By Brittany Hill
“Silence, something about silence makes me sick,” spits Rage Against the Machine’s front man Zack de la Rocha on ‘Fistful of Steel,’ a track from their self-titled debut album.
Amidst heavy bass lines, tight guitar riffs, and passionate anti-government activism, Rage Against the Machine catches the attention of any anti-conformist alive.
“Anger is a gift,” whispers Zack de la Rocha in his politically charged song, ‘Freedom’. Although almost every song references an injustice that occurred up until of the 1990’s, the lyrical meanings are highly applicable to protests and activism present in America today.
Their lyrics take a stance on America’s belief in war, the government’s subconscious influence over every day decisions, and the ethnocentric nationalism that our country thrives on.
A line from ‘Killing in the Name’ targets our country’s romanticized view of war participation and the honor it evokes. It states, “Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites.”
As if the band had not gone against the grain enough, the following line, “Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses,” gives great challenge to the naiveté instilled in the minds of proud Americans.
Now celebrating the 20th year anniversary of the album’s release in 1992, the lyrical relevance to modern issues proves that truth can be timeless.
Satirical meanings behind their seemingly simple lyrics add emphasis to the message behind them. De la Rocha conveys, “In the right light, study becomes insight. But the system that dissed us, teaches us to read and right,” in the track titled ‘Take the Power Back’.
The band encourages the listener to give critical analysis and further reevaluate what they have always believed to be true. In one of their most forthright songs, ‘Know Your Enemy’, it calls out the neglected characteristics of being American. The band gives a poignant perspective on what they see in the following lines, “Yes I know my enemies, they’re the teachers who taught me to fight me. Compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission, ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite.”
And as the line “All of which are American dreams,” repeatedly fades out like an obsessive, haunting thought, a dichotomized contemplation over what is right and what we have been taught fills the void of song’s ending silence.