Bad Brains' self-titled debut depicts a lighting bolt striking the U.S. Capitol building, a not-so-far-off metaphor for the Washington D.C. band’s influence on punk and music as a whole. They helped introduce the first punk fusions incorporating reggae into their sound. Standout tracks include “Pay to Cum,” “I Luv Jah” and “Banned in D.C.”
While many bands of the late ‘70s were listening to The Ramones thinking, “I could play that,” the members of Bad Brains heard it and thought, “I can play that faster, louder and better.” Named after a Ramones song, Bad Brains did just that, ushering in the second wave of punk bands that would become known as hardcore. They’re credited with being the first hardcore band and one of the most influential punk bands of all time, influencing alternative music of shapes ranging from Nirvana to Red Hot Chilli Peppers to even The Weeknd. They helped popularize Rastafarian ideas in punk, like positive mental attitude (PMA), which inspired a unique branch of bands called positive hardcore. Beyond that, they also were master-class musicians who could fuse genres seemingly with little effort, pulling Reggae into their slower songs, funk into their dancier tracks and even jazz into their high-energy punk.