Prophets of Rage is a supergroup named after a Public Enemy song, featuring the uncompromising rapping of Chuck D and Cypress Hill‘s B-Real, with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine, as well as Dj Lord of PE manning the decks. According to the band’s website “We can no longer stand on the sidelines of history. Dangerous times demand dangerous songs. It’s time to take the power back.” And that’s precisely what they deliver on this hard rocking, hard rapping collection featuring one original song ‘The Party’s Over’, and four reworkings of assorted classics.
A siren call hails the calling card opener, ‘Prophets of Rage’, which is sounding fresher than ever with Morello’s signature riffing and a new verse from B-Real, whose sharp delivery is a good foil to Chuck’s rough edged baritone. It’s a simple but effective protest song stacked with old skool references, whilst still sounding current; its slick delivery like a controlled release of pent up anger.
The band’s first original material comes with ‘The Party’s Over’, which kicks in with a signature bass heavy riff typical of RATM, and rumbles along at a slow grind as Chuck and B-Real trade verses expounding on the failure of party politics. It’s a hard hitting tune that pulls no punches and as they crank up the intensity for the furious finale it all just sounds so damn badass as everything slips perfectly into place.
It’s pretty hard to go wrong with such a superb song as ‘Killing in the Name’, and the dual vocal attack totally nails it, besides delivering a nice twist on the lyrics in the second verse with “Some of those that hold office/ are the same that burn crosses/ some of those up in congress/ are the same that burn crosses”. As the song builds to its inevitable climax of ‘Fuck You…’, the dynamic sounds like that of a band that loves playing together, they may be protesting against pretty much everything, but it sure as hell sounds good.
‘Shut ‘Em Down’ features a verse each from the Cypress Hill and PE songs of the same name and is another hard rocking slice of hip-hop. It’s easy to see how these bands always crossed over so well. Final track, ‘No Sleep Til Cleveland’, is basically the Beastie Boys’ classic mashed up with Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power and reworked for 2016. Here Morello comes into his own as he rolls out all the tricks on a mesmerizing instrumental section – first time I saw Rage he blew me away – good to hear he’s still got it. “No sleep til Brooklyn” morphs into “til Cleveland” at the end, as it was recorded at the band’s protest against the Republican National Convention in the same town. Talk about taking it to the streets!
On the whole this is a mighty fine showcase of what Prophets of Rage have to offer and is testament to the commitment the various members have to their political principles. Moreover, they sound so naturally good together that it would be great if there were more original material to come taking it beyond reinterpretations of their own impressive catalogues.