That, honestly, makes listening to Rage Against The Machine even more worthless in the current musical and political climate in terms of legacy. They were trying to start a revolution, whereas all they got was fame, money, and our generation that likes their music and couldn't care less about the political/social/economic messages that accompanied it. Same goes for other protest groups like NWA from the same era, although that's another rabbit hole completely with Dr. Dre and the like.
Joseph: That was inevitable, though. As they say, the house always wins. While I do agree with you on de la Rocha, I'm not mad at all that they haven't gotten back together, even though I would still very much like to see them. But I think the problem is these entertainment companies have all gotten too big, and their focus is no longer on the consumer but instead on their shareholders, and there's nothing we can do about it to stop them from turning any feeling of authenticity in music (or any other form of media, for that matter) into a commercial enterprise. Everything is put through focus groups nowadays before it reaches the end user because it has to appeal to the widest demographic possible. It's reached the point that I just don't think about that anymore when I'm consuming entertainment.
Derek: I'd agree with you to a certain extent. It's just like all of the Vietnam Era protest songs from The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, CCR, etc.. They're probably all on every war-mongering senator's iPod.
Joseph: There's no doubt RATM has (minus Zack) become the very thing they were inspiring people to fight against years ago. But I don't care nearly as much as you do about that because to me, cynical as it certainly is, I think it was inevitable. There's too much money in giant entertainment companies for us to waste energy getting upset over artists (or actors, or shows, or video game developers) selling out to the highest bidder. All I can do is enjoy the entertainment provided for what it is, and to me RATM still provided us with some of the best f****** music of the 90s, and I have no problem with them sticking with that formula now because it's still a good formula, even if it is behind on the times now and has 3,000 other bands imitating it.