For the past few years, hardcore punk / rap hybrid Ho99o9 have been soundtracking the ongoing horror movie that is life in the United States of America. Last Friday, the band released their aptly named debut full-length, United States of Ho99o9, on which they seem to have fully realized their genre potential. Each song boasts a frenetic, dangerous mixture of rap and punk. Tracks like “War Is Hell” intersperse bouts of noise with the duo’s push-pull rhyming, while the likes of “Street Power” drive traditional punk riffage straight off a cliff into complete chaos. The result is an album that’s totally unpredictable, as the band goes to great experimental lengths manufacturing something you can never pin down, but bursting with energy all the same. We spoke to the duo of the OGM and Eaddy about staying dangerous and surviving the United States of Ho99o9.
Was the election part of the intent behind this record? How did your ideas materialize?
The OGM: To be honest, we’ve been working on the album for a while. These topics are topics — like police have been shooting people down for a long time — as far as people being against the government. We’ve been building content around that for a while, and it was just perfect timing when the whole election, the Trump thing fell through. It was like, yo, this is literally the best time to put out this record. It was all about timing, to be honest; the content was all there.
Where were you guys when the election was announced?
The OGM: We was in the middle of Texas; actually, we were diving through Fort Stockton, Texas. We were on tour with HEALTH; we were doing some Texas dates with them. So, it was very weird. Like, Texas is the south — it can be one of the most racist places. [Laughs] To be there during the time of the dude getting elected, it felt kind of weird.
You guys grew up in Paterson, N.J., and moved out to L.A. What was the move like out to the West Coast?
The OGM: Moving from New Jersey to L.A. was kind of cool. We’ve lived in New Jersey all our lives, so it was a good change of pace. Everything is a bit fast-paced when you’re on the East Coast. The weather makes people feel a certain way, you move a certain way, our hustle and mentality is a different way. So, coming to L.A., it was a little more lax. The weather is really beautiful and it’s just a cool vibe. I don’t want to say it was spiritual, but we had a connection, and that’s how it felt. L.A. could be weird, I guess, depending on what scenes you’re into. But once you find your scene and your niche, it’s pretty chill.
I remember the last time I went there, every motherfucker I ran into going out was trying to be an actor. Like, wow, this is for real.
Eaddy: Yeah, nobody in L.A. has a real fucking job. Everybody is a photographer or actor or movie director. Who works at Taco Bell? No one will cop to that. [Laughs]
On the record, you intersect hardcore punk and hip-hop in interesting ways. I’m curious, how do songs start for you guys? How do you figure out the sounds for each particular thing?
Eaddy: It’s all about the emotions, about the feeling we put into it. How we want the crowd to feel, how we want them to react.
The OGM: Yeah, it’s definitely about the feel. We go into the studio [and] we we work with a couple different people, so we know what vibe we get from each person. So, my boy Yeti, for instance — when we go to him, we know exactly what sound and palette he has, so we go there with that state of mind, and then we just let it flow and create off of that. But as far as our content goes and what we want to write about, it can come from anything. We can be in the studio talking about fuckin’ carrots, and we’re like, “Whoa, this could be sick. Let’s come up with a cool hook.” But it’s just the vibe. Every producer or musician we work with has a different vibe, so you have to bounce energy off of each other.
What were your earliest beginnings as musicians?
The OGM: Shit, for me, it was early on. I’ve always been writing music. I started rapping when I was like 18 or 19ish or shit. My homie had a setup in his house, and I remember writing my first couple of bars. I remember feeling like I was literally the best rapper alive until I met other rappers that were actually dope in my town. And it was like a slap in the face almost — like, damn, you thought you had some shit, but you kind of have to work harder to do better ’cause there’s so many people out there trying to get that same goal. But live was the weirdest experience, because not only do you have to record it and make it sound good to people — you have to perform for people, and they have to believe you. So, that’s just a whole new level.
Eaddy: I never did any music at all growing up. You hear about people writing when they was a child and shit — nope, that wasn’t me. I would always just go to shows, fuckin’ wasted, and dive off of anything possible I could find. I used to be at the front of shows just ragin’. I never thought about doing any kind of music at all. And then I got my feet wet, I just tested it out, took a full dive in the pool. And that was only like four years ago.
Did it come pretty easy, or did you have to work at it?
Eaddy: It came pretty easy, just having inspiration from other artists — and OGM, of course, the way he raps and [I] put it in my own thing. I think when I started, my lyrics were a little bit too harsh.
The OGM: Yeah, this nigga was out there. Like, not abrasive, but just, “Whoa, I don’t know if we can get these lyrics on a song. Nobody’s gonna want to book us with these kinda lyrics.” [Laughs]
Eaddy: Yeah, lyrics that a mainstream artist would get banned for, and pointed at for every reason. Now that I think about it, it’s like, damn, that shit was too wild.
The OGM: I’d say it came easy for him, but he had to work at bettering his craft. Like finding his own voice, finding his own style, but then also finding a way to make it digestible so people could just cope with it.
So, how do you find that balance between being dangerous and being too abrasive? I’ve been following you guys for a bit, and you never know what’s going to happen at your shows. Like, getting shut down is a regular thing, which is sick. [Laughs]
The OGM: Shit. It’s a very thin line. But sometimes you gotta communicate with your peoples; like, if we’re playing a song and shit’s getting buck, in between a song, we’ll talk to your fans. Like, if somebody falls, you gotta pick them up. It’s a brotherhood, almost, out there. We definitely encourage the chaos, but keep it at a level where you know we’re not against each other. We’re just letting off a little frustration. We’re all here to have fun.
What was your introduction to hardcore and punk shows in general?
The OGM: We were going to DIY shit in Brooklyn, just a few local bands from there. Started off with shit like Hank Wood and Cerebral Ballzy and Odessa. We kinda got to — I don’t want to say pop-punk, but like that Williamsburg kinda stuff. And then it translated to actual punk, going to these fucking events with people in mohawks and studded jackets. But that was probably the first introduction — hearing stuff like Bad Brains and Minor Threat early on.
How do you figure out what scenes to play? I remember you were originally going to be on Warped Tour, and you’ve played Gathering of the Juggalos. How does playing for different people help your live show?
Eaddy: We got flavors for all types of people, all types of music. Fuck Warped Tour, though. [Laughs]
You would’ve probably murdered a bunch of scene kids. Would’ve been tight, but probably too much for that crowd.
The OGM: That’s what the fuck happened. [Laughs] We played the kickoff show and they couldn’t handle it, so we got kicked off the rest of the tour. For us, it would’ve been great. I think it would’ve been good for the kids to see something other than a hundred emo bands night after night. I think it would’ve been refreshing to see that. Not that I have anything against those bands. But they put us in a weird spot. Like, they put 10 emo bands on, and then one hardcore band in the show, and so we went off. They were like, “Oh my god, you guys are scary. We gotta get them out of there.”
Eaddy: Warped Tour is ass-backwards, too, because they kicked us off for being destructive onstage, being a real intense band. But then they have these huge emos playing their shit, and they got charges for killing people, fucking underage girls and shit. And they kicked us off?
The OGM: Motherfuckers with rape charges. Hearing that, it’s like, “All right, I’m cool.” [Laughs]
Eaddy: Touching little girls, and they kick us off for being a scary-ass band? You need to g-check yourself, homie.
It’s weird that like what’s essentially the biggest “punk” festival is afraid of a punk band that tries to push the limit.
The OGM: It’s fucking crazy.
Eaddy: I’ve read shit about it, and I’ve got personal stories from friends about it, so I’m not lying.
What’s the craziest shit you’ve seen go down at one of your shows?
The OGM: I dunno, man — people throw shit, people do shit to themselves. Sometimes we do it to them. [Laughs] I don’t think anything is that wild to us. The only thing that would shock me is someone fucking in the pit. But yeah, just the regular, girls wanting to touch you and shit. [Laughs]
What do you see as the end goal for your band?
Eaddy: WORLD. DOMINATION! [Laughs] Nah, we want to try and tour the world and connect with every motherfucker in the world.
The OGM: We just want to have fun and make good, exciting music. Push the boundaries. Like he said, world domination.
Do you see hip-hop or punk as stagnant?
The OGM: Sometimes. Sometimes I see hip-hop as kind of stagnant. Every rapper seems to be chasing that trap sound, and it is like that. Which is why I feel like we’ve got a place, and we’ve got this energy to bring that’s different for hip-hop. And I don’t want to say different because I don’t like music people who are like, “Oh, it’s different,” ’cause there’s other motherfuckers doing experimental hip-hop and doing tight shit. It would just be dope to see it get big, like actual music. In hip-hop, they always sample jazz musicians and some rock stuff, and now it’s so trapped out that no one wants to make actual music, classic shit. That’s one of our focuses — make something that’s classic and timeless.
Eaddy: Yeah, we come at it from both angles. Punk kids who only listen to punk, that’s lame. If you’re making hip-hop and only listening to hip-hop, you’re not going to go anywhere or do anything diverse. For example, take the Beastie Boys — they came out as a straight punk band, and they started rapping, incorporating different sounds, and that shit came out legendary. Who sounds like the Beastie Boys right now? Nobody. You just gotta keep evolving and growing. It’s what’s going to keep growing — that and the live shows — and bring us to our fullest potential.
What’s going to happen when you guys die?
Eaddy: I’m gonna come back. Resurrect as a motherfucking Rambo knife. [Laughs]