I’d like to put a small disclaimer on this lyricist section. Tonight’s lyricist expresses emotions and opinions that are both strong and, well, very angry. He was the lead vocalist, lyricist, and activist in the band Rage Against The Machine, who is most definitely the most politically charged band to ever gain a load of airplay. This, of course, is a testament to their musical skill and the fact that most of the lyrics were rapped and hard to here (this excluding several portions of “Killing in the Name”) Yet, while this is the case, the keen lyrics of Mr. Zack de la Rocha just express a different look at great lyrics. They cannot all be self-reflective and pretty. Some must be angry, and Rocha’s lyrics are.
Born into a politically charged family, Rocha, was immersed with left-wing political causes from the moment he could talk. His childhood was spent dealing with his German-Irish mother and his father, who, after experiencing a nervous breakdown after divorcing Zack’s mother when he was one, became a glorified religious nut. It is safe to assume that in experiencing his odd family background and by living in Los Angeles some of this racial anger was able to brew and he was able to see how racist people actually are. This just extended into staunch campaigning for left wing politics and with this he was introduced to punk music which seemed to express exactly what he was feeling. Rocha became involved and his musical career began.
Let us focus on his excellent work with Rage Against The Machine where we certainly can read and hear the anger emitted from the music. But, it is important to see how skillful the lyrical craft is as well. Here are some lyrics from Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.”
“Weapons not food, not homes, not shoes
Not need, just feed the war cannibal animal
I walk the corner to tha rubble that used to be a library
Linin’ to the mind cemetery now
What we don’t know keeps the contracts alive an movin’
They don’t gotta burn the books they just remove ‘em
While arms warehouses fill as quick as the cells
They Rally round tha family! With a pocket full of shells!”
What one first recognizes about these rapped lyrics are that they roll off the tonuge nicely and they flow perfectly. The rhyme is not forced and is rather smooth. It is a form of poetry, good rap, and Rocha certainly demonstrates this with his lyric. Now, to the message. I believe there is something special about his line about libraries. Rocha is saying that this “they” concept (being the government most likely) does not need to burn books, they just take them away, while warehouses fill up with guns quite quickly. There is something fundamentally wrong with society when violence replaces education and this is what Rocha is portraying. It is social critique, like good social music should be, unlike most rap which is unfortunately trite and juvenile.
Take a listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-58-36lSqG4