Finally! I had been waiting for some protest music — any protest music, quite frankly — in response to the usurpation of the US government by a bona fide fascist regime ever since Election Day, but at long last we have our first proper soundtrack of outrage to motivate us for the long fight ahead. And who better to serve up rousing tunes of righteous militance than Tom Morello and Chuck D? Prophets of Rage are a sort of counterculture super group, consisting of Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine, Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy, and B Real of Cypress Hill. Granted, their eponymous debut doesn’t quite pack the same punch as any proper albums released by Rage and Public Enemy in their respective heydays, but considering how necessary an album of unabashed rebellion is for navigating these fucked up times in which we live, this is of little concern to me. Everyone involved is fantastic in his own right, so I’m confident they’ll find their groove in future releases.
When George W. Bush made it clear that he was going to lead us into a war with Iraq under the false pretense of that country being complicit in the 9/11 attacks, for quite some time thereafter, I didn’t hear any musicians aside from the Dixie Chicks even bother to broach the subject. Sure, there were a couple of great underground releases from Killing Joke and Sleater-Kinney that brought the punk rock attitude to bear on the political climate of the time, and Radiohead chimed in with their rather tepid contribution a few months later. But it wasn’t until Green Day released American Idiot that a mainstream band finally dared to give W the radio-friendly middle finger he so deserved.
Never did I think I’d find myself almost nostalgic for the Bush era, but this is America and we suck so much ass that I can’t even anticipate the next mind-bogglingly self-defeating and inhumane shit we may pull for our next trick. I grew up in the 80s when hardcore and punk rock had no mainstream appeal and therefore, hearing bands like the Dead Kennedys, MDC, Reagan Youth, and the Bad Brains eviscerate Ronald Regan on college radio was a sublime experience I never dreamed would become commercialized just one decade later. And, of course, when a genre becomes commercialized, songs of political outrage give way to safer material such as bratty post-breakup temper tantrums a-la Blink 182. An era had ended, never to return.
Protest music, though far less prevalent, is now solely in the hands of intrepid musical elderstatesmen like Tom Morello, Chuck D and Bruce Springsteen. You read that correctly, I said Bruce Springsteen, who has been quietly releasing albums of brutal sociopolitical realism for the past decade, sometimes in collaboration with Mr. Morello. So I tip my hat to Prophets of Rage for this long-awaited and enormously important injection of vital anger into the pop culture zeitgeist. And Trump, you motherfucker, you’d better listen up. Here’s a little taste: