Rage Against the Machine formed in 1991 out of Los Angeles. All of their songs have a political zing to them blended in with the combination of rap, hard rock, and funk. Influenced by the band member’s cultural backgrounds, their songs reflect their criticisms against societal injustice. Now with their songs’ messages becoming twisted, the band members have to make their daily reminder of why they are called “Rage Against the Machine”.
To give a taste of De la Rocha’s rapping and the band’s general politics, here is an homage to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”:
“So called facts are fraud
They want us to allege and pledge
And bow down to their God
Lost the culture, the culture lost
Spun our minds and through time
Ignorance has taken over
Yo, we gotta take the power back!
Bam! Here’s the plan
Motherfuck Uncle Sam”
-Take the Power Back, Rage Against the Machine (1992)
Having several music inspirations in the band, their music draws a wide variety of listeners. Some may not realize their music is entirely “political” in nature due to how well their instrumentals and overall sound lulls someone into their music. The line “lost the culture, the culture lost” references the atrocities of assimilation. The scars of assimilation and racism exist to this day. In public schools there is a current ongoing erasure of past atrocities in favor of a “cleaner” history class. De la Rocha voices his frustrations with cultures being erased throughout many songs. For a TCK growing up today, they may find comfort in RATM’s music as they voice the frustrations for them.
Their music remains relevant in present day due to the amount political and societal discourse ongoing. Issues from the early 90’s when the band formed spilled over into the 21st century. De la Rocha identifies as Chicano while Morello is mixed black and white. De la Rocha experienced racism growing up in Southern California. Morello grew up in a conservative part of Illinois. As such, their frustrations with society spew outwards into their music. One of their methods may be extreme for some as they have burned U.S. flags during live performances. Along with being banned from SNL due to performing with an upside-down U.S. flag in the background, the group does not shy away from intentionally stirring up controversy. They do mash together popular genres like rap and hard rock, but sometimes the message of their songs go over some people’s heads. Morello has spoken up about opposing political associations using their music.
“First of all, there’s no accounting for stupidity. There’s a long list of radical left anthems that are misunderstood by bozos who sing them at events like that, from Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land to Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA to John Lennon’s Imagine – those people have really no idea what the hell they’re singing about. The one thing that I speak to in all of those instances is that there’s a power to the music that casts a wide net, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Both De la Rocha and Morello are TCK’s. De la Rocha was influenced by several musical genres ranging from rap to punk. His exposure to other cultures and communities through music growing up allowed him to find an identity he feels comfortable in. He identifies as Chicano and follows the footsteps of his grandfather who was a Mexican revolutionist. Morello was born to parents that are heavily involved in the political field. Their cultural backgrounds along with their political stances allow them to voice their frustrations with society through music. While their messages are forced into a different box by opposing sides, none of the band members are shaken up by the confusion. Rage Against the Machine continues to pick apart the injustices of society and government establishments and inspires others to do the same.