Rage supergroup emerges in tense US election year

(Left to right) Musicians Tim Commerford, Chuck D, Brad Wilk, B-Real and Tom Morello of Prophets of Rage perform onstage at Whisky a Go Go on May 31, 2016.
(Left to right) Musicians Tim Commerford, Chuck D, Brad Wilk, B-Real and Tom Morello of Prophets of Rage perform onstage at Whisky a Go Go on May 31, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

New York (AFP) - Members of two bands long known for their strong political messages, Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy, have come together for a new supergroup in a charged United States election year.

Calling themselves Prophets of Rage, the new act debuted with a small concert on Tuesday evening in Los Angeles and promised an update on Friday on additional plans.

"We can no longer stand on the sidelines of history. Dangerous times demand dangerous songs. It's time to take the power back," Prophets of Rage announced on a newly created website, in a likely allusion to the upcoming election in which billionaire Donald Trump is the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee.

The group features Chuck D, the frontman of New York hip-hop greats Public Enemy whose hard-hitting verse about the African-American experience brought a political sophistication to rap starting in the late 1980s.

It reunites guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine, one of the most political bands ever to win mainstream success in the US, infusing hard guitar rock with leftist, anti-capitalist lyricism.

It also features lead rapper B-Real of Cypress Hill, one of the first prominent Latino hip-hop groups.

While not as brazenly political as Rage Against the Machine or Public Enemy, Cypress Hill has been outspoken in its push for legalisation of marijuana.

The group's first concert, at the historic 500-capacity Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood, was tilted toward Rage Against the Machine songs, according to set lists posted online by concert goers.

The show ended with two of Rage Against the Machine's best-known songs, Bulls On Parade and Killing In the Name, as well as a mash-up of Public Enemy's classic Fight The Power with the Beastie Boys' energetic No Sleep Till Brooklyn.

Prophets of Rage announced the show only hours before, restricting sales to ticket buyers who showed up in person to prevent scalping.

The group said they were was donating proceeds from the show to a group fighting homelessness.

Notably absent from the supergroup is Rage Against the Machine singer Zack de la Rocha, the group's lyricist whose politics were inspired in part by the revolutionary background of his Mexican grandfather.

Rage Against the Machine broke up in 2000 but have played periodic shows since, including a 2008 protest gig on the sidelines of the Republican Party's convention. The last full reunion was in 2011.

Prophets of Rage was the title of a song on Public Enemy's seminal 1988 album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.