At their best, Bad Brains are a band capable of sending shivers down your spine. An all-black band, they broke out of the D.C. punk underground in the late 1970s, when the hardcore scene was predominantly white. Bad Brains evolved from a jazz fusion ensemble into a pioneer of hardcore punk—an extremely fast and intense style of punk rock. They are also adept at reggae, and some of their later recordings have elements of funk, heavy metal, hip-hop, and soul, among other styles.
Despite being hailed as one of the finest acts to emerge from hardcore, as four African American men who had adopted the Rastafarian faith, Bad Brains are unlike the bands they played alongside. In a time where angry screeds are the norm, Bad Brains offered a refreshing alternative with their upbeat tunes and emphasis on positivity and spirituality.
Their 1982 self-titled debut album was a bold statement of purpose. 1986's I Against I added hard rock touches to their sound, and 2007's Build a Nation is both a proof and a statement of how their message endured into the 21st century.
Bad Brains stood out from the pack by incorporating non-punk riffs and solos into their songs and playing more complex rhythms than typical hardcore punk bands. Their later albums featured more experimentation with different genres, but due to frequent lineup changes, the band never settled into a consistent style across their discography.
Bad Brains enjoyed widespread acclaim and served as an inspiration to many bands that would later find success in the hardcore genre. However, the group has been plagued by internal strife and creative differences. Some members wanted to move in a reggae direction, while others have expressed an interest in taking the band beyond punk and into heavy metal. Because of these divergent artistic visions, the band split up and got back together several times.
To date, Bad Brains has released nine studio albums. The "classic" lineup of H.R. (vocals), Dr. Know (guitar), Darryl Jenifer (bass), and Earl Hudson (drums) remained friends and have played together, albeit sporadically, since 1994.