The Prophets of Rage‘s self-titled debut is a prime example of how a good idea can flounder when it is poorly executed. All parties involved are legends in their own right, but together they only touch upon the deep reservoir that is protest music.

Chuck D is a storied icon and nothing will ever change that, but in this capacity his voice comes across as antiquated; his proclamations tantamount to t-shirt slogans. It’s a rehash of another generation’s voice, and it dabbles in past triumphs in a painfully predictable manner. B-Real is one of the few bright spots. His cadences and lyrical acumen are still on point and Rage is able to hit their full stride when he’s leading the charge.

From a production standpoint, the album is a loss. In a live setting it works, but on wax it reads as overly-polished and formulaic. With so many legends in the house perhaps everyone is being careful not to step on the toes of the other, which is resulting in music that in a word can be described as “safe.” And the last thing you want to do when making protest music is be safe.

The intentions are there, and with the political landscape being what it is a powerful voice is needed. But to rely on platitudes and reputation makes this album more a symbolic gesture than a project that promotes change and provocative action.

Radical Eyes

The fury burns and once dormant musical prophets reemerge with a mission in mind. The stock guitar lick lacks depth, and with no force behind the beat the declarations read as mild and outdated. The government is the focus of his ire, and he wants to let politicians know that he will not be silenced. Awakening the senses is his primary goal, a mission that begins with a person’s vision: [LISTEN]

Unfuck the World

A cliche title leaves the healthy critic skeptical, but the blunted bomber himself B-Real swoops in and saves the day. His piercing tone pairs well with the tsunami building behind him, a match that displays his unique cadences. The American Dream is dead and politicians caused it by systematically exposing the nation to abject poverty. It was a bullet to the brain, and B-Real is demanding action: [LISTEN]

Legalize Me

The melodic beat allows B-Real to flex his vocal chops. He’s not exactly Marvin Gaye, but it is a display that shows off his versatility and willingness to add to his skillset. He’s part of the Mount Rushmore of blunted rappers, so it’s no surprise that he’s squeezing in an homage to his favorite plant. Sure he’s getting bombed, but come tomorrow he’ll be ready to fight the good fight: [LISTEN]

Living on the 110

A hellborn drum break splits the earth in half, mirroring the mental anarchy plaguing the nation. Homelessness is the central focus, and Freeway 110 in Los Angeles is one of the worst examples. There are camps underneath, and the irony of the situation is unbearable. Millions of people drive over the makeshift communities and don’t give it a second thought. Indifference being the disease: [LISTEN]

Hail to the Chief

Chuck D stumbles out the gate, his heart beating with fervor but his legs fading in age. His rhyme pattern is a standard, but it doesn’t hold up against the intensity. They’re trying to ensue a riot, and all they’re getting out of their co-frontman are cliches. B-Real once again has to save the day; his rhythmic, rapid-fire delivery matching the pace. A shot at shady politicians worldwide: [LISTEN]

Take Me Higher

Those pesky drones have the dynamic duo checking their shoulders. It’s not as threatening as a drooling politician, so the troops craft a soundscape that is more Parliament than Rage. Funk is a backdrop that both lyricists can appreciate and they sound perfectly comfortable in their armchairs admonishing the digitized spies. It’s a baffling world, as strange and backwards as science fiction: [LISTEN]

Strength in Numbers

Choppy guitar licks mimic the frazzled mind of your average working stiff. They’re analyzing the mind of an overworked individual and how there’s a residual impact on a person’s quality of life when they have to slave just to make a living. It’s an anthem meant to give the power back to the people, educating them and directing them towards self-empowerment. A people’s liberation: [LISTEN]

Fired a Shot

Wailing guitar riffs sound the alarm, but the troops have trouble rallying behind a message that is vague and uninspiring. By this time the fight the power rhetoric is wearing thin, reduced to bumper sticker status. Most have grown numb to the dialogue and the lack of ingenuity renders the message obsolete. They’re getting winded and the lack of focus becomes more apparent with each passing song: [LISTEN]

Who Owns Who

High octane fuel meant to ignite a revolution. They’re demanding that the people wake up and understand that their rights are slowly being taken away. The indifference will be the end of free thought, and it has them asking some very important question. Knowing your rights and hipping yourself to game is the first step, the alarm that explains to the masses that knowledge will set you free: [LISTEN]

Hands Up

Injected with hype, but unable to get off the ground. Working class folks are considered heroes in this land, but the lack of detail and precision hampers the overall message. Slogans will never replace details and facts, and the mundane platitudes do little to move the soul. Creative fatigue is setting in, and instead of driving to the rim hard they’re hoisting up floaters hoping for a miracle: [LISTEN]

Smashit

Storming the castle with torches and pitchforks. The people are fed up with the lies and the power structure where the rich continue to get richer. It’s the same old message of liberation with nothing new to reignite the flame. The lack of thunder creates less than ideal conditions to spark a revolution, and while the effort is appreciated the antiquated sound has the album ending on a flat note” [LISTEN]