Many supergroups emerge as vanity projects that flash in the pan. Prophets of Rage appear to be among the rare exceptions, emerging with clear purpose. Combining key players from Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, the new band draws upon the legacy of its components for steely-eyed social critique during a political season that has left many voters feeling under-represented at both ends of the spectrum.
“People right, left and center believe that the system as it currently stands does not serve their needs,” said Tom Morello at a press conference before the band’s debut performance in June at Los Angeles’ Whisky-a-Go-Go. “The times demand a band like Prophets of Rage to rise. … Our nation … is on the brink of electoral insanity. Martin Luther King famously said, ‘There is no hotter place in hell than for people who remain neutral in times of moral conflict.’ We are escaping the hot pit of hell by bringing some rock and roll hip-hop fury.”
The band’s scathing first single is a white-hot re-interpretation of a still-relevant, 29 year-old Public Enemy song that gives the new group its name. “Prophets of Rage” first appeared on the 1987 album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.” The updated version features guitarist Tom Morello, again making his guitar sound like no one else’s in rock. Riffing with his bandmates, he bends and swipes his strings like a DJ at the decks.
Groundbreaking MC Chuck D sounded angry on the original recording. His delivery remains strident, furious and righteous. B-Real of Cypress Hill brings new lyrics, adding homelessness and the voiceless masses to D’s original list of grievances. “This is the nature created from the terrordome,” he raps.
Original songs include “The Party’s Over.” “We’re done with the lies that are told to us for our votes,” said B-Real at the band’s L.A. press conference.
The band’s summer activities launched at fever pitch with the first date of its “Make America Rage Again” tour on July 19th in Cleveland, Ohio. The concert was staged to rattle cages at the Republican National Convention. Prophets of Rage will bring their traveling rally to Tinley Park with its show sharpened to a knife edge. The Prophets’ manifesto for social change and support of basic human dignity is mobilized on tour, with a portion of ticket proceeds supporting a local homeless charity in each city.
* Prophets of Rage, with Awolnation, 7 p.m. Sep. 3, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland, Tinley Park, $20-$69.50; livenation.com.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer. Email: email@example.com