RATM was formed to give volume to various struggles throughout the world. Every song on RATM’s 1992 debut album XX uses blocky aspirational rhythms to spread the word about people who are living in a dehumanizing setting.
XX draws inspiration from early heavy metal instrumentation like Metallica, along with hip hop acts like Afrika Bambaataa, Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys. All of these can be heard in Zack de la Rocha’s nasal rap flows and Tom Morello’s combination of punk-metal riffs and experimental guitar licks. All of this is apparent on this vulgar and explosive 12 track disc set.
One of their monumental hit singles on the album is “Killing in The Name,” which combines sci-fi guitar wankery while the bassist Tim Commerford adds a component of drop-D tuning, which is rare in modern metal. The song was the official kick starter to the ‘90s youth’s inner rebellion. De la Rocha raps with his politically charged rhymes: “Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they are the chosen whites.” His aggressive and passionate rebuttal is repeated over 16 times—“Fuck you I will not do what you tell me!”—in response to institutional racism and police brutality. Then the final shriek comes, saying “Motherfucker!” Back in the ‘90s, this kind of language was not as accepted in society as it is today. 20 years later, this hit single from their debut album continues to irritate and intimidate the naysayers of society. It remains one of the most politically-focused heavy metal songs ever written.
“Take the Power Back” has a groovy funk introduction, similar to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song with a slapped bassline that urges you to hum along.
“Know Your Enemy” may be the perfect song to ignite a protest or form a mosh pit. The song features Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan and includes Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins on the trashcan percussion. RATM’s enemies are the teachers who taught him to fight. Tom Morello’s whammy bars and wah-wah rhythm section create a unique addition to the song.
XX was the first ‘90s mainstream album that “preaches,” or should I say, “screams” their leftist views toward government policies. They talk about the institutionalized racism of America and its enslavement of the masses, as well as the entire financial and administrative systems of the western world. The question they ask is, “Is our world telling the truth?”
Whether you are an anarchist or just someone who likes to jump around to angry music, XX will provide both passion and aggressiveness to relate to.
Seeing kids in record shops buying XX is a reminder that this an album has lived on since the ‘90s and has been passed on to a new generation. Why? RATM are the godfathers of the alternative rock movement. This movement thrived in the late nineties and early 2000s, with bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Linkin Park. Today’s mainstream has put new metal to the side, forcing today’s metal fans to grab on to what they still have. RATM are keeping the ‘90s rap/rock movement alive.
XX is a ferocious and explosive historical artifact that remains iconic to rock fans everywhere.