In the late '70s, when the rest of the nation was turning its nose up at the first whiff of the heavily perfumed Sex Pistols, Bad Brains was already engaged in a long-running dialogue with challenging forms of music that had led the band past the hypertechnical stylings of jazz-fusion and into accidentally inventing hardcore.
The genre would quickly be boiled down to a rote explication of itself, evident in tropes like gang vocals and song structures built around different kinds of moshing. But Bad Brains' interpretation of punk was looser, freer, and ultimately more dynamic than anything that would come out of the nearby D.C. suburbs via the Dischord Records label, the faraway L.A. burbs conquered by Black Flag and its thuggish Huntington Beach ilk, and the hypercodified stomp of New York City hardcore.
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And as though an all-black, former jazz-rock band pushing punk to its very limit was not enough, Bad Brains enhanced its novelty tenfold by pairing reggae sounds with hardcore. While British acts such as the Clash and Joy Division took a page from dub, Bad Brains bought the whole book. So the thrashing histrionics of tracks like "Attitude" and "Pay to Cum" from the band's self-titled debut ended up alongside island-riddim-soaked jams like "Leaving Babylon" and "I Love I Jah."
Briefly explaining the overlap of reggae and hardcore, guitarist Dr. Know simply says, "What they have in common is revolution. Stand up and fight for your rights."