Prophets of Rage
Whisky a Go-Go
May 31, 2016
Top rule for a Los Angeles native: Attend any show described with the words “performance by members of Rage Against the Machine, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy.”
Yes, a historic event went down last night. And yes, the rumors are true. An activist superhero group, Prophets of Rage, took to the stage at the Whisky a Go-Go for their first-ever show. Following a warmup set of throwback tracks by Public Enemy’s DJ Lord (everything from “Jump Around” to “Enter Sandman”), the legends took the stage: Rage’s Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk; Public Enemy’s Chuck D; and Cypress Hill’s B-Real. The crowd roared its approval.
Frustrated by today’s political deception and drama, Morello got the group together to fight the power in 2016. Prior to the show, fans got the word on the street through scattered black and red posters and the site ProphetsofRage.com. There was a countdown ticker, set for the time of the secret show last night.
The music of the night overflowed with unity, passion, anger and inspiration. It was an activists’ wet-dream lineup. Two of the world’s best rappers and three-fourths of Rage (minus singer Zack de la Rocha, whom both Chuck D and B-Real shouted out during the show) played with all their might. Morello represented well, as always. The crowd bowed to his guitar slaying (once with his teeth) and the band’s powerful lyrics. If shit goes down, this band has our back.
The Prophets opened up with Public Enemy's “Prophets of Rage” and got the crowd chanting their name. Next, Rage’s “Guerilla Radio” and “Bombtrack” took us over, as we realized the intense perfection of Wilk’s drums with Chuck D on the mic. These men seemed fated to play together, especially when they kicked in with Public Enemy’s “Miuzi Weighs a Ton” and the chemistry between the Rage musicians and Chuck D's music was apparent. The highlights were endless and included B-Real leading “People of the Sun” with amazing grace and Chuck D getting the crowd to chant “no more lies” on “Take the Power Back.”
They continued on with Cypress Hill’s “(Rock) Superstar,” with both B-Real and Chuck D rapping. Once Morello's guitar came in, we stood there in awe. The hits just kept coming, especially in a DJ Lord–led medley of “Insane in the Membrane,” “Bring the Noise,” “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” and “Welcome to the Terrordome.”
The set's anti-Trump message was received loud and clear when they presented a mashup of Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” “Brooklyn” was replaced by “Cleveland,” the home of the upcoming Republican convention.
The 90-minute set culminated with “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name.” Tears of appreciation fell. Hearts beat strong. Fists and middle fingers were raised.
Witnessing the Prophets, these legends in action, brought back memories of years past, especially if you grew up in the early ’90s, dropping Rage and Cypress cassette tapes in the boombox on the beach. Looking at the group's name and connecting the dots, from Public Enemy’s song and documentary Prophets of Rage to Rage covering Cypress Hill's “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” you can see how it all led to this moment. Morello gathered his friends and musical idols and told them that the people needed a voice. It all made sense.
Aside from being Prophets, the band members have not been sitting still. For this show, proceeds benefited PATH — People Assisting the Homeless (the crowd bought a lot of T-shirts and red “Make America Rage Again” ballcaps to support the cause). Cypress Hill are celebrating their 25th anniversary with a world tour. Public Enemy have their own radio show and are also activists of numerous causes. They announced a free show on June 25 at the University of Kansas. Morello leads the solo act Nightwatchman, plays with the band Street Sweeper Social Club and runs the label Firebrand Records, a home for other makers of rebel music.
Beyond another show this Friday at the Palladium — for which there's a new countdown clock on the band's website — what's next for Prophets of Rage is unclear. They debuted a handful of new songs, and intimated that they may be heading to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention in July. But you get the sense that this whole project is coming together on the fly, driven more by a sense of political urgency than by the usual band promotional campaign.
B-Real said during the show’s closing, “The expectations of this show was enormous and we thank you for your support.”
In the crowd, the band’s first new biggest fan stood with emotion. “This was my show,” he said. “My grandfather and father both fought in wars. I was in Afghanistan for 30 days. They had their concerts. This one was mine.” He got a hug from a fellow fan — No Doubt's Tony Kanal, who had been watching the show from the back.
Asked to sum up the show in one word, Kanal said, “Chuck D. That’s two words. When he’s on, don’t miss him.” He was right.