photo & text by nacrowe
there was a time seemingly not long ago where in order to hear a song you either had to buy a recording (cassette, compact disc, etc.) or hope to hear it on the radio. when my family moved to NIGERIA in 1996 that isolation from both radio and record stores was pretty intense. its hard to express such now during a time when the internet is a ubiquitous and ever-present reality of daily life. back then you really felt the distance from your home culture. in my subsequent years living abroad, especially places like ALBANIA and MYANMAR, it was a totally different experience. i had a smart phone and internet access with the ability to explore new music and watch films as if i was at home.
i bring this up because it was a big deal when my family went on trips during school breaks, especially when we went to EUROPE. during a trip to ITALY i remember my brother and i getting our hands on records by three bands we kept reading about: TOOL, SEPULTURA and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. if my memory serves me correct we scored TOOL's UNDERTOW (ZOO, 1993), SEPULTURA's CHAOS A.D. (ROADRUNNER, 1993) and ROOTS (ROADRUNNER, 1996), as well as the RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE's RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (EPIC, 1992) and EVIL EMPIRE (EPIC, 1996) records. it was a big deal not just culturally, but spiritually as well.
hearing those records made you feel connected to AMERICAN culture.
so that was my experience first hearing EVIL EMPIRE. i just remember the sheer ferocity of that tight rhythm section and TOM MORELLO's off-kilter soundscapes and eccentric noise-making. it seemed like a sonic revolution. and then there was ZACH DE LA ROCHA who just sounded pissed off. his rapid fire delivery was something i was not used to at all, since there were no precedent in rock music for what he did, and my knowledge of HIP HOP was pretty nonexistent back then (outside of BIGGY and TUPAC, both who passed on around that time or soon thereafter). it was intense.
thematically and lyrically the band stood against corporate and political oppression, which is interesting for both of us as NIGERIA was a corrupt military dictatorship at the time that served AMERICAN petroleum interests. it was an interesting education and re-contextualization of experience abroad as we were living it. in my mind at the time, the message of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE was not that far off from that of FELA KUTI, who was still alive and playing live shows in LAGOS at the time.
years ago i saw a reunited RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE play the ROCK THE BELLS festival in NYC and outside of PRINCE and, yes, GUNS N ROSES, they are one of the better live acts i have ever seen. they did not disappoint. experiencing that show was a visceral experience that took me right back to my time in LAGOS. a time where i witnessed police brutality and began questioning my role in this systematic oppression of a native population ruled by a corrupt government apparatus benefiting off of foreign corporate interests.
cant say that about many bands. even THE CLASH.