Prophets of Rage’s Self-Titled Debut Is Immediately Obsolete: Review

Protest music is thriving, if you want to hear it. A top-of-my-head assortment: Kendrick Lamar’s post-election self-interrogations, Sheer Mag’s resistance-minded retrofitting of Thin Lizzy, Vince Staples’s dizzying F.U. to the White House, and Lana Del Rey’s knowingly naïve pleas for world peace. Even the slick, chart-courting likes of Fifth Harmony have anthems about building bridges and not walls. Yet if your genre tastes or tribal affiliations or overpowering nostalgia for the WTO protests disqualify the above from being taken seriously—well, today you have the thudding debut by Prophets of Rage.

A super-group formed during the 2016 election because “dangerous times demand dangerous songs,” Prophets of Rage includes members of Rage Against the Machine (among them the effects-pedals activist Tom Morello), Public Enemy (including Chuck D, the stern embodiment of rap’s political potential), and Cypress Hill (B-Real, the squeaky stoner of “Insane in the Brain”). Their protest-artists pedigree is mostly impeccable, and their initial outings saw them reworking old hits for today’s rallies. Outside the Republican National Convention, for example, Chuck D and B-Real aimed Zack de la Rocha’s lyrics in “Killing in the Name” at newly explicit targets. Now, it was “some of those up in Congresswho were “the same that burn crosses.”

Eight months into the Trump administration, any temptation to call such an effort overly ham-handed has been squelched. The chorus of Prophets of Rage’s “Unfuck the World” says “no hatred / fuck racists,” and the president’s response to the Charlottesville violence has made clear that the band is not simply stating the obvious. Yet over the 12 tracks of their self-titled debut, the Prophets seem stuck in an…

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