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The skinhead subculture was originally associated with black music genres such as soul, ska, rocksteady and early reggae. The link between skinheads and Jamaican music led to the UK popularity of groups such as Desmond Dekker, Derrick Morgan, Laurel Aitken, Symarip and The Pioneers. In the early 1970s, some reggae songs began to feature themes of black nationalism, which many white skinheads could not relate to. This shift in reggae's lyrical themes created some tension between black and white skinheads, who otherwise got along fairly well. Around this time, some suedeheads (an offshoot of the skinhead subculture) started listening to British glam rock bands such as Sweet, Slade and Mott the Hoople.
The most popular music style for late-1970s skinheads was 2 Tone, a fusion of ska, rocksteady, reggae, pop and punk rock. The 2 Tone genre was named after 2 Tone Records, a Coventry record label that featured bands such as The Specials, Madness and The Selecter. Some late-1970s skinheads also liked certain punk rock bands, such as Sham 69 and Menace.
In the late 1970s, after the first wave of punk rock, many skinheads embraced Oi!, a working class punk subgenre. Musically, Oi! combines standard punk with elements of football chants, pub rock and British glam rock. The Oi! scene was partly a response to a sense that many participants in the early punk scene were, in the words of The Business guitarist Steve Kent, "trendy university people using long words, trying to be artistic ... and losing touch". The term Oi! as a musical genre is said to come from the band Cockney Rejects and journalist Garry Bushell, who championed the genre in Sounds magazine. Not exclusively a skinhead genre, many Oi! bands included skins, punks and people who fit into neither category (sometimes called herberts). Notable Oi! bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s include Angelic Upstarts, Blitz, the Business, Last Resort, The Burial, Combat 84 and the 4-Skins.
American Oi! began in the 1980s, with bands such as U.S. Chaos, The Press, Iron Cross, The Bruisers and Anti-Heros. American skinheads created a link between their subculture and hardcore punk music, with bands such as Warzone, Agnostic Front, and Cro-Mags. The Oi! style has also spread to other parts of the world, and remains popular with many skinheads. Many later Oi! bands have combined influences from early American hardcore and 1970s British streetpunk.
Among some skinheads, black metal is popular. Bands such as the Canadian act Blasphemy, whose guitarist is black, has been known to popularise and merchandise the phrase "black metal skinheads." As the group's vocalist recounts, "a lot of black metal skinheads from the other side of Canada" would join in on the British Columbian black metal underground. "I remember one guy... who had 'Black Metal Skins' tattooed on his forehead. We didn't hang out with white power skinheads, but there were some Oi skinheads who wanted to hang out with us." National Socialist black metal has an audience among white power skinheads. There was a record label called "Satanic Skinhead Propaganda" that was known to specialize in neo-Nazi black metal and death metal bands. Black metal pioneer and right-wing extremist Varg Vikernes was known to adopt a skinhead look and wear a belt with the SS insignia while serving time in prison for the arson of several stave churches and the murder of ystein Aarseth.
Although many white power skinheads listened to Oi! music, they developed a separate genre more in line with their politics: Rock Against Communism (RAC). The most notable RAC band was Skrewdriver, which started out as a non-political punk band but evolved into a neo-Nazi band after the first lineup broke up and a new lineup was formed. RAC started out musically similar to Oi! and punk, but has since adopted elements from other genres. White power music that draws inspiration from hardcore punk is sometimes called hatecore.