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Zack de la Rocha


Zack de la Rocha is born on January 12, 1970. He is from Long Beach, California. Best know as Mexican-American rapper, musician, poet, and activist, vocalist and lyricist of Rage Against the Machine band. His father, Roberto "Beto" de la Rocha, played an integral part in his son's cultural upbringing. Beto was a muralist and member of Los Four — the first Chicano art collective to be exhibited at a museum (LACMA, 1973). De la Rocha's grandfather was a Sinaloan revolutionary who fought in the Mexican Revolution and an agricultural labourer in the US. Later, de la Rocha would see the hardships his grandfather endured reflected in the struggles of the Zapatistas (also known as EZLN).

 When de la Rocha was a year old, his parents separated. He and his German-Irish mother, Olivia de la Rocha, moved from East Los Angeles to Irvine, California, where Olivia attended the University of California at Irvine and earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology. Zack described Irvine as "one of the most racist cities imaginable. If you were a Mexican in Irvine, you were there because you had a broom or a hammer in your hand." It was also at an Irvine grade school, where young Zack met his friend and future Rage Against the Machine bandmate, Tim Commerford. In 1981, Beto suffered a nervous breakdown, took his religious ideals to extremes, and destroyed his own artwork. When Zack would visit on weekends, Beto forced him to fast, sit in a room with the curtains closed and door locked and help destroy his father's paintings. Not long after, Olivia stopped the visits. As a teenager, de la Rocha became a vegetarian, saying in 1989: "I think vegetarianism is really great, and I stand really strongly behind it." When asked why, he explains: "Inside me, I think that an animal goes through a lot of pain in the whole cycle of death in the slaughterhouse, just living to be killed. That whole situation is really messed up for animals, growing up in those little cooped-up pens. I just don't think its worth eating that animal. I think animals should be free. There's so much other food out there that doesn't have to involve you in that cycle of pain and death."

While attending junior high school, de la Rocha became involved in the punk scene and played guitar for a band called Juvenile Expression with Tim Commerford. His interest in bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and Bad Religion turned into an appreciation for other bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and The Teen Idles. Soon after entering high school, Zack joined the straight edge band Hardstance. De la Rocha and Hardstance bassist Mark Hayworth eventually formed the hardcore band Inside Out, which gained a large national underground following. They released a single record, No Spiritual Surrender, on Revelation Records in 1990 before breaking up. In de la Rocha's words, Inside Out was "about completely detaching ourselves from society to see ourselves spirits, and not bowing down to a system that sees you as just another pebble on a beach. I channeled all my anger out through that band." After Inside Out broke up, he embraced hip hop and began freestyling at local clubs, where he met Tom Morello and Brad Wilk. Eventually, de la Rocha's Juvenile Expression bandmate Commerford joined them and Rage Against the Machine was formed. 

Rage Against the Machine was on the main stage at Lollapalooza in 1993 and was one of the most politically-charged bands ever to receive extensive airplay from radio and MTV. De la Rocha became one of the most visible champions of left-wing political causes around the world while advocating in favour of Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and supporting the Zapatista movement in Mexico. He spoke on the floor of the UN, testifying against the United States and its treatment of Abu-Jamal. Rage's second and third albums peaked at number one in the United States, but did not result in the political action de la Rocha had hoped for. He became increasingly restless and undertook collaborations with artists such as KRS-One, Chuck D, and Public Enemy.

After RATM's breakup, de la Rocha worked on a solo album he had been recording since before the band's dissolution, working with DJ Shadow, El-P, Muggs, Dan The Automator, Roni Size, DJ Premier, and The Roots' Questlove with production partner James Poyser. The album never saw fruition, and de la Rocha started a new collaboration with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, in which around 20 tracks were produced. Reznor thought the work was "excellent", but said the songs will likely never be released as de la Rocha was not "ready to make a record" at that time.

One Day as a Lion is a band consisting of Zack de la Rocha and former The Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore. They added Joey Karam of The Locust on keyboards for their live shows, which were performed in July 2010. Whether Karam will remain a member of the band is uncertain. The group combines rock drumming, electro keyboards, and hip-hop vocals. De la Rocha will be playing keyboards as well as providing vocals with Theodore on the drums for their self-titled EP. The band's name derives from an infamous black and white graffiti photograph taken by Chicano photographer George Rodriguez in 1970 with a caption reading: "It's better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb". They released their debut EP, One Day as a Lion, on July 22, 2008.

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