Ho99o9: ‘The first time we came to Ireland, we met the nicest border guard’
New Jersey duo Ho99o9 are expanding their fanbase – even to Irish immigration staff
Number of the beats: Ho99o9. “Our way is to go hard with aggression and intensity. A regular night for us is a f**king explosion for everyone else”
There’s no show like a Ho99o9 show. Others have sought to blend gritty hip-hop and thumping hardcore, but rarely with the same results as the New Jersey duo formed by theOGM and Eaddy. In the case of Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror), this meeting of two worlds results in live shows that are raucous, blistering, sweaty, euphoric, raging and cathartic. And this state of affairs also applies to the audience.
“Everyone hopefully goes away from one of our shows blown away and amazed, but we’ve been performing like that since day one,” says theOGM. “That’s how we do it, we don’t know any other way to perform. When you see a rapper onstage pacing back and forth with a microphone, waving his arms in the air, that’s his way of doing it. Our way is to go hard with aggression and intensity. A regular night for us is a f**king explosion for everyone else. If we want to take it up a few notches, best believe we could, man.”
Growing up, we didn’t have much around us so we had to venture out and go deep into the world and see new cultures with your own eyes. It’s the only way you evolve”
Their debut album, United States of Horror, is a grand statement to go with that live energy. It’s tough, edgy and abrasive, an album full of anthems that address the state which has inspired the fury and frenzy on show.
Google the gangs
Both hail from hardscrabble backgrounds in New Jersey. “Coming up in New Jersey was your everyday struggle like it would be for any African-American growing up in urban communities like Newark, Elizabeth and Linden,” says theOGM. “If you Google those names, you’ll see stories about gangs and drug dealers and fights, and it’s all true.
“Growing up, we didn’t have much around us so we had to venture out and go deep into the world and see new cultures with your own eyes. It’s the only way you evolve. We know where we come from but you’ve got to make an effort to get away. Otherwise, we’d just have stayed where we were and only gone as far as the corner store.”
TheOGM makes the point that they were determined to do something – anything – long before the two of them came together as Ho99o9.
“So many people we know have been brainwashed because they’ve been persuaded to stay in their bubble. You’ve got to want more. If you want something, you’ve got to go get it. No one is going to hand you anything. You have to go explore for your own sanity, but you have also to do so for art purposes and food purposes and personal purposes. There’s so much out there that you’re not aware of when you’re happy to be stuck in your bubble.
“I was working all these shit, hard, boring jobs in hospitals, fitness centres, fast food restaurants. When I wasn’t working, I was hustling trying to make money. Even when Eaddy was playing basketball, he was going hard, man. But we wanted more so we made time to make music and to go out and see what was going on.
“We both individually wanted more and were passionate about what we did. When we hooked up and were exposed to different music and different cultures and different shit, that turned us onto art and what that could do.”
It’s pretty much always been dark for us and the light just comes on occasionally and it gets dark again”
Their musical epiphanies came when they went to see shows in New York by acts such as Ninjasonik. “They were part of this hip-hop punk skater hardcore hipster scene and their shows were insane. It was dope for us to see that because where we come from, the fans don’t mosh. You don’t get that kind of positive energy or crossover. The rappers rap and if people push you at a show, it means they want to fight.
“When we’d go out to a show in New York and see that style of performance, it definitely struck a spark with us and we wanted more. We went to see more shows, we hooked up with more local bands and the idea behind the band began to develop more.”
Their debut album is crystal clear about the duo’s politics around the modern African-American experience. As far as theOGM is concerned, it’s the same as it ever was.
“It’s pretty much always been dark for us and the light just comes on occasionally and it gets dark again. It’s always been like this and we can date that back decades. [This is] something which always comes up in America. People have tried to block it out and live their everyday lives and go to work and take care of their kids and live some kind of happy, normal life. But you turn on the news at night, you see people shooting up a school or bombs going off and that’s always ongoing.
“What is happening now with police killing people, and Trump is just getting more attention because so many people have realised it’s not all happy and normal. Now, it’s been shoved in people’s faces. There has always been inequality and police brutality and racism but people didn’t care as much as they do now to speak about it or act on it. Now, they have no choice. For us, though, we’ve always seen it like this.”
The band head back to Dublin this month and theOGM is looking forward to meeting one fan in particular. “The very first time we came to Ireland, we met the nicest border guard we’ve ever met. He asked questions as usual, as they do, and he said he wanted to come along to the show. We put his name on the list and he showed up and he was excited about the show. He’s been our friend ever since. It’s f**king weird, man.”
- United States of Horror is out now. Ho99o9 play Dublin’s Workman’s Club on June 19th