Few rock stars, especially guitar players, have managed to make music that successfully fuses rock and hip hop quite like Tom Morello.
When he and the rest of Rage Against the Machine hit the scene, there was a new president in the White House. Grunge was right around the corner. The editor of Rhyme Junkie was a cute little baby. It was a good time period, if you ask me.
When Rage Against the Machine released their self-titled debut all the way back in 1992 (what???), they shocked the world with their fusion of metal, funk, hip hop, and politics. The album was, in a lot of ways, the heavier more politically-conscious version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ classic “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”, which was released just a year prior.
The most popular song from that album, “Killing in the Name”, turned heads with Morello’s heavy guitar sounds, Zack de la Rocha’s controversial lyrics, and a haunting opening bassline by Tim Commerford.
Now, fast forward 8 years.
Their most notable link to the world of hip hop was on their final album, 2000’s (what???????) “Renegades”. An album completely comprised of covers, the band hit on some of hip hop’s best classics. They put their own, unique spin by artists such as Eric B. & Rakim and Volume 10. They also covered other rock legends on the album, including the Stooges, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. Their most frequently covered artist of any genre was Cypress Hill (shameless plug for my Soundset review, which included Cypress Hill, here).
Their cover of CH’s “How I Could Just Kill a Man” is my favorite off the album. The funky jam exchange between guitar and bass makes you want to dance, despite the murderous lyrics.
The band, while reuniting from time to time, hasn’t released an album in almost 15 years (seriously, what????), but their impact on the music landscape covers more genres than just about any other artist of Rage’s time. They’re still out and about, and their fans are still active. They won’t be going anywhere for a long time, whether the band wants to or not.