During the later 70s, punk music began creeping up from the underbelly of the Bowery in New York City with the help of a Queens’ based band called The Ramones. The Clash and Sex Pistols bashed the establishment in England with their brand of rebel music. And shortly after, a band called Bad Brains were forming in Washington, D.C. However, unlike the earlier forefathers of the genre, the Bad Brains have continued to make records and perform for three decades. Having never experienced a radio hit or a platinum album, they are by no means a household name. Regardless, they are something that many bands who have garnered hits could never be- iconic. If you happen to be a fan of hard underground rock, then Bad Brains are your favorite band’s favorite band. In fact, they may be your favorite Hip Hop icon’s favorite band too. The Beastie Boys apparently decided to name themselves with “B” and “B” in their name to pay homage to Bad Brains.
Leading the band is H.R., one of the most dynamic and unpredictable front men in the genre. However, it’s the whole Bad Brain’s package that has made the iconic rock figures forever rediscoverable by lovers of rebellious music. The Rasta quartet is infamous for their high voltage hybrid of punk-hardcore-metal-reggae-spiritual music. Their tracks run the gamut in regards to diversified sounds. Within one song they can bounce from genre to genre in a seamless fashion, remaining cohesive and sonically appropriate. Bad Brains can teach artists of any genre something about longevity, creativity and embracing uniqueness. This is because their music incorporates so many different genres, in many ways, similar to early Hip Hop. Those initial artists in Hip Hop delivered a sound that couldn’t not be pigeon-holed to one style. In that way, although some characterize Bad Brains a hardcore band, the reality is that they can jam Dance Hall grooves as well as any seasoned Reggae group. Like early Hip Hop, Bad Brains are the original practitioners of what we now call mash-up music.
Here I speak with legendary members of Bad Brains, Darryl Jennifer and HR, and discuss the band’s history with manager and music industry veteran Anthony Countey. -Israel Vasquetelle