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We Need Sublime Now More Than Ever

'90s hit makers return following tragedy, reminding us what's missing in music

Sublime emerged from Long Beach, Calif. in the early ’90s to redefine the music landscape.

The band’s fusion of reggae, punk rock, ska and hip-hop quickly garnered a devoted following, and their influence soon spread far and wide.

Bands like No Doubt and 311 exploded in the wake of Sublime’s success, incorporating similar elements into their music and achieving widespread acclaim.

Led by the charismatic Bradley Nowell, Sublime’s music was a raw, unfiltered reflection of their environment and experiences, blending laid-back California vibes with hard-hitting social commentary.

Sublime - What I Got (Official Music Video)

Formed by Nowell, bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh, the band’s debut album, “40oz. to Freedom” (1992), was a groundbreaking release that captured their innovative style. Tracks like “Date Rape” and “Badfish” showcased its ability to blend genres seamlessly, creating its signature sound.

One of the key elements that made Sublime’s music so revolutionary was the group’s ability to seamlessly blend genres into a cohesive, catchy sound. By combining punk rock’s raw energy, reggae’s laid-back rhythms, ska’s upbeat tempo and hip-hop’s electric lyricism, Sublime created a sound entirely its own.

What set the band apart was not just their genre-blending style but also their bold approach to songwriting. Bradly Nowell’s lyrics were deeply personal and often tackled social issues such as addiction, poverty and racism.

Songs like “Wrong Way” and “April 29, 1992 (Miami)” addressed these touchy topics head-on, providing a voice for the genuinely marginalized and shedding light on the harsh realities of life in America.

Tragically, Sublime’s rise was cut short by the death of Bradley in 1996. Just two months before the release of their self-titled third album, the vocalist succumbed to a heroin overdose at the age of 28.

Jim Nowell Remembers Son Bradley Nowell of Sublime: OC Weekly

His death was a devastating blow to the band and their fans, marking the end of an era. Despite this, the self-titled album became their most successful release, featuring hits like “What I Got,” “Santeria,” and “Doin’ Time.”

Bradley’s passing left a void that was impossible to fill. His son, Jakob, was only 11 months old at the time. Growing up without his father, Jakob carried the weight of Dad’s legacy, a legacy that would later become part of his own life.

In the years following Bradley’s death, Sublime’s music continued to influence new generations of fans. In 2009, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh teamed up with Rome Ramirez to form Sublime with Rome, a new incarnation of the band.

(That incarnation ends later this year, with Ramirez parting amicably with the band to seek solo projects)

While the new lineup received mixed reactions from longtime fans, it allowed the music to live on and reach new audiences.

However, 2024 marked a milestone in Sublime’s epic journey. Following a scintillating performance at Coachella, the band made a historic comeback with their first original song in 28 years.

Sublime - Garden Grove - Live at Coachella 2024

The track, “Feel Like That,” a collaboration with reggae group Stick Figure, originated from a previously unreleased recording from the band’s 1996 sessions at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio in Austin. This song propelled Sublime back onto Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart, marking their first entry in more than 25 years.

What makes “Feel Like That” particularly special is the involvement of Jakob. Along with Jakob and Stick Figure frontman Scott Woodruff, the late, great Bradley contributes a freestyle.

The release of “Feel Like That” is much more than just a musical comeback; it is, in many ways, a family reunion, a celebration of Bradley Nowell’s legacy. The son’s participation in the track symbolizes the continuation of his father’s spirit and the timelessness of Sublime’s music.

Sublime’s reemergence comes at a time when the music industry often feels saturated with formulaic and uninspired content. The group’s return is a reminder of the power of originality and the importance of artistic authenticity.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. He covers psychology and social relations and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation. Follow him on Twitter @ghlionn.


  1. You know, I’m a grumpy mother$%^&er, but I <3 me some Sublime, particularly Doin Time & What i got, especially this time of year. Love that vid w the hologram Bradley in the Cowboy town setting. Hadn't heard about the new song, ty once again HIT!

  2. Nice write up. I learned something new.
    I didnt know he died. There were so many flash in the pans during the 90’s that got sandwiched in the Pearl Jam/Alanis/Matchbox20/ ETC ETC, …..So much to mine from the golden era of ALT. (And Im a bit a gen older – Van Halen , Billy Squire etc)

    Love the 90s to mid 2000’s

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