written by: will rippey
The Newark underground hip-hop group Ho99o9 (pronounced “horror”) dropped their latest EP, Blurr, last Thursday.
Their unique brand of hardcore punk fused with industrial hip-hop first caught the public eye in 2014, with their release of Bone Collector.
Described as horror rap by critics, the group draws inspiration from horror movies, industrial music, gangsta rap and black metal to create a sound unparalleled by any of their contemporaries.
Blurr immediately kicks the listener into the deep end with one of my favorite songs on the album, “Beneath the Earth’s Crust.”
Following a sampled news report on the rising popularity of heavy metal music amongst the youth, a wall of distorted guitar immediately crushes the listener as ghostly lyrics embellish the noise.
The heavy guitar distortion, coupled with the vocal samples, could easily serve as the opening track for an ‘80s sci-fi horror movie and in my eyes (or ears) is a perfect opener for the album.
The mixtape phases into a more hip-hop oriented segment following the first track.
“Lex Luger” features an eerie unsteady Death Grips-esque beat with gangsta rap vocal delivery and incredible production.
“Flesh and Blood” is another standout track for me, featuring a punk song structure and vocals but with hip- hop production.
My favorite song on the record by far is “Sleep Paralysis.” The song initially appears to be a bit of an adrenaline killer after the first four songs. It continues the scary production of the first few tracks, but tones it down a bit while a sample from A Nightmare on Elm Street plays.
The lyrics in this section are fantastic; they remind me of something your friends tell you will summon a demon if you chant it into the mirror at summer camp. Immediately, the song abruptly transitions to manic lyrics about violence and money.
The song “Hardcore” is another highlight of the mixtape. It’s a great combo breaker from the rest of the album, featuring noticeably softer production and lyrics than the rest of the record.
On an album where so much of the music is hardcore punk rap, it’s nice to have a song that I can listen to on impulse. “Hardcore” is immediately followed by “Dog Sh*t,” “Movie Night,” “Navigate” and “Firefly Family,” all of which feature the overwhelming harshness the record has conditioned us too. “Dog Sh*t” has a very Black Flag vibe to it with the fuzz guitars and shouted vocals, but also features many of the strange synthetic embellishments of the other songs.
“Movie Night” is a sparse, atmospheric track with metallic production and reminds me a lot of the primitive industrial acts of the ‘80s.
“Navigate,” another very industrial song, is much more chaotic with extra noise and distorted screamed vocals.
The most interesting part of this song was the sample at the end discussing various types of vaccinations and anti-viral drugs, as if to suggest that the sonic hellscape this album creates is a reality we currently live in.
The final track, “Firefly Family,” is an absolute punk anthem, featuring very little synthetic interference. With the exception of some clipping on the vocals, the song is 3 minutes and 52 seconds of low fidelity noise.
I was extremely impressed by Ho99o9’s performance on this record. I had never heard of them up until now and their willingness and ability to push boundaries with their music is incredible.
That being said, this is definitely not an easy listening album, and anyone listening should expect a fair amount of noise.
I would highly recommend this album to anyone who likes punk, Death Grips or is in the process of planning their Halloween warehouse rave.