Bad Brains

Bad Brains
Bad Brains

Bad Brains performing in Baltimore in 2007
Background information
Also known as Soul Brains
Origin Washington, D.C., USA
Genres Hardcore punk,[1] reggae,[1] heavy metal
Years active 1977–1984
Labels ROIR, Caroline, SST, Epic/SME, Maverick/Warner Bros, Megaforce
Associated acts Faith No More, Black Flag, Beastie Boys, Mos Def (Black Jack Johnson)
Dr. Know
Darryl Jenifer
Earl Hudson
Past members
Sid McCray
Israel Joseph I
Mackie Jayson
Chuck Mosley

Bad Brains is an American hardcore punk band formed in Washington, D.C., in 1977. They are widely regarded as among the pioneers of hardcore punk,[1][2][3] though the band's members objected to this term to describe their music.[4] They are also an adept reggae band, while later recordings featured elements of other genres like funk, heavy metal, hip-hop and soul. Bad Brains are followers of the Rastafari movement.

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 that of other hardcore punk bands, also adapting non-punk style guitar riffs and solos into their songs.

Bad Brains have released 8 studio albums (one of which is entirely composed of instrumental versions of their past material). The band broke up and reformed several times over the years, sometimes with different singers or drummers. The band's classic and current lineup is singer H.R. (Human Rights), guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer, and drummer Earl Hudson, H.R.'s younger brother.



From fusion to hardcore (1977–1985)

Bad Brains at 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C., 1983

The band was first founded as a jazz-fusion ensemble called Mind Power (1975), with singer Sid McCray, in the mold of bands such as Chick Corea's Return to Forever and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. In 1977, McCray introduced the rest of the band, who were already interested in bands such as Black Sabbath, to punk rock, including the Dickies, the Dead Boys, and the Sex Pistols. Mind Power became obsessed with punk rock and changed their name to "Bad Brains", after the Ramones song "Bad Brain" but with the word "bad" in the sense of "powerful". Despite their burgeoning punk sound, the early Bad Brains also delved deep into reggae music.[5] McCray left in the early days of the group's hardcore-punk era, and guitarist H.R. became the band's singer.[6]

The band developed an early reputation in Washington D.C., due in part to the relative novelty of an entirely African-American band playing punk rock, but also due to their high-energy performances and undeniable talent.[5]

In 1979, Bad Brains found themselves the subject of an unofficial ban among many Washington D.C. area clubs and performance venues (later addressed in their song, "Banned in D.C."). The band subsequently relocated to New York City.[5]

Their self-titled debut album was released on Neil Cooper's ROIR Records on "cassette only" in January 1982, followed in 1983 by Rock for Light, produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars.

First return (1986–1989)

In 1986, Bad Brains reunited and SST Records released I Against I. H.R. provided the vocals for "Sacred Love" over the phone from the Lorton Reformatory while doing a bid for a cannabis charge. Also critically praised was H.R.'s performance: "he digs deep into his bag of voices and pulls them all out, one by one: the frightening nasal falsetto that was his signature in the band's hardcore days, an almost bel canto baritone, and a declamatory speed-rap chatter that spews lyrics with the mechanical precision of a machine gun".[7] 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, Bad Brains broke up again after spending most of 1987 touring. The band returned in 1988 and signed with Caroline Records, who released their fourth album Quickness in the following year.

Second hiatus and changing singers (1990–1993)

Bad Brains were plagued by internal tensions nearly from their beginning. Aside from the problems with H.R., who sometimes refused to perform at scheduled concerts, he and his younger brother, drummer Earl Hudson, also wanted to devote the band strictly to reggae, while Dr. Know and Darryl Jenifer were increasingly interested in heavy metal music. H.R. was replaced by Taj Singleton for the Quickness tour.

H.R. experienced financial problems after an unsuccessful European tour with the group Human Rights, while touring replacement singer Taj Singleton did not fit well with Bad Brains. H.R. and Earl both returned to the band. After the Quickness tour, H.R. and Earl left once again and H.R. was replaced by former Faith No More vocalist Chuck Mosley. Soon afterwards, Bad Brains broke up yet again.

In 1990, Bad Brains backed longtime friend, fan, and protege Henry Rollins on a cover version of The MC5's "Kick out the Jams". The recording appears on the soundtrack to the film Pump Up the Volume.

As bands influenced by Bad Brains (such as Living Colour and Fishbone) enjoyed commercial success, Dr. Know was approached by Epic Records in 1993, offering the band a major-label record deal. The former Cro-Mags drummer Mackie Jayson (who had played as a session musician on Quickness), and vocalist Israel Joseph I joined at this time. Rise was released in 1993.

Reunion with the original lineup and name change (1994–2004)

With the original band back together for the first time in five years, Bad Brains signed to the Maverick Records label for the 1995 release God of Love.

Two years later, the band worked together to remaster some early studio recordings which were then released as the EP The Omega Sessions by Victory Records. In 1999, the original lineup toured under the name Soul Brains.[5] A live album, A Bad Brains Reunion Live from Maritime Hall was released in 2000.

Soul Brains was the name used by the original Bad Brains from 1999 to 2001.

H.R. appeared on the track "Without Jah, Nothin' ", on P.O.D.'s Satellite (2001). In 2002, Bad Brains released I & I Survived. In 2004, Lil' Jon, recruited Dr. Know, Jenifer and Earl Hudson to back him on a version of his song "Real Nigga Roll Call," which interpolated the music of "Re-Ignition." The recording appeared on the limited-edition release of Lil' Jon's album Crunk Juice. The accompanying DVD featured footage of the session.

H.R. performed his song "Who's Got the Herb?" with the band 311 on June 22, 2004, in Long Beach, California.

Build a Nation and recent activities (2005–present)

In 2005, Darryl Jenifer told Billboard that the band was in the studio recording their first proper studio album in ten years, to be released later in the year. Beastie Boy Adam Yauch also gave interviews indicating that he was producing the sessions, for which basic tracks featuring the original lineup had been recorded.

In late 2005, it was announced that Bad Brains would headline a two-date show at CBGB's, which was scheduled for February, 2006. In 2006, H.R. & Dubb Agents headlined a series of Global Rock Showcase dates across the United States. Dates include Little Steven Van Zandt's "Save CBGB Rally" concert in Washington Square Park, New York City. H.R. has a long time association with Global Rock Showcase organizers D.I.A. Records, and released an album through them titled Out Of Bounds.

On hiatus from Global Rock Showcases, in late 2006, H.R. reunited with Bad Brains for two dates at CBGB's. While H.R. & Dubb Agents geared up to tour Global Rock Showcases '07 dates, in early January 2007, Bad Brains had Build a Nation released on June 26, 2007. The album debuted at #100 on the Billboard 200. Scheduled between Global Rock Showcase dates, Bad Brains played five dates including Sasquatch Fest (June 2007). These were followed by concerts in California and a European tour in October 2007. Upon return to the U.S. the band took stage in Chicago for the Riotfest rock concert. The internet has also contributed to the band's resurgence, as it is now possible to view old and new concert footage via YouTube, or read archived interviews.

The video for the song "Give Thanks and Praises" can be seen online on the band's MySpace page as of August 2007. Director Shavo Odadjian makes an appearance at the end of the concert video with frontman H.R.

Before the release of the new album, Dr. Know stated he was eager for the band to record more albums. H.R. continued to tour solo with DIA Records Global Rock Showcase through the remainder of 2007, with his instrumental section Dub Agents. The title of bassist Darryl Jenifer's solo effort is Blackvova Universal Sound.

In January 2008, the band announced they are working on a box set of 7" vinyl records.

Bad Brains toured South America during April 2008 with former singer Israel Joseph I (who was in the Bad Brains from 1991–1994 and appeared on the album Rise), temporarily filling in for H.R. The band performed at the Smoke Out festival in San Bernardino, California on October 24, 2009.[8]

Two documentaries of the band are currently in production as well as a film documentary focusing on H.R.[9]

Bad Brains were planning a three-date tour of Australia in June 2010, but were forced to cancel due to health reasons.[10]

As of March 2011, according to, Bad Brains have begun work on new material for their next album, which is due for release later this year.[11]


Current members

  • H.R. — lead vocals (1978–1984, 1986–1990, 1994–1995, 1997–present), guitar (1977–1978)
  • Dr. Know — guitar (1977–1984, 1986–1995, 1997–present)
  • Darryl Jenifer — bass (1977–1984, 1986–1995, 1997–present)
  • Earl Hudson — drums, percussion (1977–1984, 1986–1991, 1994–1995, 1997–present)

Former members

  • Sid McCray — lead vocals (1977–1978)
  • Chuck Mosley — lead vocals (1990–1991)
  • Israel Joseph I — lead vocals (1991–1994, 2008)
  • Mackie Jayson — drums, percussion (1991–1994)


Role Year
1977–1979 1979–1984 1986–1990 1990–1991 1991–1994 1994–1995 1997–present
Vocals Sid McCray H.R. Chuck Mosley Israel Joseph I H.R.
Guitar Dr. Know
Bass Darryl Jenifer
Drums Earl Hudson Mackie Jayson Earl Hudson
  • Note: Bad Brains were inactive during the period 1984–1986, and 1995–1997.


For a more comprehensive list, see Bad Brains discography.


  1. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Biography of Bad Brains". Allmusic. Retrieved 29 December 2008. 
  2. ^ Washington Dcs 5 | Washington D.C. Metblogs[dead link]
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ see the documentary film Punk Attitude.
  5. ^ a b c d Moskowitz, David V. (2006). Caribbean Popular Music. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 18–19. ISBN 0-313-33158-8. 
  6. ^ Dance of days: two decades of punk ... – Google Books
  7. ^
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^ "New Bad Brains documentary: Where were you?". Music Blog (The Guardian). 6 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ BLABBERMOUTH.NET – BAD BRAINS Begins Work On New Album – Mar. 9, 2011

External links

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