June 6, 2016


Prophets of Rage Stay Empowering (and Surprisingly Apolitical) in Brooklyn

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Day three of New York City’s Governors Ball festival may have been canceled due to inclement weather, but the rabid fans who showed up to witness Rage Against the Machine/Public Enemy/Cypress Hill supergroup Prophets of Rage at Brooklyn’s Warsaw on Sunday night ended up leaving the humid venue completely soaked anyway. 

The group is making a habit of throwing together shows quickly. The group was only announced on Saturday to be performing a surprise set at Gov Ball the following day. With the fest being canceled, their gloriously sweat-stained East Coast debut was hastily awarded to Brooklyn.

Containing three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine (guitarist Tom Morello, drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford), Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord, and Cypress Hill’s B-Real, Prophets of Rage launched the kind of incendiary, atomic-bomb performance that would potentially cause heart attacks amongst a lesser group of middle-aged men. Nothing to worry about here in that respect–these veterans are well-trained in the art of turning a mild-mannered crowd into an inflamed mosh pit. 

With only two live performances under their belts, it would make sense for the group to still be finding its sea legs, but there was nothing tentative about Sunday night. Barreling onstage to a mash-up of the Beastie Boys’ location-appropriate “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” the amped-up tempo was instantly set for the night: crowd-pleasing hits and homages to each band’s discography.

That being said, the chosen hits were almost overwhelmingly from Rage. Apart from PE hits like “Miuzi Weighs a Ton” and “Prophets of Rage,” and Cypress Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill a Man” (which Rage has memorably covered for years anyway) and “Rock Superstar,” the night belonged to the biggest political rock band of the ‘90s. 

Chuck D and B-Real quite ably traded Zach de la Rocha’s memorable verses back and forth, but it was still a little strange to witness a night of almost entirely Rage music (though, to emphasize, great Rage music) without its chief lyricist. There doesn’t seem to be any ill will from the group toward de la Rocha either; Chuck D finished off one Rage tune by toasting Zach by name. Maybe we’ll see a future Prophets of Rage with de la Rocha in tow?

Somewhat surprising given the politically charged nature of the group, but the night came and went without any mentions of the current state of world affairs or floppy, blonde-haired quasi-politicians. Perhaps the music said everything that needed to be said. Or maybe Morello’s (presumably) tongue-in-cheek “Arm the Homeless” scrawl on his guitar was enough of a statement. 

Prophets ended their set with Rage’s classic “Killing in the Name,” and an impassioned group chant of “F-ck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” A quick bow from the band, and the house lights had already blinked back on before the last reverb was swallowed up by the crowd.

No encore needed. Prophets of Rage had arrived.

Check out a throwback interview with Tom Morello below: