Ho99o9 is having a great year. They released their first album, United States of Horror and did several tours. Belgium was three times on their agenda. Twice Botanique and last summer Pukkelpop festival.
When I meet them, they still look a little dizzy from the evening before. TheOGM and Eaddy seem a little weary, but are very friendly and like always magnificently dressed. All of us having a mint tea already predicted that it would be a cosy conversation nonetheless with some serious topics.
Hello guys, you already played yesterday. I saw some crazy videos on the internet. Are you still on fire for tonight?
theOGM: Yeah, sure. We’re eternal flames, still on fire! It’s still the start of the tour so.
You sold out twice here in Botanique. So you’re two days in Brussels. You had some time to have a look at the city?
TheOGM: Yeah, I got to go to the centre and walk around a little bit in the city. It’s a beautiful city, I like it. It’s awesome.
You got your first full album out, United States of Horror. For me it sounds a lot more punk and less hip-hop than the songs before. Do you agree?
theOGM: Not really. I would say that it’s a mixture of a couple things. Yes, I guess it’s a lot more punkrock, but even the hip-hop stuff is not traditional. Nothing that we do is your traditional punkrock, traditional rap or your traditional anything.
Eaddy: I don’t think you can really pick one side of it. There is so much elements in that album and in our music in general. I look at that album as a portrait of art with different colours in it. It has some harsh, distortion kinda like hip-hop and some trappy hip-hop that gets you bouncing. Or you got some Nine Inch Nails, experimental and industrial sound in it. It’s like a thunderstorm of cats, dogs and frogs falling from the sky. There is so much in there.
In your songs there are also a lot of bloody, violent or harsh elements. What are your inspirations fort that?
theOGM: It’s like the hood. That’s it, where we come from. But I’m also an artist and I love movies and other art. I’m inspired by my own experiences and those of my friends, but also by artists. Things I see on television or in movies. For instance, I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. When he makes movies and they are all bloody and violent. When they ask him why, he tells them “that’s the story, that’s the picture I want to paint.” He builds that story so you can understand and see what’s going on and that is exactly what we do. We live it, but we are also storytellers. A lot of experiences and violent things, we actually did see them. I mean we are black and from the hood. We have seen stuff.
Eaddy: A lot of other inspirations comes from within. We all have mood swings and that is what everybody is dealing with. We see what is going on in life in general. I may not express all my feelings to certain people, but I put it on paper, make it into music.
You talked about Tarantino and the pictures he wants to paint. What is the picture you guys what to show us?
theOGM: We are telling you what is already happening in our society. I don’t say, go out and go murder people. I’m saying that it already happens. I see it and I tell you what I’m seeing. That is the whole point. I’m busy telling you the story. It’s a cry out for help. People listen to these rappers talking about the hood, selling drugs and killing. Some people might think they are glorifying it, but I think it might be a cry for help. They are telling you their struggles. Like “We need help in this community. The reason we do this shit is because there is nobody here helping us. So all we know is how to hustle. That’s why we live this way, because it’s the only way we know. We don’t know no fancy shit.” And that is pretty much the same image we are painting in our music. We come from that same struggle.
In United States of Horror there are a lot more songs that are specifically about politics and that struggle. Has that something to do with Trump and the current the race issues in America?
theOGM: Yes, and also an accumulation of a lot of thing that have been happening throughout our history. For sure it reflects our current time, but things like this have been going on for ages. Right now we are lucky to be out in a better position. Racism used to be worse and we don’t say that we have the answers to change politics.
There are bad things going on in politics and our communities. We should just take better care of each other. Our album cover reflects that. The whole concept behind that cross is that you’re not born a racist, you are thought to be one. It all comes from brainwashing. In our music we want to tell people what we see, for example us being brainwashed from at home. It’s not necessarily the government. Sometimes it’s the way your parents thought you to be. We all go through that, no matter who you are. It’s your environment that makes you who you are.
Can you tell me what the idea behind the name Ho99o9 and the 9’s is?
Eady: That is related to what we just said. That is the code of conduct for us. It is the meaning behind everything. It is not 666, satanic, the devil or something evil. It’s a mutual side between good and evil, bad and good or ugly and pretty.
theOGM: We don’t worship or pray to somebody. We don’t look up or down. We are here at a point and there are no rules. Just us and the world we live in. The rest we don’t know and for now it is horror. The 999 symbolizes that.
We don’t disbelieve. We just think that you are held accountable for your actions. You can’t call God or someone else to see if they can save you. Nobody is going to save you! But what I do believe in is energy! In energy, vibes, the earth and that kinda things. Some people are just so religious that it is another form of racism. I come from a very religious background and that is the reason why we flipped that whole thing. Everybody is good and bad and has their moments. It is ok to express it when you are angry or want to yell at somebody. It makes you human.
Sometimes people see the 9’s and they automatically think it’s some dark or devil shit. Our music is also very aggressive, but it’s not that. We are just angry because we grew up in hard times. We even had no heat at some point, just roaches and rats.
Eady: You can’t think of the 9’s as something satanic. If we wanted it to be that, we would have put 666 in it. Religion kills more people than cancer!
theOGM: And that is a whole other topic!
Maybe we shouldn’t do that, because we only have fifteen minutes! But you said you believed in energy and vibes. Is that the reason why your gigs are so energetic?
Eaddy: Yes, that’s how I started to listen to music. That’s how I fell in love with it. I went to a show and I felt the vibes, the energy, the room, the smell, the people, the sweat and music into my ears. The way it made my body feel, that’s how I fell in love with it from the first show. It was the energy at that show that really sucked me in. It’s like a drug. I wanted to go there again and again and feel that energy. One show can change your life!
Do you still know what concert it was?
Eaddy: Yes, it was in Brooklyn about seven years ago. Few punkbands combined with some experimental hip-hop and electronic bands. It was DIY and BYOB. Just a community of people and individuals where I felt comfortable. Let lose and be free! That show was a game changer because I never experienced anything like that in my life.
theOGM: Where we come from everything is about rap shows. I can see that you know what it’s like. Just some mothafucker on stage and that’s all we knew. That and club music. So our first experience with those experimental shows were rapkids, skaters, punks, … The vibe was awesome and nobody was fighting each other. Where we come from and you bump somebody like that, they would want to fight you.
It’s so exciting to play this kind of music. We come from such a small place, New Jersey and to see people from all over the world get crazy to your music. That’s amazing. I’m very grateful for that and that’s why we perform like that.
So you could say that you first got into hip-hop and only later discovered punk?
theOGM: Yeah, one hundred percent! It was only rap in our urban community. It was rap or the motown, soulful stuff. Through my parents I come from those soulful music. When I got into rap it was Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang Clan, Nas, Onyx, … That was all we knew, unless we were watching TV to MTVs music videos. You see shit like Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails and you are amazed. I didn’t know if I was into it because I never saw this before and my friends definitely wouldn’t likes that and think I’m crazy. But when I got older and started to go to New York. That was the real turning point to find different music.
Eaddy: Same thing for me. My parents listen to soul, jazz and blues. Just like what’s playing now (Can’t Nobody Love You from Solomon Burke is playing). In high school I was really heavy into rap and hip-hop and that gangster image. I wanted to be in a gang and a drug dealer. That’s what you saw and what was cool. Those baggy jeans and long T-shirts. And then just like him I would watch TV. It was the nineties and between those rap videos there was rock music. The Nu Metalthing was popping of. I really didn’t know what to think about it but it would stick in your head. Those were guilty pleasures. And then you grow up and you open your horizons and you see that there is a shit load of other cool stuff.
It seems that you have travelled somehow the same path musically. How did you meet each other? Did you grow up together?
theOGM: No, we met through mutual friends. I learned to know a good friend of him through my cousin. I started hanging out with him because he was really into fashion. He always looked really tight. He was the only guy in the hood who was not afraid to wear skinny jeans, a Mohawk and went skating down the hood. I started going to parties with him and I met you. Instantly we had a band and also started hanging and we were like brothers. We knew each other for three years before we started the band, because he never rapped. I always did.
Eaddy: I always looked at people on stage and thought I might do that or that but I never did. In my mind I wanted to start a Bad Brains cover band. Just the pleasure of singing your favourite songs out loud.
theOGM: I would say we equally made each other better as artists. I could rap, but my stage performance was so bad, so weak. I was so shy on stage and I hated it. He was already a crazy motherfucker. So when we got together, I made him rap and he made me a better performer.
I have one more question. A lot of people call you Death Grips 2.0. What do you think about that?
theOGM: I don’t really like that comparison. We are Ho99o9 and that’s it.
Eaddy: People put us in this bubble, but they should open their mind up to all kinds of music. It’s just a lazy comparison. We just also happen to be black and have a drummer.
theOGM: It’s not a bad comparison, but there is so much other music out there that we could be compared to. If you actually listen to both of us, you truly see that there is a difference. I really love Death Grips, but their music is so much more electronic then us. We also have some electronic influences, but the vibe is totally different. So far as the energy, aggressive nature, darkness and mysteriousness goes, I can agree to that. I just don’t like it. I don’t like that 2.0 shit. We are just Ho99o9 and we don’t want to be compared to nobody or put into boxes. We are what we are. We are Ho99o9.