If you don’t like your music and politics mixed then look away because on Tuesday night there was an uprising, and it happened on the corner of the Sunset Strip, opposite a 24-hour gas station. In the 1990s, any teen whose hair length and attitude defied school regulation could be found sitting at the back of the school bus destroying their hearing with the fuel of Rage Against The Machine’s anti-system manifesto. Now, they’re adults lined around the block of Whisky a Go Go on LA’s Sunset Strip. The building’s corner is plastered in red and gold banners, displaying Black Power fist emblems. Renegades of funk have gathered here to meet their makers, now going by the name: Prophets Of Rage.
The band’s comprised of Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford; Chuck D and DJ Lord of rap firebrand Public Enemy; and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The lineup all Morello’s doing. Having gathered his friends to perform Rage hits of yore, he launched a website with a dramatic countdown clock in May. Nobody was sure what May 31 2016 signified, but on Tuesday morning all was revealed. Morello denied they were a “supergroup” but rather “an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bulls–t.” How? With tinnitus-inducing, heavy metal, and rap spanning the three groups’ back catalogues, which together form the sonic representation of the melting pot that is the USA. Here are some of the unforgettable moments from beyond the pulpit.
History repeats itself
Don’t be fooled and think this is an excuse for a few old dudes to put a jigsaw together again. Chuck D takes the stage amid the sound of sirens signaling a state of emergency. The prophets have remembered that they can still play the life out of a show the way they did during turbulent times in the ’80s and ’90s, and that the time is nigh to do that again now. The 2016 Presidential Race has been their Bat Signal.
The warm up takes a minute
One premature worry is that RATM frontman Zack de la Rocha who left the band in 2000 is not part of the prophecy. His MC-ing isn’t easy to emulate, even with the combined bass-y prowess of Chuck D and gnarly sting of B-Real. As “Guerilla Radio” comes straight out the gates it doesn’t pack an immediate punch. No amount of onstage grinning by Chuck D can overcome the fact that he’s about three baritones beneath de la Rocha’s testicle-defying “Testify”-ing.
But then the hits come
At one point Morello and his Rage co-horts leave the stage, allowing B-Real and Chuck D to go toe-to-toe on Public Enemy and Cypress Hill classics. Those bands formed RATM’s two biggest influences as they set out to become their own hybrid of a rap-metal revolution so it’s only fair to revisit the material. “Y’all know the deal. One and only B-Real!” ad-libs Chuck before a Cypress Hill re-run of “Insane In The Brain” and “Rock Superstar.” It might not be the most political of tonight’s material but rapping to “You wanna be a rock superstar? Live large? In a big house, five cars?!” is the greatest rebellion you can muster on a low income while in the neighborhood adjacent to Bel Air.
Chuck D doesn’t just pop his Whisky a Go Go cherry, he pours sugar all over it
B-Real reminds us that this is Chuck D’s first appearance at Whisky, a venue immersed in rockist history. So the fact that he is here on this stage, in front of this crowd, delivering his best line (“Elvis was a hero to YOU, but he never meant s— to me” from “Fight The Power”) while pointing in the face of a man in a leopard-print catsuit proves beyond refute why he excels outside the confines of rap. That right there is rock stardom. Chuck sounds bigger than a loudspeaker on “Bring The Noise” and never comes up for air. He waves an invisible Samurai Sword whenever Morello plays a hell-burning solo as if to say: I know Kung-Fu, Trump.
Wear the merchandise at your own risk
The Prophets Of Rage aren’t subtle when it comes to dismantling the influence of their enemy. “This is dedicated to Donald Trump!” shouts B-Real before launching into new aptly-titled anthem “The Party Is Over.” To add, they’ve taken Trump’s red baseball cap design and produced their own hats with the words “MAKE AMERICA RAGE AGAIN.” As the crowd chanted “insane in the membrane, insane in the brain!” in the caps, conservatism was hoisted by its own petard faster than you can say “Drumpf”.
Music creates action
As the Prophets Of Rage’s website teased weeks ago: “Dangerous times demand dangerous songs.” “It’s good to see you people still stand up!” said B-Real, referring not to the fact that RATM fans aren’t yet too old to thrash, but that they – like the Prophets – still feel compelled to challenge status quo. Once Morello and co ramp towards the climactic “Bulls On Parade” the moshpit is uncontrollable. At one point Morello plays a furious two-minute solo with his teeth. Above the stage a Jimi Hendrix poster peers down on him, smiling.
No doubt, there were other legends in the room
Upstairs in the VIP section, industry bigwigs keep themselves clear of the moshpit’s chaos. No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, however, appears on the outskirts of the pit during the night’s standout “special” rendition of Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Til Brooklyn.” His eyes are glassy and welling up. He tells EW about a time when Public Enemy invited No Doubt to open shows for them. At least, he tries. “1992. Baton Rouge. New Orleans. Chuck D. Chuck D!” (Afterwards, he apologizes for being too tipsy to communicate how much tonight meant.) Don’t speak, Tony. No really.
News just in: De La Rocha is invited to the party
Before closing, Chuck announces that there’s still a space open for de la Rocha to join the group. The band descend into the chaos of “Killing In The Name Of” with its repeated chorus of “F— you I won’t do what you tell me”, which may well be de la Rocha’s response via text tomorrow.
Prophecy Of Rage
My Uzi Weighs A Ton
People Of The Sun
Take The Power Back
Rock Superstar (Cypress Hill)
Hand On The Pump (Cypress Hill)
Can’t Truss It (Public Enemy)
Insane In The Brain (Cypress Hill)
Bring The Noise (Public Enemy)
Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That (Cypress Hill)
Welcome To The Terrordome
Sleep Now In The Fire
Shut Em Down (Public Enemy)
Know Your Enemy
The Party Is Over (Prophecy Of Rage)
No Sleep Till Brooklyn (Beastie Boys)
Fight The Power (Public Enemy)
Bulls On Parade
Killing In The Name Of