Bad Brains are an American hardcore punk band formed in Washington, DC in 1977. They are widely regarded as among the pioneers of hardcore punk, though the band’s members have objected to this term to describe their music. They are also an adept reggae band, while later recordings featured elements of other genres like funk, heavy metal, hip-hop, and soul.
Originally formed as a jazz fusion ensemble under the name Mind Power, Bad Brains developed a very fast and intense punk rock sound which came to be labeled “hardcore”, and was often played faster and more emphatically than the music of many of their peers. The unique factor of the band’s music was the fact that they played more complex rhythms than other hardcore punk bands, also adapting non-punk style guitar riffs and solos into their songs.
Bad Brains have released nine studio albums. The band broke up and reformed several times over the years, sometimes with different singers or drummers. Since 1998, the lineup of singer H.R., guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer, and drummer Earl Hudson has reunited.
In 1986, Bad Brains signed with SST Records and released I Against I, which, in addition to their hardcore punk and reggae sounds, introduced a heavy metal/funk hybrid sound. H.R. provided the vocals for “Sacred Love” over the phone from the Lorton Reformatory while doing a bid for a cannabis charge. The title track’s video was shown on MTV’s then-new 120 Minutes program, for which the band appeared in promotional footage. Despite the success of I Against I, H.R. quit the band again, taking his brother Earl with him after spending most of 1987 touring. 1988 dates for the I Against I tour were done with Taj Singleton on vocals and Mackie Jayson on drums. In 1988 the Bad Brains signed with Caroline Records, who released their fourth album Quickness the following year. Since vocalist H.R. and his brother, drummer Earl Hudson were unavailable for the recording sessions, Quickness was originally recorded with Taj Singleton on vocals and Mackie Jayson on drums but before Quickness was ready for mastering, H.R. returned, rewrote the lyrics and overdubbed the vocals for Quickness replacing Taj Singleton’s recorded lyrics and vocals.
On May 30, 2015, Bad Brains (minus H.R.) recorded a new EP in a studio in Woodstock, New York in front of approximately 70 people. The EP is part of a series aptly titled, The Woodstock Sessions, and for unknown reasons, H.R. did not participate in the sessions; Jamaican singer Jesse Royal filled in for him. At first it was unclear if H.R. was no longer a member of Bad Brains, but when asked if he would work with him again, guitarist Dr. Know replied, “Only Jah know.”