Rage Against the Machine – Renegades: #342 of best 1,000 albums ever!

So why is Rage Against the Machine’s Renegades on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

As I’ve talked about before, when a band produces an album comprised of cover songs, it’s often a signal that the end is near in terms of their peak creativity, their flat-out time together as an active outfit, or both (see: Guns n’ Roses’ The Spaghetti Incident? as the classic example of this).

In the case of Rage Against the Machine, while Renegades is a cover album that’s the band’s final studio album – at least to date – it’s a hell of a creative achievement. In fact – and while recognizing this might be “controversial” for some – I have it “ahead” of both The Battle of Los Angeles (#724 of best 1,000 albums ever)and Evil Empire (#379) in terms of best 1,000 albums ever rankings. And it landed in a rather plum spot too, I might add, with its placement inside of the Top 350.

I’m always impressed when an artist or band can take material that they didn’t write and make it completely their own. And when the cover version can stand up in its own right to rival or even outshine the original version, it has the potential to be truly special.

RATM does that with many songs on Renegades, and what’s even more remarkable is how they handle each cover song they take on with a different angle and musical styles.

I’ll start with a deep cut – in fact it has the “fewest” plays of any song on Renegades via Spotify – that simply blows me away: Devo’s “Beautiful World.”

First of all, the fact that Rage Against the Machine dug into pop culture history and selected a Devo track is simply magnificent. While the sound of both bands is completely different, they share an intense focus on political and sociological impact with their songwriting and music.

And I imagine it’s the deeply subversive “twist” that slams us at the end of “Beautiful World” that Rage found appealing.

It’s a beautiful world we live in
A sweet romantic place
Beautiful people everywhere
The way they show they care

In Devo’s version, the sound is joyous, boisterous nerd rock. In Rage Against the Machine’s hands, they go way against their typical rap-metal sound and at the same time go far away from the vibe of the original. It’s the quietest song that Rage has ever produced, with acoustic guitar at that!

It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world

It also sounds haunting and foreboding. Zack de la Rocha sings (kind of? Which is kind of amazing right there!) in a whispery tone. It’s the kind of song that makes you lean in and really pay attention to the lyrics.

For you
For you
For you

So when we get to the end with the repeated and almost desperate whispers of for you it’s downright chilling when the final line drops.

Not me

On “Renegades of Funk,” Rage leverages its core combustible fusion of rap and metal, but then layers in Afro-Funk to create a super exciting and even danceable sound with Afrika Bambaataa’s funky in its own right song.  

I’m a particular fan of the whole call-and-response section: say “jam sucker” (jam sucker!), say “groove sucker” (groove sucker)!

On “How I Could Just Kill A Man” brings from LA to the east coast in covering Cypress Hill’s classic original. Tom Morello’s guitar work here is simply hammer of the gods-level crushing, simply spectacular.

As great as the version on Renegades sounds, this live cut that features both Rage and Cypress Hill takes it up at least another level.

Be warned: this track is absolutely scorching.

And with Eric B.* and Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend,” Rage sounds like they’re having a (raging) blast, transforming this old school hip hop number into an aggressive rap-metal banger.

* Shout out from this Eric B. to my fellow Eric B.!

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with Rage Against the Machine’s Renegades

Every time I listen to any version of “How I Could Just Kill A Man,” I still wish that the post-Zack de la Rocha RATM-era could have involved one or both of Cypress Hill’s duo of B-Real and Sen Dog.

I just feel that the potential of this combination would have been extraordinary.

Instead, we got Audioslave, with Chris Cornell joining with RATM’s Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk. And it’s a good band, don’t get me wrong (see: Out of Exile, #853 of best 1,000 albums ever).

But still… this is one of those musical what ifs that I think about sometimes.

Some stats & info about Rage Against the Machine – Renegades

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Alternative Metal, Metal, Rap, Rap Metal, Rap-Rock, Rock Music, SoCal Bands
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 4 out of 5 stars
  • When was Renegades released? 2000
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #342 out of 1,000

Rage Against the Machine’s Renegades on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Rage Against the Machine’s Renegades that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

We’re the renegades of funk.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.