The rap-rock and rap-metal hybrid Rage Against the Machine helped define in the '90s was around before the Los Angeles quartet released its debut album in 1992.

But no other band made more of its time, and the short-lived creative spark of the tiresome genre, than Rage Against the Machine, who were fronted by a black guitarist and a singer with Mexican heritage. It's not too surprising with these two elements in place that the band would become one of the most revolutionary-minded of the era.

During their brief period together -- four albums in nine years, one of them a throwaway covers LP -- they managed to make alt-rock more exciting just as Nirvana and Pearl Jam copycats were infiltrating playlists with smoothed-over grunge riffs.

Rage Against the Machine had riffs too -- some borrowed from Jimi Hendrix, some from Led Zeppelin -- but they also had a truly inventive guitarist in Tom Morello, who could make his instrument sound like a scratching turntable.

That gave Rage an edge over their contemporaries. Singer Zack de la Rocha helped too. Few rappers, or singers for that matter, were as impassioned. On the band's best -- and, in most cases, politically explosive -- songs, he ticked away like a time bomb that was just seconds away from detonating.

With all of these combustible pieces in place, it's no wonder they didn't make it out of the '90s intact. But for a short while, the band was one of the most exciting on the planet, as you'll see in our list of Rage Against the Machine Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness.

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