Top 15 Afro-Punks



The pressure was on when drummer Darren Henley auditioned for the Dead Kennedys in 1981. First of all, DK had just released one of punk's seminal records, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. How could he top that? Second, he was a black dude. Even if he had the chops, he felt DK wouldn't want to been seen with a black guy behind the kick drum. After nailing his audition, the kid from St. Louis who had been living on the streets of San Francicso was ushered in the studio to record one of the most blistering punk EPs ever, In God We Trust, Inc. During the recording, Peligro—his DK nickname, which is Spanish for danger—didn't acquiesce to his new bandmates; he pushed them to new musical heights. On subsequent albums, such as DK's swan song, Bedtime for Democracy, D.H.'s drumming sped the group's tempo to punishing meters close to thrash metal. Despite his impeccable contributions to DK, Peligro suffered a great deal of racism from punk fans who had no idea the Kennedys had a black drummer because their album covers didn't feature pictures. In the face of great racism, D.H. helped pave the way for later black artists in punk. Since the DK's demise, D.H. has played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, started his own band called Peligro and won a Grammy for his cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." 


8. Death


Brothers David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney are punk rock's missing link, bridging the sonic gap between our three-chord forefathers of the late '60s and early '70s like the MC5 and the Stooges and their late-'70s punk progeny such as the Ramones and the Dead Boys. Legend has it that Clive Davis of Columbia Records paid for the group to record their debut, ...For the Whole World to See, in 1974; however, Davis refused to release it unless the group changed its name to something more marketable. With typical punk attitude, the group refused and its would-be seminal debut was never released until Drag City unearthed it 2009. Now Death, with its politically charged lyrics, punishing power chords and pregnant pauses, can take its rightful place in the hallowed halls of punk history. 


7. Fishbone


Few artists have been able to couple the animated funk fun of artists like George Clinton and Sly Stone with the strident intensity of punk in an even-handed way. Either they come off as too soft or too serious—Fishbone, however, was just right. Formed in Los Angeles in 1979, the band's brand of genre-jumping social commentary heavily influenced more commercially successful groups like Sublime and No Doubt. Fishbone's landmark '91album The Reality of My Surroundings set the bar for eclectic alternative rock and spawned the Spike Lee--directed music video of "Sunless Saturday." The 'Bone is still active today and is reportedly wrapping up a new album. Until their first release since 2007's Still Stuck in Your Throat drops, you can satisfy your craving for Fishbone with their 2010 biographical documentary, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone