The Southern California punk/ska band formed as a trio in 1988 with singer/guitarist Brad Nowell, bassist Eric Wilson, and drummer Bud Gaugh, and played their first gig on July 4th of that year. The group gained popularity as they toured the SoCal scene in the late 1980s and early 90s, attracting surfers and skaters alike, but waited four years before recording their self-produced its debut album, 40 Oz. to Freedom, in 1992 and sold it at shows. The album began garnering attention, however, when Los Angeles radio station KROQ began playing the song "Date Rape" in 1994, just as the band released its second album, Robbin' the Hood, through MCA. "Date Rape" was eventually pulled from KROQ's rotation after the band smoked a joint during an on-air interview. This helped solidify the band's reputation as heavy partiers, with Nowell often arriving late (and heavily intoxicated) to gigs. Still, the band's popularity grew, and they the entered the studio again to record their eponymous third, and most successful, album, which came out in 1996. Before the album hit shelves, however, Nowell was found dead in his hotel room on May 25, 1996, after overdosing on heroin. Without Nowell, the band broke up and watched as the single "What I Got," propelled the album to reach five-times platinum status. After Nowell's death, Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson went on to form the Long Beach Dub Allstars, which broke up in 2002.
With their modern take on punk ska, adding in influences from hip hop and dance music, Sublime innovated the genre into a more sophisticated level of music. The band's musicianship is commendable, with Nowell's unique guitar riffs, melodic transitions and ferociously bold lyrics. While their sound generally featured a fun, upbeat dub quality, their lyrics often contrasted it, such as songs like "Date Rape" and "Wrong Way." It's been duly noted what a shame Nowell's death was just before their third release, as it definitely showed the band maturing in a direction that, clearly, catapulted it into a new stratosphere of popularity. With his talent for politically charged lyrics as well as the less serious "Caress Me Down" and "Santeria," questions arise how Nowell and company would have evolved since the new millennium. While it's sad that we'll never know, the band left behind some of the best music of its kind.