With the release of Nirvana's Nevermind (Geffen), Pearl Jam's Ten (Epic) and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Warner Bros), Alternative Rock dominated the early '90s mainstream. Touted as the voice of a generation, Kurt Cobain was the poster boy for grunge, leading the way with chart-topping, angst-filled hits. For perspective, Los Angeles was dealing with its own levels of angst and anarchy with the '92 riots which were spawned in the wake of the Rodney King beating. With the City of Angels literally on fire, President Bush had to call in the U.S. Guard for help. Compton rap group N.W.A. was ending its terror on the music industry, but not after prompting strict Parental Advisory guidelines on CD packaging for explicit content and drawing scrutiny from the FBI. With emotions on high and tension building in the streets, the stage was set and no one could have ever predicted the sonic tsunami that was about to shake up the music scene.
Taking their name from a song written by frontman Zack de la Rocha (while with his previous group Inside Out), Rage Against The Machine produced a 12 song demo cassette. The tape was self-released and made available at shows for $5. The band's buzz quickly erupted like a molotov cocktail and with just a handful of live performances, Rage were being persued by several major record labels. Ultimately signing with Epic, the band's debut album, Rage Against The Machine, was released on November 3, 1992. On the strength of the lead single, "Killing In The Name," the album hit #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and #45 on the Billboard 200 chart. "Killing In The Name" received heavy radio play with just 8 lines of repeated lyrics, including the explicit, "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me" repeated 16 times. In line with the aesthetic and social message of RATM, the song alludes to the idea that police brutality is closely associated with the deep-rooted racism in the United States. It's safe to say that none of the grunge bands of the time were singing songs like this.