I can't remember the first time I heard songs from Rage Against the Machine, but I was maybe seven or eight years old and watching MTV clips of dudes flying through the air on dirt bikes. That first RATM LP was the soundtrack. After hearing those songs, I immediately lost interest in those dirt bikes.
That first self-titled record sounded so alien — straight from another planet. One dude screaming and rapping over some very big fuzzy guitar riffs that didn't sound anything like actual guitar. Tom Morello blew my mind as a guitar player, and in this case, sort of the DJ, too? That shit you can't deny as a young music fan.
Zach de la Rocha's vocals made such an impact on me back then because they were so human and relatable. Rage Against the Machine sounded authentically angry, something that everyone tries to do but almost no one can accomplish. Up until that point, I had never heard that before — that raw aggression. In the years since, I've seen a lot of people try to imitate him, but no one comes close. It never hits quite as hard.
The self-titled LP has quite a few strong moments, but my favorite is definitely at the end of "Freedom." After those first two choruses, the track builds and builds until Zach just explodes with that long scream of "Freeeeedoooooooom! Yeah, right!" That had to have been the first time that I heard someone legitimately scream over music. It blew my little dumbass mind.
Looking back on it, having a band as political as Rage Against the Machine be part of the mainstream of rock music was pretty insane. I was too young to know what was going on at that time, but it was really cool figuring out that the songs meant something as I grew older and became more aware. Music doesn't need to have a message to be effective, but I think that when it is effective on it's own and then has a message, as well, that's when it works the best.
Any record that is going to be timeless has to have it's own approach. And I think any time someone steps outside of what is going on in modern music to create their own unique thing, it's going to have more staying power. RATM brought together so many types of people and movements while unapologetically speaking about sociopolitical issues. Some of those issues are still being dealt with and still make people uncomfortable.
Justice Tripp is the vocalist and a founding member of Trapped Under Ice and Angel Du$t, as well as one of the founders of Pop Wig Records. Trapped Under Ice recently released their first LP in six years, Heatwave, out now on Pop Wig.