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Cats with a Knack

D.C.'s Bad Brains may not have invented hardcore punk, but they sure perfected it.

"Our record Build a Nation is just the next building on it. It's a little more focused, for my liking," he adds. "I like our music when it has a little wild-abandon feel to it. Bad Brains just has a life of its own, and it just cruises along. I'm just a member of it. There's no explanation for four black dudes from D.C. doing this shit."

It would be disingenuous to write about Bad Brains without recognizing that part of the band's legacy is that these "four black dudes from D.C." captured the spirit of a very white music. Jenifer struggles a bit with this one, recognizing that this dichotomy is an inherent part of the band, but not wanting to dwell on it.

" When Bad Brains started to roll off, it was a youth movement, not a black and white sort of thing. I spent a lot of time in Bad Brains not even recognizing being black," he says. "If I turned around in 1982 and knew I was black, I'd be fuckin' bugging. I always felt like Darryl Jenifer from the Bad Brains. I never felt like Black Darryl Jenifer from the Bad Brains. Pigment movement is all played out.

Bad Brains "has a little ass in their punk rock," says Darryl Jenifer (second from right).
Bad Brains "has a little ass in their punk rock," says Darryl Jenifer (second from right).

"This is a hard question, but what I'm trying to say is that Bad Brains is the way black people do punk rock," adds Jenifer. "We can't get around the fact that we're black. When we decided we're gonna do punk, we can't help but to bring that. That's what's gonna make us a little bit different. I don't want to get it misconstrued on some racial shit.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that Bad Brains has a little ass in their punk rock. That's our natural fact."

The band's other natural fact is that when it's on, it's on. Few bands can capture the kind of raw energy of which Bad Brains is capable. Thirty years ago, 30 minutes from now, it doesn't matter.

Bad Brains is Bad Brains, and that's a wonderful thing.

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