In the wake of one of the most rollercoaster, volatile presidential elections, members of some of the most popular political music groups in recent memory have come together to fill the dearth of anti-establishment bands. Starting with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, the “supergroup,” Prophets Of Rage, features Rage’s Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk alongside Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord and B-Real of Cypress Hill.
Taking its name from a song off of Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, the new group has made headlines for its staunch dissent from the current political climate and election cycle. Highlighting this was a protest performance at the Republican National Convention. However, the group is not solely speaking out against the Republicans, but rather the entire political process. According to B-Real, the group wanted to play at the Democratic convention as well, but scheduling conflicts arose.
I spoke with B-Real about the formation of the group, the advantages of social media and the creation of the new EP coming later this year.
When did the Prophets Of Rage start to form and music start to be made?
I’m gonna say maybe six months ago, somewhere around there. I got the call from Tom to see if I was interested in becoming a part of this group called Prophets Of Rage and he explained to me what it was and I was in from the jump. And they gave me like a week later called a rehearsal to see how it would sound and we were just learning songs together. And it just started forming from there and the new music came in the middle.
We were in rehearsals, Chuck and I getting familiar with Rage songs, and Tim, Tom and Brad getting familiar with the [Public Enemy] and Cypress Hill songs that we would be doing. In the middle of that the newer songs came. I believe I went out for a couple of shows with Cypress Hill for two weeks and when I came back there were two or three ideas and eventually when I got back I was able to do my parts… and we had brand new songs to go with everything that we’re playing from the old catalogues so yeah probably about six or seven months now since we’ve started.
What’s the process been like creating setlists and picking out elements from the different groups?
I think we just wanted to create an impactful setlist so we played around with the songs and what would go where. We wanted to do something very aggressive in the beginning and then bring in the hip-hop towards the middle and then come back with what’s left of the newer songs and some of the Rage catalogue that’s very heavy… So it’s trying to mix [all] that to make it a rollercoaster ride and have an impact from song one… I think the hardest part of putting together the setlist was figuring out what song would we do first and I think we all just felt really good with starting off the song that became our first single off the EP, which is “Prophets Of Rage.” We all felt really comfortable with that. After that we filled in the blanks with what we thought would be constantly climbing up.
What was the songwriting process like for the new EP and how does that differ for you from a writing Cypress Hill record?
Well the EP was fairly easy because for me it was just about adding a verse onto “Prophets Of Rage,” which was an existing song in the [Public Enemy] catalogue but we remade it… It was just about adding a verse and blending my voice with Chuck’s voice on the chorus… And the other song was “Party’s Over,” and that was also quite easy because you got four other guys who you can bounce ideas off each other to see what works… So we kind of experimented with that one, but it was really easy because these guys are easy to work with. Everybody feeds off of each other’s ideas and takes it to a different level.
And the other songs basically we just rerecorded a Rage song which is “Killing in the Name” and we did a variation of “Shut ‘Em Down,” which is a song Public Enemy originally did and then Cypress Hill did another song called “Shut ‘Em Down” inspired by Public Enemy’s original… So that’s what you’ll hear on the EP.
For me I can’t wait till we start talking about doing an album because I think that’s going to be really interesting as far as the creative process goes, when we get into that. EPs are fairly easy. You know you’re not going to do as many songs and you try to get the best six songs possible. So there’s a strong focus and with this one we didn’t have to do a bunch of new writing. But with the album it’s different so I’m excited when we get to that point what happens.
What is it about this election that pushed the group together? Why not stick with your original groups again?
Well I think you know collectively, or individually I should say, I think we all see what’s going on where it’s just a bunch of fuckery. And what better way to call all this fuckery out than to come back with Rage Against The Machine songs and come with some new stuff and just a new movement. You know with Cypress Hill, we’ve done what we’ve done and we’ve spoke to certain politic issues and certain ills of society and stuff like that, but it’s not really a politically motivated group… but I thought the collective thing is one different being [that’s] more powerful than we brought it all together as one as Prophets Of Rage… I mean one, there’s no music speaking to this right now at the forefront of this. I mean there is, but it’s very underground and no one sheds any light on it. So realistically it’s a low-burning flame. We wanted to (laughs) scorch shit, you know? We want to wake up [people] to what’s happening here like, “Look what’s happening. Look at these choices—what are you gonna do?”
And I think it was important for us to come in and play this music right now… I think for me besides the importance of the message, to get to play with Chuck D and Tom Morello and jam with Brad—these are some of the best players in the world right here. So as an artist I was definitely motivated for that too. So I have two reasons to do it, one selfish and one because I think we all felt it needed to happen to speak up for people and to speak for the people, to the people.
How important has social media been for you guys spreading this message?
Oh I think it’s important. One, because whatever message is getting conveyed through there, you know it goes a long way obviously. That’s cutting the middleman out. You don’t have a publicity team or a marketing team whatever, [it goes] straight to your fan base to give them whatever message or inspiration or encouragement that they might need, as well information on what the group is doing, where they’re playing or maybe pushing a song out through it… there’s all sorts of advantages now with social media. You can do your own marketing. But that’s what’s different now than it was then. Obviously in the ‘90s you had to pay for marketing and promotion and you’d still have to do that today, but you can do some of it yourself if you have a big enough network. And fortunately with all our networks we have a pretty broad base of people that we can reach out to and be like, “Hey look this is what we’re doing check it out it’s important,” and certain people have responded and we’ve gotten a great reaction.
Prophets Of Rage will be playing at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ on Aug. 26 and at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Aug. 27 on the Make America Rage Again tour. A self-titled EP will be available later this year. For more information go to prophetsofrage.com.