Anybody who has had the privilege of seeing L.A.-based band Ho99o9 live knows that this is no ordinary band. You’ll see tags like “rap-punk” thrown around and, on a very superficial level, that’s accurate. But the reality is far more complex, and interesting.
2017’s “United States of Horror” debut album was a revelation—a lyrical study of the social and political issues ailing society. Musically, the band buries melody under industrial noise. At its very best, the song worms its way into the back of your head before you have any idea what has happened. “City Rejects” is an example of a song that batters you with the sheer brutal infectiousness of it all.
The second album, “SKIN,” has just landed, and in some ways, it’s more of the same. In others, it’s an entirely different beast. The band—theOGM and Eaddy—soaks in their surroundings and have created something wonderfully fresh.
“It’s grown tremendously, from the sound and from not touring to touring all over the world,” said theOGM via Zoom. “Also, just building new relationships and being exposed to new sonics. When we started, we were just on some straight punk/thrash rap – that was our whole vibe. Just touring over the years, we learned so much. So now, when you listen to this album, it’s still chaotic but it’s a little more cohesive in terms of just working with one producer. So I’m very excited about it, and we’ve come a long way.”
“United States of Horror” came out in 2017, right at the start of the Trump administration. Naturally, they had a lot to say. So it’s fascinating that this new album comes a year into the new administration — the news filled with scenes of pandemic and war.
“I guess it’s just timing and fate, and shit,” says theOGM. “We talk about this stuff because it’s happening and we’re all in it together, and the album is not a politically charged album per say, but it just happened that it timed with this stuff. I feel like it’s almost our duty to keep people afloat and aware to the energy that’s going on. Sometimes we all get lost in partying and going to the bars, vibing to that shit, when there’s real shit going on. Our album gives you a hint that the government is still fucked up and I’m still not OK. Then there are moments in there to chill and smoke some weed, and reflect on what’s going on, maybe come up with a better plan than just raging. Sometimes, just going out and smashing shit isn’t the best solution. So it’s about being smart and being unapologetic about who you are and what you want to do. Fucking roll with that shit.”
At this point in music’s rich history, it should be no surprise that Black men are creating punk rock. It’s been 40 years since the Bad Brains’ debut, for Christ’s sake. Yet still, ignorance rears its head and the concept is a novelty to some.
“When the Black kids look at us, they look at us like we’re the weird n*****rs,” says theOGM. “To the white kids, they’re like ‘this is like fire.’ It’s about doing that shit like we mean it because we don’t give a fuck. This is who we are.”
“People only see what’s in front of them,” adds Eaddy. “People don’t see the overall picture of history, time, and how long we’ve been on this earth. Rock & roll wasn’t created five years ago. It’s been here and it’s been Black. It’s had its evolution from blues to jazz to rock & roll to metal. And then kids in the hood are just worried about rap and hip-hop, and they don’t know that a Black guy started rock & roll. They don’t know about Little Richard. You’ve got to know your history.”
“SKIN” has been produced by erstwhile Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker – maybe not the obvious choice, but one that absolutely works.
“We met him in 2019,” says theOGM. “We got with him and started making some music. It was originally because we were working on another project and we wanted to get some songs for that. We started in 2019, then the pandemic happened in 2020, so during that time everybody had free time. So we were just linking up and catching jams. Then it turned into quite a few songs that we decided to turn into a record.”
“It’s always good to step out of your comfort zone,” adds Eaddy. “He’s known for the pop-punk jams. We are nowhere near that and we never will be, and it’s good to have him do something different than what he’s normally doing. We’re pushing him and he’s pushing us.”
Yeah, this damned pandemic screwed with Ho99o9 much like it screwed with everyone. There was, they say, a positive side though.
“To be honest, it helped,” says theOGM. “It had its ups and downs. It fucked people up with not being able to tour and make money, but it gave you time to work on your record, work on yourself mentally and physically, and all that good shit. So some good came out of it for sure.”
It’s certainly an intensely impressive album, blessed with some excellent features. Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Saul Williams, Bun B, and Jasiah all guest.
“All those features genuinely came about just at the right moment, at the right time,” says theOGM. “We’ve been buddies with Corey for a few years now. Saul Williams – we’ve been talking to him for a few years too. We played a festival, met him a few years back somewhere in Europe. The Bun B and Jasiah thing came about at the last minute. All the features were genuine and they worked perfectly. It all blended well.”
“In the studio, it was like, who would fit the vibe of certain songs,” adds Eaddy.
Now, of course, it’s time to take those songs to the people. Bands have the opportunity to tour again, and Ho99o9 is taking full advantage. This is, after all, a band that has to be experienced live.
“It’s always good to play the music live because that’s always a different energy,” says theOGM. “Engage with the fans. Just getting out and seeing the world. I’m trying to turn up for L.A., because that’s the first show. We ain’t played in two years and that’s the first one. We’ve got to show up.”
And after the tour? Well, the band can’t wait to get to work on new music.
“I’m very interested in getting to work on the next record,” says theOGM. “We took a long break with the first into the second, and we obviously dropped some projects in-between – some EPs and mixtapes. But in terms of releasing music, I believe in consistency and I don’t want to take five years to drop the next record. What converts fans is music. Making the songs that actually convert. That reach. If this album don’t work, I’m going back in the studio to make some shit that’s gonna work. That’s what I want for 2022.”
Color us converted.
The SKIN album is out now.