“We’re not a supergroup,” says 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.”
He is describing Prophets of Rage, a new band that brings together members of the guitarist’s old band, Rage Against the Machine, with two of the group’s favorite rappers: Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B-Real.
Fans first learned about Prophets of Rage when mysterious posters started popping up around Los Angeles, and a countdown clock was posted on Rage Against the Machine’s Twitter account. Some fans wrongly assumed Rage Against the Machine would be reforming for the first time since a one-off show in 2011, but even without Zack de la Rocha, the group will be playing classics like “Bulls On Parade” and “Killing in the Name” along with tunes by Public Enemy and Cypress Hill.
As of now, they only have one Los Angeles club show on the books, though the group hopes to set out on more shows this summer. We spoke with Chuck D, B-Real and RATM’s Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford about how it all came together.
The Old Days
Wilk: When [the members of Rage Against the Machine] had just met, Zack got us tickets to a Public Enemy concert that was canceled since they were worried about riots. It was a really exciting time in music and we really connected to it. Zack, at the time, was heavily influenced by hip-hop. The first time I heard Cypress Hill was from Zack. He put in the tape in my car and was like, ‘Check this band out.’ I was like, ‘Holy shit! This is fucking awesome.’ Part of Rage’s DNA was turning each other on to other music.
Commerford: I think the fifth show we played as a band was at a college in San Luis Obispo with Public Enemy. We covered Cypress Hill’s “How Could I Just Kill a Man” on the Renegades album. The first Cypress Hill record and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back were two of the biggest hip-hop influences on Rage Against The Machine.
Chuck D: I remember getting a demo cassette tape of Rage Against The Machine with a match in it. I thought that was interesting. What got me was their combination of rap and hard, aggressive music. It was one of those rare instances when the planets just lined up right and the alchemy of musical magic and history just poured out. I saw them in concert around then and what I remember most is how wiped out the crowd was afterwards. I had never seen a place destroyed; sweat and blood on the walls. The fucking tables were turned over and rafters pulled down. It was crazy. They’re the Led Zeppelin of our time.
B-Real: I was taken to see Rage by a friend. She took me to a place called Club With No Name. When I heard the music I was totally blown away. I was moshing with the fans in the pit and they happened to see me and they brought me up and we did a song that became “Hand on the Glock” on the Black Sunday record. We became friends and we eventually would take them on one of our first big tours. To me, they were this generation’s Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin. At that point I was listening to nothing but hip-hop, but I started off as a rock fan. They rekindled that spirit inside of me that was laying dormant.