Happy Birthday, Zack De La Rocha!

Birthdays probably seem sort of trivial to a guy like rapper Zack De La Rocha. He is most famous for being the frontman of revolutionary rock band Rage Against the Machine, but he is just as notable for his work with various social causes (and also his strange period of reclusion). De La Rocha turns 41 years old today, and just in case he is celebrating, be sure to pack extra streamers as you climb through the snow.

De La Rocha first made a name for himself as the frontman of Rage Against the Machine. They didn’t invent the idea of marrying street-wise hip-hop to punishing, funky metal, but they certainly did it better than anybody before them. Their debut self-titled album (released in 1992) turned the rock world on its ear, cranking the volume (and the aggression) way, way up. Songs like “Bullet in the Head,” “Killing in the Name” and “Freedom” combined a pounding, heavy, often funky sonic tidal wave with De La Rocha’s stabbing raps and power-to-the-people lyrics. They were the rare band that could fill arenas with their huge songs and also stay on message with their strikes against big business and oppressive governmental regimes.

Rage Against the Machine are an unusual band, as they have put out four albums, three of which are classics (and the fourth is a covers album). But they haven’t released new material in a decade, as they broke up for a while (in the interim, 75 percent of the band formed Audioslave and De La Rocha worked on a solo hip-hop album that never appeared) and then got back together without ever stepping into a studio. But even if he never records another note, De La Rocha remains one of the best frontmen in rock and a definitive voice of the past two decades. So crank up “Guerrilla Radio” and wish him a happy birthday.

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