Five Things We Learned About Gruesome Twosome Ho99o9 at SXSW
Don't try to label Ho99o9. The duo (pronounced "Horror") has been dubbed everything from experimental thrashcore rap to horrorcore hip-hop, but nomenclature doesn't do them justice. Originally from New Jersey, the genre-obliterating rappers theOGM (a/k/a Jean) and Yetti999 (a/k/a Eaddy) have garnered attention for their dark and subversive rhymes, touching on topics like drugs, sex, and (most-cited) necrophilia. They're freaks and proud of it. Following the underground success of the track "Bone Collector," Ho99o9 received nods from the Afropunk Festival and Last Call With Carson Daly. This year, they're slated to perform at the Warped Tour and are deep in the throes of their first SXSW. Before going onstage at The Main last night in Austin, Texas, the guys met us in a fittingly weird place: the back alley behind the venue (where we witnessed a domestic assault and the police showing up in the midst of this interview).
Here's what we learned about the ear-catching duo.
They can sum up their music in one five-letter word: FREAX. Their hair-raising Halloween EP Mutant Freax isn't just a term befitting the record's three deafening tracks, but a moniker they can throw their whole effort behind. Genre distinctions that have been hurled their way include rap, punk, metal, electronic, and everything in between, but for the guys, their music falls under a far simpler heading. "It's just like frustration," says theOGM when asked to describe his own music. "Bottled-up anger. You go onstage and release it. It's, like, liberating. I can't really explain." Yetti999 chimes in: "We got one word that will cover all that ground: FREAX."
They want to stage a protest to bring more pop country to SXSW. Wait, what? That's how Yetti999 feels, anyway, upon losing his SX virginity and taking a look around at the surroundings. "First time," he says. "Just popped the virginity. Popped that cherry. Feeling great. Not enough country music here. I think we need to protest and bring...Garth Brooks to SXSW." Why not work a Brooks cover into the set, then? "That's a good idea. That's a great idea. Wait. We was already doing a Ja Rule cover. Ja Rule–Garth Brooks mash-up, you heard?"
They get "eternal boners." Necrophilia is a common theme encountered in Ho99o9 lyrics — some skeleton sex makes an appearance in their video for "Da Blue Nigga From Hell Boy," above — along with blood, guts, violence, and a bunch of other fatal images that wouldn't be out of place in a slasher movie. For Ho99o9, working these disturbing images into their music isn't that big a deal. "I mean...it's the way my mind is feeling," says Yetti999. "It's what I go through. It's what I think about." This darkness doubles as an aphrodisiac. "[I'm] just attracted to it," he says. "It turns me on. Eternal boner." Adds theOGM, "That's what we call it!"
They didn't bum-rush SXSW the way they did Afropunk. In 2014, Ho99o9 were officially billed as members of Afropunk's lineup, but prior to that all attempts to hit the festival's stage were a bit unorthodox. They took matters into their own hands, and it wound up paying off. "We tried to do Afropunk for a while," says theOGM. "They just didn't want to let us in. I guess we didn't have enough fans. Anyways, we just got a merch table. We bought a booth and got people to come through and we just waited and started fucking performing. People were swarming, like, 'Whoa. Is this supposed to happen right now?' The following year, we were surprisingly on that shit [the Afropunk lineup]."
Don't compare them to Death Grips. Seriously. As Ho99o9's popularity continues to climb, so do the "this band sounds like that band" labels and comparisons made on superficial levels that have nothing to do with the music. "We fuck with Death Grips," says theOGM. "They're tight, but our sound is totally different. They're super electronic, bass. They do a lot of other stuff too, but —" "They just compare us because we're black and have a drummer," adds Yeti999. "Pretty much." And if they were to be compared to anyone, who would it be? "Nobody. We're just us."
Ho99o9 will play the Family showcase March 21 in Austin at the North Door. Stay tuned for more info on their next NYC date. See also: Five Rap Artists to Watch For in 2015 The 10 Best Forgotten New York Hip-Hop Records House Party: Where New Talent Keeps NYC Hip-Hop on Its Toes
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