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Bad Brains Biography

Home > Music > B > Bad Brains > Biography

Birth Place: Washington, D.C., USA
Years Active: 1977-1984, 1986-1995, 1997-present
Genres: Punk Rock, Reggae

Bad Brains is a hardcore punk band formed in Washington, D.C., in 1977. They are widely regarded as among the pioneers of hardcore punk, though the band's members 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. Bad Brains members 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.

Mind Power became obsessed with punk rock and changed their name to Bad Brains based on the Ramones’ song “Bad Brain.” Despite their burgeoning punk sound, the early Bad Brains after seeing Bob Marley in concert also delved deep into reggae music and the Rastafari movement. Sid McCray became their first singer but left in the early days of the group's hardcore punk era, and guitarist H.R. became the band's new singer.

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. 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 that would in subsequent years be emulated by many popular bands. H.R. provided the vocals for "Sacred Love" over the phone from the Lorton Reformatory while doing a bid for a cannabis charge.

Despite the success of “I Against I,” H.R. quit the band again, taking his brother Earl Hudson with him after spending most of 1987 touring. 1988 dates for the “I Against I” tour were performed 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 Singleton's recorded lyrics and vocals.

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 and sessions, he and his younger brother, drummer Earl Hudson, also wanted to devote the band strictly to reggae, while guitarist Dr. Know and bassist Darryl Jenifer were increasingly interested in heavy rock.

H.R. experienced financial problems after an unsuccessful European tour with the group Human Rights and Bad Brains touring replacement singer Taj Singleton did not fit well with the band so H.R. and Earl both returned for the “Quickness” tour. 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 after, Bad Brains broke up yet again.

In 1990, Bad Brains backed longtime friend, fan, and protégé Henry Rollins on a cover version of The MC5's “Kick Out the Jams.” The recording appeared 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 1992, 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. The Rise tour began in 1993 with Mackie Jayson on drums and finished in 1994 with drummer Chuck Treece.

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 1998-1999, the original lineup toured under the name Soul Brains. A live album, “A Bad Brains Reunion Live from Maritime Hall,” was released in 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.”

In late 2006, H.R. reunited with Bad Brains for two dates at CBGB. In early 2007, Bad Brains released “Build a Nation” which was produced by Beastie Boys member Adam “MCA” Yauch. In March 2011, it was reported that Bad Brains had begun work on new material for their follow-up to “Build a Nation.” In April 2012, H.R. revealed the album would be called “Let's Have Fun.” However, the title was changed to “Into the Future” and the album was released in 2012.