Story + Photos/MAEGHAN DONOHUE
As a radical music lover who grew up glorifying 70’s punk, it seemed a natural progression when I moved to New York City as a teenager to become obsessed with political hip hop artists like Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Sister Souljah…inevitable, even. The overlap in motifs was glaringly apparent: Anti-authoritarianism, anti-military-industrial complex, venomous critiques of the police, institutional racism and classism; a general call to rebellion against the evils of the establishment. I didn’t have a sense yet that because of sonic differences, the aesthetic trends surrounding each movement, and—despite the aforementioned motifs— racial lines resulting in starkly different fan bases, these were two genres which rarely intersected. To an unsophisticated yet passionately political girl of 16, hip hop and punk were one in the same.
Thus, even 15 years later with a much more nuanced sense of the stratified lines between genres, discovering a band like Ho99o9, who is melding underground punk influences with hip hop whilst overtly addressing our grotesque political situation, is literally a dream come true.
The music video for their track “United States of Horror,” off of their forthcoming album which bears the same name, was released just a few days before I sat down with theOGM and Eaddy of Ho99o9 at SXSW. Back in January I watched a teaser for this video that contained 41 seconds of perhaps the most penetrating lines of the track set against the backdrop of a burning flag: “If you stand against police brutality, racism, government oppression, motherfuckers abusing their power, false prophets trying to feed you their fucking bullshit…you gotta understand if you want peace you better be ready for war…” The subsequent music video in its entirety did not disappoint as a true testament to this battle cry. A harrowing portrait of both historical and present-day atrocities and the paralyzing onslaught of mass media, a nodding-out patient is wheeled in front of a screen of static, hands and feet bound. Electrodes are attached which shock him to attention as one screen multiplies into dozens more, displaying montages of political rallies, murder, American flags, burning crosses, atomic bombs, Nazi flags, and of course, Donald Trump. All the while what would appear to be a KKK grand or imperial wizard dresses in blue silk and places his hand on the head of the patient, who by this time is paralyzed by complete sensory overload.
If this video is any indication of what is to come on Ho99o9’s impending album, we are in for a chilling commentary on America, specifically on racism, and the revulsions we’re already witnessing daily via traumatic, ceaseless news cycles. Perhaps the rest of America will catch up to what people of color have always known, which is that racism is not dead and never has been. It’s very much alive and thriving, but was pushed so deep, so covert post-Civil Rights movement, especially in liberal urban havens, that those of us steeped in white privilege couldn’t (or simply didn’t have to) acknowledge it anymore. But to echo the sentiments of Ho99o9, we are in a United States of Horror at this very moment and to not acknowledge it, to not act…well…that is pledging firm allegiance to it. Time for war.
United States of Horror is slated to drop on May 5th.
(theOGM) We are Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror).
How did you come up with the name?
(Eaddy) Well, first it was a song title to one of our songs which is called “Bone Collector” now, but when we got the instrumental, the mp3, it was called “Horror” and it just sounded very dark and just different and the way he even put rhymes over it I was just like, oh this is cool. So we just came up with this whole theme and action of it being a horror based band but we wanted it be more than just evil and, “All Hail Satan,” you know?
(theOGM) Just like…reality.
Yeah, reality is horrifying.
(theOGM) Yeah, that was pretty much our theme…it’s just like, yo we’re not saying we’re worshiping the devil or we’re just on the dark side. We’re just saying we’re human and that everyone has a dark side and everyone has a good side. Everyone gets angry and everyone has a blast, just that’s it.
Where is your band based?
(theOGM) From the East Coast (New Jersey) originally, but we are in LA now.
Do you miss the East Coast?
(theOGM) I mean sometimes we miss the energy of it. You know, we have friends and family back east, so we miss our family and friends. But for the most part, I like where I’m at, I like the warm weather, I love tacos, I love chilling.
(Eaddy) I like change.
Who were your biggest influences growing up?
(theOGM) I’d say it’s a mixture for me because my parents are foreign, they’re from Haiti, so I grew up listening to Haitian music first and then I got put on to rap. Anything I got put on, ’cause of the community, like where we were living is like the hood, you know? Yeah rap is like probably the first thing I got into, like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and DMX, and Nas and Wu-Tang and shit like that. But as far as who broke barriers that inspired me was probably like, Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot, and André 3000, Outkast, because they were freaks. And then Marilyn Manson, people like that too.
We must be the same age because you’re talking about everyone I listened to growing up.
(theOGM) Mm-hmm, yeah people now don’t understand that, you know. In our time they were like freaks.
I can still visualize those tunnel videos on MTV, with Busta and Missy–they all did the same thing, where it was that one shot down what seemed an eternal hallway.
(theOGM) The fish eye- like the way that they moved, the outfits- you know it was definitely breaking barriers for sure and the message too, you know?
(Eaddy) I was gonna say growing up my parents were always into Motown classics, like The Temptations, and Smoky, and then once I got older he said I got into rap. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony was a big inspiration, then listening to DMX and Jay Z and all those guys. And then punk hit and that just blew me away then.
That’s the stuff that in your music is so unusual, the amalgamation of both kind of music movements, two of which I love but you don’t hear melding together often.
(theOGM) Yeah it could be done really cheesy- or it could be done in an underground way where they’re not looking to make hit type of songs or progressive songs, they just like that underground bubble, which is tight you know. It’s like finding the mixture of that common ground, of keeping it raw but still being able to make music that people can go home and sing and relate to. You know? That’s definitely a battle right there.
Who outside of the realm of music inspires you?
(Eaddy) My mama.
(theOGM) My mama and daddy. I like movie directors, I watch films a lot, I like Quentin Tarantino.
No one does violence like Tarantino. It’s a special kind of violence.
(theOGM) Yeah, that’s what I like, it’s definitely a special kind of violence. That shit’s tight. He’s definitely one of my favorites.
What is the hardest challenge you personally face in the music industry?
(Eaddy) That’s a good question. I dunno, just stuff behind the scenes that you find out coming into this business, just with producers, songs, this person stealing this, this person taking that, certain stuff that’s going on that you can’t do because this person is higher. And it’s just like, “Damn, what the fuck man?” You know?
(theOGM) Like you want to put out this with this company, ’cause you just want to put out the music, and they’re like, “Oh no but, if you put it out you might jeopardize this opportunity with this other company.” And I’m just like, we just want to put the music out for our people.
(Eaddy) And you can’t put certain art out. We just got told like less than a few hours ago that this person can’t put out this because the art is…
(theOGM) Like they don’t want to print our vinyl because our artwork is slightly … it doesn’t fit their, you know what I’m saying. The country, we’re talking about the country. The whole entire country. Those are the challenges, those are the little things.
Do you feel like you’ve lost some control over the business element things as you’ve become more successful? Has it affected the art that you’ve put out?
(theOGM) It hasn’t affected it, but it definitely opens your eyes.
(Eaddy) And also, we’re learning too, as stuff we didn’t know we’re like, “Oh okay, now I know why this goes like that.” You understand…
(theOGM) Yeah, why it goes like that. And now we know like, okay now next time we know how to deal with this person or know how to maneuver the situation a little bit better. Yeah, it’s just about learning and staying true to yourself and your identity and what you have going on. Just never let nobody tamper with your shit, hundred percent.
(Eaddy) Gotta stand firm by your shit, gotta stand firm by your brand and who you are, keep that.
If you could change one thing in the world right now, what would it be?
(Eaddy) Racism. It’s just the first thing that comes to the table.
(theOGM) Yeah, it is the first thing that comes to mind, because it’s so prominent.
(Eaddy) One answer, one word answer. Racism, change that motherfucker in a heartbeat.
Ho9909 2017 Tour Dates
MAY 17 -Santa Ana, CA- Constellation Room
MAY 18 -San Francisco, CA- The Independent
MAY 19 -Los Angeles, CA- Echoplex
MAY 22 -Portland, OR- Holocene
MAY 23 -Seattle, WA- Chop Sue
MAY 24 -Vancouver, Canada- The Cobalt
MAY 26 -Minneapolis, MN- Triple Rock
MAY 27 -Chicago, IL- Beat Kitchen
MAY 28 -Pontiac, MI- The Pike Room
MAY 30 -Toronto, Canada- Velvet Underground
MAY 31 -Montréal, Canada- Turbo Haus
JUN 2 -Brooklyn, NY- Brooklyn Night Bazaar
JUN 3 -Boston, MA- USA Sonia’s
JUN 4 -Baltimore, MD- Windup Space
JUN 5 -Washington, DC- The Rock and Roll Hotel
JUN 6 -Philadelphia, PA- The Foundry At The Fillmore Philadelphia
JUN 8 -Atlanta, GA- Masquerade- Hell Stage
JUN 9 -Orlando, FL- Secret Show
JUN 10 -St Petersburg, FL- The Local 662
JUN 11 -Miami, FL- Gramps
JUN 16 -Bergen, Norway- Bergen Fest
JUN 23 -Scheessel, Germany- Hurricane Festival
JUN 24 -Neuhausen Ob Eck, Germany- Southside Festival
JUN 25 -Ewijk- Down the Rabbit Hole
JUL 1 -Marmande, France- Garorock Festival
JUL 7 -Trencin, Slovakia- Pohoda Festival
JUL 8 -Katowice, Poland- Tauron Nowa Muzyka
JUL 15 -Paris, France- Afropunk
AUG 16 -Paredes, Portugal- Paredes de Coura
AUG 19 -Kiewit – Hasselt, Belgium- Pukkelpop
ALL SXSW 2017 COVERAGE SPONSORED BY FAST ASHLEYS STUDIOS!