“I thought Eminem was chanting my name, but he was chanting for me to jump!” Why Rage Against The Machine protested against Limp Bizkit atop a 15-foot statue and started the most one-sided rivalry in nu metal history

Photos of Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit
(Image credit: Rage Against The Machine: Chris Carroll/Corbis via Getty Images | MTV VMAs: Dave Hogan/Getty Images | Fred Durst: SGranitz/WireImage)

Everybody wanted a piece of Fred Durst at the height of nu metal. The Limp Bizkit frontman got into a scrap with Slipknot after allegedly calling their fans “fat, ugly kids”, while also finding time to threaten a band via voicemail for turning down a record deal and take potshots at Creed. The red-capped loudmouth also got into another public spat that, surprisingly, was not his fault whatsoever, when he found himself in the crosshairs of one of his biggest idols, Rage Against The Machine.

The first shots that Rage fired against Limp Bizkit were heard at the MTV VMAs in 2000. That year, both bands had been nominated in the Best Rock Video category, with Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff – directed by Durst – up against Rage’s promo for Sleep Now In The Fire.

Tim Commerford on top of a statue at the MTV VMAs in 2000

Rage bassist Tim Commerford protests against Limp Bizkit winning a VMA by climbing a sculpture on stage (Image credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

The Rage clip seemed like a shoo-in for the award. It was directed by Michael Moore, a documentarian already renowned for making Roger & Me, who was two years away from releasing the Academy Award-winning Bowling For Columbine. The shoot also attracted nationwide attention by filming Rage as they played in front of the New York Stock Exchange, drawing hundreds of onlookers and forcing its doors to be closed. Meanwhile, Break Stuff featured Limp Bizkit simply messing about with celebrity pals like Snoop Dogg and Eminem. Rage couldn’t lose – until they did.

At the ceremony, Limp Bizkit were announced as winning the Best Rock Video prize – a victory which Rage bassist Tim Commerford instantly took exception to.

“Tim obviously was taking it pretty seriously,” drummer Brad Wilk told the Let There Be Talk podcast in 2018. “It seemed like, in Tim’s eyes, they were going to give us this award – in Tim’s head. […] I remember sitting next to Tim, and Tim sitting next to Michael [Moore] and he’s like, ‘I wanna fuckin’ go up there.’ He looks over to Michael and goes, ‘I wanna go up there.’ I think other people in the band were like, ‘No, don’t do anything.’ Michael Moore says, ‘Just go with it. Go with your heart.’”

So go with his heart Commerford did. As Limp Bizkit were walking towards the stage to claim their award, the bassist charged and climbed the enormous metal sculpture behind the podium. While up there, at least 15 feet off the ground, Tim swung wildly, instantly getting surrounded by security as Limp Bizkit looked on in confusion.

“And we got a madman,” Durst calmly commented into the live microphone, before handling the spectacle with a respectable display of class: “This guy’s rock ’n’ roll. He should be getting an award.”

“I wanted to bring the whole thing down, but they [the people below] didn’t move,” Commerford later told MTV. “In my mind, I visualised the whole structure on the ground. As they came back from commercial break, I wanted people to see destruction. I thought Eminem was chanting my name, but I was wrong: he was chanting for me to jump!”

Once security finally got Commerford down from the structure, he was arrested for disorderly conduct and spent the night in jail. Turns out, though, that he wasn’t just protesting an upset victory at an awards show: Rage never, ever liked Limp Bizkit by the sounds of it. Wilk stated in 2018, “To be honest, we weren’t fans of Limp Bizkit. The only thing we were fans of is that they were actually getting it together to write music and play, and do things.”

Meanwhile, guitarist Tom Morello has apparently had a distaste for nu metal ever since the events of Woodstock ’99, where both Rage and Limp Bizkit played. During the festival, there were fires and reports of multiple sexual assaults. Limp Bizkit’s set was particularly violent, involving property damage and people surfing the crowd on plywood boards.

“This music started with the idea of making powerful music that had a message and a solidarity between band and crowd,” Morello said (per The Pit). “And that show became a bunch of thugs assaulting women in the pit and burning the festival to the ground. I was just looking around thinking, ‘Man, what have we done?’”

On the other side of the fence, Limp Bizkit have never been anything less than reverent towards Rage. The band covered Killing In The Name in 2014, with Durst saying on stage, “When I first heard this song, that shit hit me right the fuck here,” while pointing to his heart. He added that hearing Rage frontman Zach De La Rocha scream “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” during the track “changed my life”.

Commerford’s response the following year was to issue a public apology for inspiring Limp Bizkit to begin with. “I do apologise for Limp Bizkit,” he told Rolling Stone. “I really do. I feel really bad that we inspired such bullshit.”

He added: “They’re gone, though. That’s the beautiful thing. There’s only one left, and that's Rage, and as far as I’m concerned, we’re the only one that matters.”

It’s a statement that’s aged poorly. In 2023, Limp Bizkit are actively touring to promote their 2021 album Still Sucks. Meanwhile, Rage Against The Machine returned from hiatus in 2022, only to cancel all touring for the following year due to an injury suffered by De La Rocha. Despite this reversal of fortunes, though, we’d be shocked to see Rage ever try to mend fences with Fred Durst's band.

Matt Mills

Louder’s resident Cult Of Luna obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.