Respect the Classics: Rage Against the Machine and Run the Jewels


Rage Against the Machine (left) and Run the Jewels (right). Image Credit: Billboard and RadioX

Zoe Joy

Anger, revolution, and rebellion. These are all incredibly poignant themes during our current political climate. The thing that separates these two bands from most of us during these times of civil unrest is that they have channeled their anger against the system into art that has become the anthem of many contrarians. Let’s delve into their similarities and differences.

Rage Against the Machine is one of the most prevalent pioneers of the Nu-Metal genre, combining heavy rock with rap lyricism. Founded in 1991, the Los Angeles based group consisting of Zack de la Rocha, Tim Commerford, Tom Morello, and Brad Wilk was formed as a sort of conglomeration of several other projects and failed band auditions. Their views expressed in their songs are inflammatory to many, with themes around revolutionary left-leaning politics regarding capitalism and imperialism. Due to their polarizing opinions, most fans of Rage have the same ideology, which has led to famous songs such as “Guerilla Radio” and “Bulls on Parade” becoming the anthems of many activists in the late 90s to the current day. On the other side of the political spectrum, these anthems are often used incorrectly by right-wing fanatics who didn’t understand Rage’s message.

Run the Jewels, formed in 2011 by members Jaime “El-P” Meline and Michael “Killer Mike” Render, continues this legacy of revolutionary activism through music. Though their hip-hop experimental rock style has always included themes of the pursuit of justice and anger against the system, their most recently released album entitled RTJ4 is the most intense reflection on the racial and political moments of 2020. With mentions of the killings of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and many other prominent issues that permeated throughout this past year, RTJ channel their rage into a brilliantly created rap album with heavy rock influences, with features from Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and, interestingly, Zack de la Rocha from Rage. Though the ideas and approach used by RTJ are very similar to Rage, they have carved their path in the hip-hop world, by spreading the important message about being politically aware.

Lyrical Comparisons

Run the Jewels: Walking in the Snow-”And they predicting’ prison population by who scoring the lowest/ And usually the lowest scores the poorest and they look like me/ And everyday on evening news they feed you fear for free”

 Rage Against the Machine: Bulls on Parade-Terror rains drenchin’, quenchin’ tha thirst of tha power dons/that five sided fist-agon”

Run the Jewels: Ju$t-You believe corporations runnin’ marijuana?/ And your country gettin’ ran by a casino owner?/ Pedophiles sponsor all these f***** racist bastards/ and I told you once befo’ that you should kill your master”

 Rage Against the Machine: Killing in the Name-Those who died are justified/ for wearing the badge/ they’re the chosen whites/ you justify that those died/ by wearing the badge”

 Using music as a means of spreading information about the corruption that is so commonplace in our government and society is poetic. Rage Against the Machine started the fire of Nu Metal, and Run the Jewels added fuel to that fire. While you wait or react to election results, make sure to put these two bands on a playlist, but listen to Rage first. Why? Because you gotta respect the classics.