Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock are the current magnates of the rap/ metal industry, but compared to the politically charged and intense Downset, they're little more than mail-room clerks.

Instead of stone-stupid lyrics and predictable tunes, Los Angeles-based Downset incorporates the features found in hard-core punk, reggae, metal and hip-hop. This kicking, eclectic formula has led to notable acclaim from critics who have grown tired of the rap-rock bandwagon.

The group separates itself from the pack with its aggressive approach to a variety of topics, such as government conspiracy theories and social injustices. Tracks like "Together" and "Coming Back" not only serve as anthems of angst but also rally for radical change.

Vocalist Rey Oropeza draws from his experiences growing up in South Central L.A. A former gang member, Oropeza is aware of the many social ills that plague the country. Calling himself "The Messenger," he is able to express his prime-directive poetry without compromising the band's raw grooves. Downset has kept its message alive, amid all the rap-rock gangstas out there, by aligning itself with the veterans of the business. With stints on 1997's Ozzfest and last year's Tattoo the Earth tour, as well as a slot on metal giant Soulfly's tour, Downset has been able to expand its fan base while maintaining its loyal following.

But don't misunderstand: The band is not interested in being the next hit factory but rather being a force of change. "The rap-metal thing is so huge now. It's important that Downset gets out there, and I hope a lot of kids get what I'm trying to say," Oropeza has said. "These songs, these messages, people are going to remember them." He's not exaggerating.

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Danny Perez