I gradually became a fan a Rage fan and an activist through a series of isolated events.
I first heard Rage on the soundtrack from the movie The Crow. My cousin, who I looked up to then, played the album to me. I remember thinking "wow, this is 'rap' music that I actually like." I was 13. My cousiin got the first album but I never really heard it. Being without a lot of money I didn't pick up either record myself.
When I was a freshman in highschool BOP and Rage were all the rage and so were Rage tshirts. I still liked rage (what little I had heard, but I was too much of an "individual" to listen to a popular band, no matter if I liked them or not. I also learned that Zack was Xicano and not Black as I had thought. That was also the year of the "race riot" at my high school. (It started off racially and ended racially, but it wasn't a riot until the police showed up.) The riot incident probably can be marked as the beginning of my "awakening." It changed my attitude toward police greatly and I became aware of a lot of things I really hadn't noticed before about; I became aware of how racially divided our highschool really was.
I next heard Rage while waiting in line to buy tickets for the Smashing Pumpkins (my musical tastes have changed a lot sine then). Some dude had the first album CRANKED on his car stereo and the whole line was subjected to "Bombtrack" and "Killing in the Name." Having not heard the first album I asked my friend who that was. He said it was Rage and I was very surprised. Think of the difference between "Darkness of Greed" and "Killing in the Name". I had thought they were a rap group. I was 15.
That summer my family moved to a small town and I became very depressed. It's full of ignorant rich white republican kids. I flirted with the whole teenage morbidity shit, I wrote stories about holding their classes hostage, felt sorry for myself way too much, I almost bought a Marilyn Manson record. I was 16. I also began to play guitar heavily. Playing guitar led me to Tom Morello, which led to me actually buying a RATM record.
I worked pretty hard at tabbing out some of their songs and listened to the first record constantly. One day while lying on bed feeling sorry and angry and listening to Rage I actually opened up the book and read the lyrics. I read the lyrics as each song played. I remember being confused by many of the references in the lyrics ("What the fuck is is he talking about, the 'Weathermen'?") but what stuck out to me most was the reference to X in "Wake Up". I knew very little about X, but had always thought of him as a "bad guy" but Zack was comparing him to MLK, who I knew was a good guy.
The phrase stuck in my head: "The murdered X and tried to blame it on Islam."
Then the end of the song came around, and I swear to god at that moment it felt like Zack was speaking directly to me. "WAAAAAAAKE UPP! WAAAAAKE UPP!" And I did. I was 17.
After that I researched damn near every single reference in Rage's lyrics (I still have to read "The Wretched of the Earth",). Chomsky, Zinn, Che, los Zapatistas, Mumia, and of course, the autobio of X. I became too into it, swallowing any and all propaganda without question. I was a leftie, but I still had a bullet in my head.
In my opinion the way radical left is just as bad as the patriotic religious right. Politics does not move along a flat plain, both wings bend and form a full circle: at fascism.
Since then I have mellowed out some. My politics are more moderate, but I'm still FAR left of the current "mainstream."
I'm 19 now, at college. My political activity is split into two parts: petty anarchy (shoplifting from corporate megastores, political grafitti) and actual activism (mumia protests, starting an ARA type group at school).
Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if Rage didn't exist. I suspect I'd have found politics sooner or later, but without bands like Public Enemy, Atari Teenage Riot, and Rage and the incredible networks of fans and information, it would have been a LOT harder.