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Who here remembers when the historic rap-metal group Rage Against The Machine burst into the mainstream? I don’t because I was only two years old when they broke up, but I do listen to them on a regular basis and consider them to be one of my favorite bands. Zach de la Rocha’s rebellious, left-winged, resistance-charged lyrics, Tom Morello’s innovative and expressive guitar work, Tom Commerford’s driving bass lines, and drummer Brad Wilk’s funk sensibilities, all contributed to creating one of the greatest politically-driven bands in history. Due to a wicked time of change of cultures and politics in the 1990s, this band emerged as the voice for the underrepresented and neglected classes of people and ideas.
Now, take a look at where we are now. One of the largest cultural and political wars in the nation’s history is happening right before our eyes. We just held our midterm election, elected new governors, and both parties are more determined than ever to throw one-another out of power. Conflicts with Russia, trade sanctions, and the populous' (especially young people’s) hatred for the Commander in Chief, there are controversies and scandals happening every day. And in the 1991, Rage appeared during a time when Reaganism was still fresh in the minds of citizens, the Soviet Union had finally collapsed, and the US military had it’s first major presence in the Middle East.
Does any of this sound familiar? We as American’s are facing an updated form of Reaganomics, a deeply problematic relationship with Russia, and our troops are still present in the Middle East. History is repeating itself, just with even more conflict among the masses. This is a time for a new mainstream artist to help speak for disenfranchised people. In fact, we need it. People need to hear unorthodox, and maybe even unpopular, ideas. It helps with ideological diversity, and it helps give a voice to minorities who seem to be simply brushed over. Songs about wealth inequality, institutionalized racism, and the hope of seeing a revolution correct the sins of our fathers is part of what gave Rage Against the Machine the popularity and legacy that they carry today.
We don’t hear the same material from many artists now, some of whom are often labeled as “political.” What Zach de la Rocha was able to do was very unique. He could construct a piece of poetry that is just as artistic as it is bombastic. Hell, “Killing in the Name” simply repeats the same six or seven phrases (with some slight variation) through it’s five minute runtime, but it paints a better image of our cultural flaws than any Soundcloud rapper. America needs a new cultural voice that impacts us in the same way this band did. We’re not seeing the same cunning social commentary in an age where we desperately need it.
Now, I truly don’t want to bash on the artists who do put their heart and soul into their work. We just need one of those artists to have the proper sensibilities to become popular in our current cultural climate, and still represent themselves as an act for those who think differently. Whatever those niche ideas may be, we need a prevalent force in our culture to push them forward as a way of getting all of us to think of the oppressed and disenfranchised. It may sound edgy and juvenile, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t blast “Take the Power Back” on my trip to the voting booth. I think us as Americans could use that mentality as an aid to helping those who need it most, and making sure our wrongs aren’t repeated.