Missed Connections: How Yasiin Bey and Bad Brains Got Their Happily Ever After

Together at last! Yasiin Bey and Bad Brains will be on stage together in Portland on Friday as part of the Soul'd Out music festival. We found five missed connections that finally led to this happy ending.

By Cervante Pope April 16, 2015

In an apparently random turn of events that will no doubt prove a match made in heaven, hip-hopper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) will be joining forces on stage with hardcore reggae punks Bad Brains in Portland on Friday, April 17, as part of this year’s Soul’d Out music festival. (UPDATE: This show was cancelled on Friday, April 17, hours before the performance.)

The band’s usual lead singer, H.R., will sit this performance out—and in his stead Bey will be rocking the mic for Bad Brains during their set, (while also doing a solo set of his own).

So how did an activist rapper end up in a musical collaboration with a gang of hardcore punk Rastas? Believe it or not, this coming together on a Portland stage follows years of missed connections. We found five examples that would make for great rom-com fodder, especially given the happy ending at the Roseland Theater this week.

You Lent Me Your Guitarist... 

Dr. Know, Bad Brains’ guitarist, also played guitar for Yasiin Bey’s fairly unknown early naughts rock band side project, Black Jack Johnson. Some would describe this as, in fact, a connection, but without the whole Bad Brains ensemble, we figured it still counted.

WE shared A P.O.D. ...

In 2001,  San Diego’s Christian alternative rock band P.O.D. was hot on the scene and their most famous release, Satellite, featured Bad Brains’ H.R. on their track “Without Jah, Nothin’.” Two years later, Yasiin Bey shared the bill with P.O.D. at the Voodoo Fest in New Orleans.


Both Bad Brains and Yasiin Bey were on the line-up at New York’s 2010 Afropunk Festival, though they played on different days

We have a mutual friend... 

The late Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys produced Bad Brains’ 2007 album, Build a Nation. Bad Brains also dedicated their album Into the Future to Yauch after his death in 2012. Yasiin Bey is also a Yauch fan: During the Lyricist Lounge’s 20-year anniversary show, Bey and fellow rapper Black Thought busted out an impromptu MCA/Beastie Boys tribute, freestyling over the group’s beats.


Yasiin Bey held forth on Bad Brains vocalist H.R. in a documentary about the fiery frontman titled Finding Joseph I. A Kickstarter to fund the feature surfaced in 2013, raising over $40,000. There is still no projected release date, though the documentary is in its final post-production stages. 

Yasiin Bey and Bad Brains play the Roseland Theater on Friday, April 17

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