Using his razor sharp satire against the American way of life, Biafra modeled his punk rock after the classic British style. D.K. became public enemy #1 rather quickly and record companies steered clear of them but they were determined to have their work published so Biafra & company opened up their own 'Alternative Tentacles Records' to release their 45 RPM debut as California Uber Alles (1979). The record featured Biafra's hysterical vocals squealing about the then California governor Jerry Brown back dropped by a hardcore punk rock soundtrack. With a reprint license in the UK it, and the follow-up 45 RPM single Holiday In Cambodia, was heard in the UK. The UK market would prove to be an important one for D.K. when their debut album Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegitables made an unexpected 33 on the charts. The Let's Lynch The Landlord, Drug Me and Kill The Poor singles that followed supported the album; Kill The Poor getting 49 on its own. Viva Las Vegas (formerly an Elivs hit) and Stealing People's Mail showed Biafra's twisted sense of humor.
Too Drunk To Fuck (1981) became the only single to that point, from any artist, to chart in the top 40 using the "F" word in its title. The platter got 36 actually, and also featured the arrival of D. (Darren) H. Delgado on drums to replace Ted.
A deadpan version of Rawhide, as well as the American hit single Nazi Punks Fuck Off were the tracks of choice on the 10" mini set In God We Trust Inc. (1981). The band then took some time off to concentrate on their business ventures releasing a compilation featuring up-and-coming American indie bands titled Let Them Eat Jellybeans before returning to the studio with Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982), featuring the classic tracks Bleed For Me and Halloween.
After several years on the road touring they returned in 1985 with Frankenchrist, an album distributed with the "Penis Landscape" free poster by H.R. Giger, included. The album's charms were passed over in the news in favor of the activities of its enemies, specifically the PMRC and US government, who managed to get Biafra and several of his label big wigs into court on obscenity laws, accusing them of distributing "harmful material" to minors. The case was thrown out of court when the jury couldn't decide. Although they were victorious in the battle, the band had suffered a fatal blow due to the high cost of their defense, which effectively bankrupted the act after their swansong, Bedtime For Demcoracy (1986), was released.
Although Dead Kennedys as the world knew them were not around anymore, the members continued with their punk rock activities separately. Biafra continued with his 'Alternative Tentacles' business endeavors by publishing and distributing hardcore and punk rock well into the future, including such acts as Tribe-8 (in the 1990s), etc. In the mean time he entertained himself with both solo and shared efforts including his own solo spoken word attempts as No More Cocoons (1987), High Priest Of Harmful Matter (1989), I Blow Minds For A Living (1991; musical attempt), Beyond The Valley Of The Gift (1994) and If Evolution Is Outlwed Only Outlwas Will Evolve (1998). He also had work in cooperation with other's including Mojo Nixon and the Prarie Home Invasion (1994), under the name Tumor Circus with Darren Mor-X, Dale Flat-Um and Mike Mdraskoid (Steel Pole Bath Tub) for Tumor Circus (1991), with No Means No and Tipper Gore Bob Wright (guitar), John Wright (drums), John Card (percussion) to release The Sky Is Falling And I Want My Mommy (1991) and last, but not least his efforts with Lard to release The Last Temptation Of Lard (1990), a surprising hit in the UK at 69 featuring Al Jorgensen & Paul Barker of Ministry and Jeff Ward (drums), along with Pure Chewing Satisfaction (1997) with Paul Rieflin on drums. He also had a stint with D.O.A. titled Jello Biafra and D.O.A. for the release of The Last Scream Of The Missing Neighbors (1991).
In 2001, Ray, Peligro, and Flouride reformed the Dead Kennedys, with ex-Dr. Know singer Brandon Cruz replacing Biafra on vocals. The band played under the name DK Kennedys for a few concerts, but later reverted back to Dead Kennedys. Two live albums in the form of archival performances in the form of Mutiny on the Bay, compiled from various live shows including a recording from their last show with Biafra in 1986, as well as Live at the Deaf Club, a recording of a 1979 performance at the Deaf Club in San Francisco.
2007 would see a "best of..." album titled Milking the Sacred Cow released.
Jeff Penalty left the band in March 2008 in a "not amicable split", and was replaced by ex-Wynona Riders singer Ron "Skip" Greer. D.H. also left the band to "take some personal time off" to be replaced for a tour by Translator drummer Dave Scheff.
DK40 (2019), a live compilation album celebrating 40 years since the band formed, would be released. Dreadlocks of the Suburbs, another live effort, followed in 2020.