At the intersection of trap beats and blast beats is Ho99o9. Raised in the concrete jungles of Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey, pseudonymous MCs and multi-instrumentalists Yeti Bones and theOGM grew up a steady feed on their parents’ music and, later, gangsta rap. – notably Onyx. . Then their discovery of DC’s black punk icons Bad Brains set them on the path to forming Ho99o9 (“horror”, aloud) circa 2012, and eventually touring that takes them to Exit/In on Monday. .
Rap and hard rock had mixed together before – Rage Against the Machine, anyone? – so it’s crazy to think that in 2012, a young do-it-yourself band focusing on a new, more extreme amalgamation of hip-hop and hardcore was seen as some kind of oddity. Yeti and theOGM jumped in, playing gigs on both sides of the Hudson. They made a major and immediate impression at the 2014 iteration of NYC’s Afropunk Fest.
They turned that buzz into their 2017 debut album. united states of horror, an ecstatically lousy hybrid of industrial beats, mosh-worthy riffs, belligerent raps and a cheerfully anarchic vibe. Standout track “Street Power” evokes a backstage fight between Nine Inch Nails and the late DMX that ended in a draw. Still, skeptics have pigeonholed Ho99o9 as the muse of revered experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips’ Radiohead, a comparison the duo have become pros at shrugging off. “We fuck with Death Grips,” said the GMO Voice of the village in 2015. “They’re tight, but our sound is totally different. They are super electronic, the bass. Yeti added: “[Critics] compare us just because we’re black and have a drummer.
Likewise, skeptics often used “horrorcore” to describe (or dismiss) the band’s inescapable combo of dissonant sounds and gnarly visuals in their early days, but that’s long gone, and Yeti and theOGM live on. Last month they came back with their second real album, SKIN, the most hi-fi and unrestricted document of the band’s sonic exploits to date. At the helm: none other than Blink-182 drummer and walking tattoo canvas Travis Barker. After ignoring SoCal pop punk in their musical self-education, the dyed-in-the-wool East Coasters (who moved to Los Angeles in 2014) were skeptical when Barker first came calling and expressing interest in the production.
“We were reluctant because we’re a hardcore band and couldn’t focus on making pop punk,” OGM says when we call each other between tour dates. “But when we got to meet him, he felt like someone we had always worked with.” Yeti agrees, “It took a lot of convincing…but once we got into the studio, the vibe, work ethic and atmosphere was just right.”
On SKIN, a dizzying array of collaborators pop up in surprising places. Slipknot singer Corey Taylor appears on the gnarly “Bite My Face,” while iconic Gen X poet Saul Williams breaks up the mayhem of “Skinhead” with quiet verses. Williams favors an eerie silence that acts as a prelude to sonic murder in the form of the minute-and-a-half “Lower Than Scum.”
Fragments of melody sneak in too. “Speak of the Devil” rolls on the push-pull of soulful riffs, soulful crooning and guttural growls. For those unfamiliar with Ho99o9, the 33-minute LP is a great introduction, and for longtime fans, it’s an exciting new chapter. It’s a whirlwind album, but its aggressiveness has a lot of subtleties built into it. “In the world of horror, you don’t have to viciously chop someone up – you can just stab them in the dark,” Yeti says with a laugh.
“The youth will always hold the torch,” he adds. “We actually made a song with our friends [L.A. industrial-metal band] 3TEETH on this. It’s called “Time’s Up” and, to sum it up… Guardians, Opponents, and anyone who opposes us can die, and we own the throne now. …Cheers.”