By: Kyle Eustice / Originally published for High Times
Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill have always been staunch supporters of creative expression and exercising their First Amendment rights. In 1990, Public Enemy proudly proclaimed “911 Is A
Joke,” while Rage Against the Machine shouted “Fuck You/I Won’t Do What You Tell Me” in 1992’s “Killing in the Name Of.” Cypress Hill, on the other hand, has been more about taking “Hits From the Bong” and wanting to get high, especially emcee B-Real, who has always been vocal about his pro-stance on the legalization of marijuana.
The recently formed Prophets of Rage—Rage Against the Machine’s Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk and Tom Morello, Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord, and B-Real—have promised to “make America rage again” by combining their impregnable viewpoints into one, unrelenting barrage of sonic assaults. After crashing the Republican National Convention on July 18 in Cleveland, Ohio, Prophets of Rage could not have surfaced at a more relevant time.
“I think it was something that was always lingering,” Chuck D says. “It had always been talked about—me doing something with Rage guys. We always talked about it with B Real, too. We had to figure out something Rage would come out for again. Musically, culturally, politically, and organically, we felt it was necessary now. Why not, as opposed to why?”
True to form, the Public Enemy frontman isn’t concerned about ruffling people’s feathers with his controversial lyrics. In fact, his goal is to upset as many as possible. While Prophets of Rage has been embraced by the media and fans alike, it’s not really something on his radar.
“I don’t care,” he says. “As a matter of fact, the more they dislike it, the better for me. I’m a contrarian like that. I don’t really take well to acceptance. I’m not saying I’m not appreciative, but I’ve got a job to do. My job is to satisfy myself and always be the harshest critic.”
While music has always had the power to spark outrage, encourage unity and call people to action, Chuck D believes there’s a lot of things missing in the current musical climate. Prophets of Rage is here to take the power back.
“Music isn’t doing the same things it did before,” he explains. “It doesn’t have a reason to exist organically. Prophets of Rage came together organically. I don’t think it would have been possible if B-Real hadn’t agreed to it. He was really the icing on the cake that made Prophets of Rage a reality because he’s a phenomenal emcee with a wide demographic different from what I bring to the table. It allowed me at this day-in-age to play like the second emcee to his number one. I like that.”
Second fiddle or not, Chuck D’s presence is strongly felt. He’s a symbol of potential change for countless people who have grown up with Public Enemy’s undeniable influence and politically motivated lyrics.
Chuck D, a self-described “Earthizen,” looks at the upcoming presidential election from an outsider’s perspective, one who has been to 106 countries. Otherwise, he said he’d “go nuts.” For those who don’t have the luxury of regularly escaping the United States, he offers a simple solution.
“You can always get out of the country in your mind,” he says. “It’s all relative. It’s only one world.You’re online and can communicate with people who don’t live here, right? Therefore, the more you connect with people in your database, the more you stay connected with them. That means you’re setting up your state of mind. Then again, some people leave the earth by just getting some hallucinogens and they’re good to go [laughs].”
Many people probably thought they were on a different planet when Donald Trump initially announced he was running for president; it seemed like a cruel joke. Commerford, who has been vocal about his casual consumption of cannabis and other provocative issues in the past, thought it was a malicious prank.
“Obviously we thought it was a joke because we had it in our ‘Testify’ video that we made with Michael Moore in 2000,” Commerford explains. “We had ‘Vote for Trump’ and ‘Trump for President’ signs in it. That’s pretty telling. It’s horrible, but ’m not surprised. The majority of people in America, sadly, are racist.”
As Prophets of Rage continue its extensive trek across North America, the group is armed with its own form of weaponry. Like Chuck D, Commerford is convinced the timing is everything.
“We are in a violent time,” Commerford says. “We are in a war—even though we’re not officially in a war, the world is at war. My weapons have always been my instrument, distortion and noise. That’s what we’re doing. We’re waging war with our music, which is a universal language and this is a time when we’re needed.”