Know Your Enemy (Rage Against the Machine song)

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"Know Your Enemy"
Song by Rage Against the Machine featuring Maynard James Keenan
from the album Rage Against the Machine
Released November 3, 1992
Length 4:55
Label Epic
Composer(s) Tim Commerford, Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk
Lyricist(s) Zack de la Rocha
Producer(s) Garth 'GGGarth' Richardson, Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine track listing
"Bullet in the Head"
"Know Your Enemy"
"Wake Up"
Audio sample

"Know Your Enemy" is a song by the American rap metal band Rage Against the Machine. It features Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan on vocals during the bridge section.[1] The Allmusic describes the song as "immediately memorable" and "surprisingly straightforward",[2] while music critic Joel McIver cited it as "a standout track" of the album.[3]


The song is in common time. The song's intro, in a moderate tempo of 84 BPM, makes use of Tom Morello's toggle switch to switch between a pickup that is turned off, and one that is on, creating a tremolo effect. Morello's effect is to imitate 70's classic rock synthesizer sounds.[4] This is accompanied by Tim Commerford's slap bass, making this the only other track on the album to use the technique besides "Take the Power Back". After this, it starts up in a faster, punk-ish riff at a tempo of 114 which has been compared to Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein", providing yet another link to classic rock.[5] This then leads into the verse, another fast paced riff centered upon the bass. Both the main and secondary riffs were written by Timmy C on an acoustic bass. The song is in the key of F# minor. The chorus then returns to the original riff again, and then returns to the verse. Then, the song goes into a slower, 4/4 beat with palm muted guitar, background percussion by Stephen Perkins and the trance-like vocals of Maynard James Keenan performing his famous words ("I've got no patience now/so sick of complacence now/sick of you/time has come to pay", 34 words including repeated lines). It was planned that Perkins' Jane's Addiction bandmate Perry Farrell would be doing the section but was absent leading to Maynard as his replacement on short notice.[6] All is brought to an end by Tom Morello's guitar solo using the DigiTech Whammy pedal and toggle switch until the tempo slows down dramatically with a false ending. The guitar chord dissolves on a sludgy note resemblant of the intro to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man".[citation needed] It goes back to the verse riff with Zack speaking the line "All of which are American dreams" eight times, finishing well after the band stops playing.

Album vs demo[edit]

The album version is not the same as the demo version. The original is over 30 seconds shorter with no singing, uses distortion under the guitar solo without any 32nd notes or whammy pedal, and is notable for the misspelling of "defiance" as D-E-F-I-E-N-C-E. There is also an alternate drum breakdown and the "Compromise..Conformity.." section is not present. In its place is a rant that includes bonus profanity. The context is also made clearer regarding the line "As we move into '92" considering the song was first recorded a year earlier.

Political statements[edit]

The song is one of many off the album which contain anti-war and anti-authoritarian lyrics.[7][8][9] The song's main message is that the American government is contradictory when it touts itself as the land of the free yet is run by an elitist enterprise, and that you should question authority figures who determine what you are able to believe. That message is evident in lines such as, "What? The land of the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy!", "As we move into '92, still in a room without a view!" and "Yes I know my enemies! They're the teachers that taught me to fight me!" The song ends with the following lines:

The Elite
All of which are American dreams!


  1. ^ McIver, Joel (2009). Unleashed: The Story of Tool. London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 0857120409. 
  2. ^ Bogdanov, Vladimir (2001). Allmusic. San Francisco: Backbeat Books/All Media Guide. p. 326. ISBN 0-87930-627-0. 
  3. ^ Mciver, Joel (2002). Nu-Metal- the Next Generation of Rock & Punk. London: Omnibus Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-7119-9209-6. 
  4. ^ "RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FIGHTS THE POWER". Philadelphia Inquirer. December 8, 1999. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Rage: Do-it-yourself rock music". The Washington Times. November 25, 1993. 
  8. ^ Pareles, Jon (November 8, 1993). "Pop and Jazz in Review". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 
  9. ^ Blecha, Peter (2004). Taboo Tunes. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. p. 176. ISBN 0-87930-792-7. 
  10. ^ Stark, Jeff (September 24, 1997). "Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy". SF Weekly.