H.R. and his bandmates became Rastafari around 1979. This spiritual direction influenced the music of Bad Brains via his vocals, and inspired the creation of his reggae band, Human Rights (or H.R.).
Although reggae is the main focus on his solo material, he explores rock and other musical genres. He has had numerous albums released on SST Records. A Village Voice review of a Bad Brains concert described H.R. on stage "like James Brown gone berserk, with a hyperkinetic repertoire of spins, dives, back-flips, splits, and skanks.", although in recent years his stage presence has become more subdued, primarily due to his spiritual development from the O.G. Punk/Rasta to more of a Rasta Elder (at least on stage), as well as his occasional playing of rhythm guitar.
Interviews with H.R. feature prominently in the 2006 documentary American Hardcore, in which he discusses the early days of hardcore in New York City and Washington D.C., and his association with fellow travelers like Minor Threat and the Cro-Mags. In particular, he recalls encouraging Ian MacKaye to fully articulate Minor Threat's emerging straight edge philosophy, to give young people a positive direction. As depicted in the 2012 documentary Bad Brains: A Band in D.C., H.R.'s bizarre behavior, such as wearing a motorcycle helmet during a performance and refusing to sing, causes friction with other members of the band.
In late 2016, the film Finding Joseph I: The HR From Bad Brains Documentary premiered in Europe and the United States. This film features interviews with HR, as well as other musicians, peers, and family members; it chronicles his life, struggles, and philosophies. The film's companion book was released by Lesser Gods in January 2017.