Inside the Twisted World of Ho99o9: Hardcore and Hip-Hop's X-Men "Mutants" | Revolver

Inside the Twisted World of Ho99o9: Hardcore and Hip-Hop's X-Men "Mutants"

How a rap-punk duo from New Jersey is reinventing two genres at once
ho99o9.jpg, Nick Fancher
Ho99o9, 2018
photograph by Nick Fancher

Eaddy remembers the night punk rock changed his life. He was 18 years old at a DIY space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was his first time in the hipster neighborhood. It was also his first time drinking beer. "These punk bands were playing, so the atmosphere was just like sweaty people, BYOB, people coming in with beers and me looking like I'm fresh out of Urban Outfitters with my white Vans on, bootcut jeans and a fucking sweater," he says with a laugh.

Then Ninjasonik, a prominent local hip-hop outfit, stormed the stage with a cover of "Attitude" by D.C. punk legends Bad Brains. "I'd never seen a mosh pit in my life," Eaddy recalls. "I did not know who Bad Brains was. I just know when they played 'Attitude,' shit opened up. I didn't go into the pit 'cause I was just so shocked and mindblown by what was goin' on. I just stood back and watched people fall on each other like, 'This is fucking great.'"

Eaddy went home to Newark, New Jersey, that night and told all his friends what he had seen. He posted a status update on Facebook: "I think this shit just changed my life."

The experience sent him down an internet rabbit hole that led to the Bad Brains' infamous Live at CBGB 1982 video. "I was just amazed, like, 'What the fuck is this?'" Eaddy enthuses. "There's this black guy with dreads going fucking ballistic and everyone's going crazy." From there, it was an easy jump to O.G. hardcore heroes Black Flag and Minor Threat. "It was like a snowball effect," he recalls. "That was like the birth of my inner punk."

Today, Eaddy is one half of Ho99o9 (pronounced "horror"), the electrifying rap-punk duo currently redefining the nature of both genres. His partner in grime is theOGM, a fellow Jersey native and the son of Haitian immigrants. Their debut album, United States of Horror, is a white-knuckle ride through the American nightmare. With a sound inspired as much by Odd Future and Death Grips as Black Flag and Bad Brains, it's at once violent and psychedelic, brooding and defiant. It's got jagged punk rippers studded with both fright-flick piano breaks ("Street Power") and sleepwalking guitar solos ("Sub-Zer0"). It's got politically charged rap screeds with huge industrial beats that seem like they could've been produced by Ministry's Al Jourgensen ("Bleed War"), Public Enemy's Bomb Squad ("War Is Hell") or underground hip-hop experimentalists Dälek ("Moneymachine," "Dekay"). It's got techno-fied middle-finger salutes ("Face Tatt"), sinister death dirges ("Splash") and beefy low-rider grooves ("Hydrolics").

All of which makes total sense in 2018. In fact, Ho99o9 are the perfectly reasonable result of decades of musical cross-pollination. They're punk. They're hip-hop. They're industrial. Which is to say: They rock. They rap. They program. They sample. They're as likely to incite dancing as moshing. If you've been even halfway paying attention to the pop-culture landscape at any point during the last 30 years, you know music has been headed in this direction for a loooooong time.

And yet, despite a legion of fans, followers and supporters they call the Death Kult, Ho99o9 are often caught between cultures. They're black artists who usually find themselves playing on bills with mostly white bands to mostly white audiences. They play music that defies any attempt at easy categorization. They've performed at the Gathering of the Juggalos. They've been kicked off the Warped Tour. They've toured with bands as disparate as the Dillinger Escape Plan and Papa Roach. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

"We're like the X-Men," Eaddy says. "We're mutants that don't belong in society."

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Ho99o9's Eaddy
photograph by Nick Fancher

999, NOT 666

Chez Ho99o9 sits atop a hill in Los Angeles, not far from Dodger Stadium. When we arrive, theOGM answers the door oozing pure style. His long dreads are piled high on his head. He's wearing metallic blue nail polish and a ring on almost every finger. He's rocking tight black leggings, slides and a gold grill. We climb the stairs into a well-kept and sparsely appointed apartment. There's Eaddy, whose fashion sense has changed considerably since his first mosh pit: He's wearing a bicycle chain around his neck and an Eyehategod shirt that he made himself. His pants, which he also made, are covered with band patches: Discharge, Nausea, Metallica, Poison Idea, MDC, Misfits, Napalm Death, Reagan Youth, Subhumans, the Exploited, Doom, Void. He's got a gold hoop through his right nostril.

It's not the kind of ensemble that would go over well in the neighborhoods Eaddy and theOGM grew up in back in Jersey. "It was some real inner-city fucking hood ghetto shit," Eaddy says. "Where we would get called 'gay' or 'faggot' for wearing tight jeans."

"They didn't get it," theOGM adds. "They're like, 'You dressin' like a white boy. You listen to white-boy music.' But we was in our own scene."

Eaddy and theOGM met through mutual friends in late 2008, not long after Eaddy had his punk-rock epiphany. TheOGM was listening to mostly hip-hop at the time: Busta Rhymes, DMX, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. "He invited me to a show and I was just like, 'Yo, we don't have nothing like this where we come from,'" theOGM says. "Where we come from, if someone bumps into someone like that, there's a fight. In the hood, there ain't no bumpin' like that. That means somebody gettin' fucked up."

TheOGM had been rapping for a few years, but he liked the energy he saw at the punk shows Eaddy brought him to. He wanted to mesh the two styles together. At first, he asked Eaddy to do some illustrations for an EP he was already working on (Eaddy designs much of Ho99o9's merchandise and many of their flyers). In 2012, he asked Eaddy to collaborate musically. They called themselves Dead Idols, but within a couple of months adopted the name of an early track they'd worked on called "The Horror" — but with a twist: "At the time, Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator came out and he was into this real kind of playful demonic, scary state and everything was just 666," Eaddy explains.

"Everyone was just rockin' it because it was a trend, but not really knowing what it means," theOGM picks up. "We're anti-trend, so we flipped the sixes for nines, like we're neutral: We're not for evil, but we're not saying we're good. We're in the middle. We're human beings — capable of good, capable of bad. Fucking human — that's pretty much it."

The duo quickly earned a reputation for their balls-out live shows: Eaddy might do backflips and leap into the crowd, running across people's heads. TheOGM might rock a wedding dress. If there's something to climb, Eaddy will probably climb it. There will be dancing and stage-diving. Limbs and elbows will fly. "I recently went to see the Cro-Mags here in L.A.," Eaddy says. "Everybody knows the songs. You know when the drum is about to drop, you know when the guitar fill is gonna come in. I want people to feel that groove when we do our songs. I want people to mosh, get low, jump. I want it to be bouncy where you get that fucking riff and you're like, 'Oh my god, I gotta fucking dive off this goddamn speaker."

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Ho99o9's theOGM
photograph by Nick Fancher


One of Ho99o9's most successful early performances was at a show they hadn't been asked to play. This was in 2013 at the annual Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn. "We couldn't get on the festival, so we rented a merch tent, brought all our gear and set up right by the main stage," theOGM explains. "As soon as the [set] changeover happened, we just started fucking rocking. People were like, 'Yo, is this part of the festival? This shit is crazy.' We rocked for, like, 15 minutes — made it quick and fast so nobody could tell us shit. The festival people, no one knew. We just came in and smashed on everyone."

As a result, the festival has apparently changed its rules. "Now they have legit contracts that say if you want to rent a merch tent, you can't have sound," theOGM says with a laugh. "That's because of us."

In 2014, Eaddy and theOGM moved from Jersey to Los Angeles in order to be closer to their manager. Before long, Ho99o9 were releasing EPs like Mutant Freax (2014) and Horrors of 1999 (2015) and landing support slots with much bigger bands. In 2015, they were asked to play Warped Tour. But first there was a tour kick-off party in Los Angeles. "They put us on the bill with, like, 10 emo bands, so it's one hardcore band against 10 lightweights," theOGM recalls. "People were there with their kids. We actually toned it down, but …"

The gig went sideways nonetheless. Eaddy jumped into the crowd. He trashed the drum set. He spit beer on the audience and then threw the can into the crowd. "After that show was honestly the most hate I've ever seen on social media," Eaddy says. "There was so many people coming at us like, 'Why the fuck would Warped Tour book this band?'"

Ho99o9's manager got the call the next day: A girl's nose had allegedly been broken during the band's set. Just like that, they were off the tour. "We were bummed," Eaddy recalls. "We were gonna be gone all summer. We were gonna be paid for this. But it was a gift and a curse because we went to Europe that summer instead. Booked our first two-week run there. We had never been outside the country."

In 2017, they went to the U.K. with the Dillinger Escape Plan on the mathcore act's final world tour. The two bands' unhinged live energy was a perfect match. "We were trying to up the ante every night because [Dillinger vocalist] Greg [Puciato] was like, 'If I see one more article about how you guys smoked us ...'" Eaddy says, laughing.

"And it's not easy to smoke Dillinger," theOGM adds. "Those motherfuckers are crazy. Dude's jumping off the balcony with the guitar. Shit is next level."

Later that year, Ho99o9 returned to the U.K. with Papa Roach. It didn't go well. "It was very hostile. Every night was hostile," theOGM says. "Their fans hated us."

On the second night of the tour, Eaddy got into a fight with an audience member. "It was at Rock City [in Nottingham, England], but it looked like we was in Buttfuck, Texas, or something," Eaddy says. "We were onstage, and I heard this one fucking voice just shouting mad shit between songs. He was right on the barrier on my side. I told myself, 'This motherfucker says one more thing, I'm gonna address him 'cause I'm just tired of it.'"

Sure enough, the motherfucker said one more thing. That's when Eaddy whipped his shirt off and got in dude's face. "Before he could finish another word, I smacked him," he says. "The crowd was like, 'Whoa!' I hadn't punched anyone in a while. He was kind of frozen in shock. I hit him hard. Then I got right back onstage. We went into a punk song right there."

Ho99o9 are no strangers to confrontation. The very nature of what they do seems to invite commentary from trolls, loudmouths and shit-talkers. "It adds so much fuel to the fire to know we're African-American guys making music that technically we're not supposed to be making — or are not usually in," Eaddy offers. "So we get looked at. We're on a whole other platform for being these black rock weirdo rap dudes."

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Ho99o9, Detroit, 2018
photograph by Nick Fancher

"We gotta be on the defense," theOGM adds. "We gotta be in your face, like we ain't takin' your shit."

Ultimately, though? Ho99o9 would rather be lovers than fighters. "We don't discriminate. We love everybody," Eaddy says. "Whether you black and you going through the same thing we going through, or white and from the suburbs, we all gonna mosh together and have the greatest time."