When Rage Against the Machine emerged in the early Nineties, there was no other band even remotely like them. They not only fused rock with rap at a time when there was a stark divide between the two genres, but their radical lyrics called for a political revolution during the supposedly peaceful decade after the Cold War and before 9/11. This was a time when most bands were looking inward toward their own pain, not outward to the struggles of minorities in America and people living under oppressive regimes across the globe.
“It was one of those rare instances when the planets just lined up right and the alchemy of musical magic and history just poured out,” Chuck D recalled of Rage in 2016. “I saw them in concert [early on], and what I remember most is how wiped-out the crowd was afterwards. I had never seen a place destroyed; sweat and blood on the walls. The fucking tables were turned over and rafters pulled down. It was crazy. They’re the Led Zeppelin of our time.”
Rage broke up in 2000 and left behind just three albums of original material, but those songs aged remarkably well during the chaos and tumult of the past two decades. And when they announced a reunion tour, which finally kicks off July 7 after several pandemic-related delays, tickets sold out with remarkable speed. There’s no hint that they’ve recorded any new music, but they really have no need to. They somehow created the soundtrack for our time a quarter-century ago. Here, we count down their 25 greatest songs.