Run the Jewels — the hip-hop duo of Killer Mike and El-P — and Prophets Of Rage — the group uniting members of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill — have been two of music’s most outspoken critics of the current presidential administration in 2017. Thus, it was a little surprising to hear members of both groups, speaking independently of each other backstage at KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas earlier this month, saying that they both share a sense of optimism that things may improve in 2018. Why? They say they see a united wave of activists banding together to create change.
“All the right people are mad at the same time: the gay and lesbian community, the black community, working community,” Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike said. “Everyone’s mad at the same time, and all they have to remember is the ‘60s: it was the people struggling, it wasn’t just a personal thing. And if they do more cooperating I think, if nothing else, you hold off the bad.”
Prophets of Rage guitarist Tom Morello concurred. “My hope is this regime brings into existence the movement that will not just dethrone it, but will help make a more humane and just country,” Morello said. “That’s the hope, but it’s not gonna happen by itself. The one thing the whole Trump world has revealed is that people are rejecting politics as usual, business as usual.”
Run The Jewels’ El-P is not as convinced the system will change, but says the reaction he’s seen from fans is encouraging.
“I don’t have much faith in the system we’ve set up, but I do have a lingering faith in the consciousness of mankind,” he says. “We’re very lucky, we get to perform in front of a crowd of people who don’t always look like each other and who are having a good time. I think Mike is right: If there’s ever a silver lining to this, it’s that we kind of know what we have to do and that’s to be more powerful together.”
Similarly, Prophets of Rage and Public Enemy MC Chuck D shared some advice for young artists speaking out for the first time.
“We encourage them to just be fearless in their convictions and to pay attention,” he says, “When you look around and you think there’s a problem, don’t be afraid to put it in your music and art.”
While El-P echoes that sentiment, he cautions against over-seriousness. “I want people to be themselves — that’s what we do. If we have a moment in which we have to get heavy we will do it because this is our medium and this is our life. And yet we don’t let it define us. Joy and humor is just as important, especially in dark times.”