No-one can seem to decide what Ho99o9 is. For as long as they’ve been around, they’ve been known more for their atypical, boundary-breaking approach to music than they are known for one specific sound. Their sophomore album 'Skin' is a credit to that. Here, they’ve refined the art of going where many are afraid to go, and lean into pissing off diehards on both the punk and hip-hop side of things, all with a cheeky smile on their face.
The album is undeniably electrifying right out the gate, opening with ‘Nuge Snight’. Immediately we see the obvious hip-hop/punk line they walk in this hardcore track with a title that pays homage to 90’s rap. But despite their undeniable punchy, punk energy, not even Ho99o9 are safe from the modern day Travis-Barker-fication, as his drumming and production are a feature of the record. This does show their range however, as ‘Battery Not Included’ features a tonal shift and ‘Bite My Face’ brings to mind comparisons with other nu-punk pioneers like Wargasm UK. Plus they still manage to land their more metal moments with conviction – what more a seal of approval do you need than a Corey Taylor feature?
‘Skin’ is excellent at getting straight to the point with its perfectly pointed aggression. But just as you think you’ve figured out where Ho99o9 are going, the more obvious hip-hop features start to rear its head. 'Slo Bread' gives us laidback beats and that smooth flow from the band and Bun B that provides a nice bed in the tracklisting, but still has punk-leaning vocal distortions.
'The World, The Flesh, The Devil' is more of the same, but for sure incorporates the heavy influence a lot more with an expert breakdown toward the end. There are also surprises you wouldn’t expect on a Ho99o9 record like The Prodigy-influenced ‘Protect My Bitch Pt. 2’ or their impressively earnest lyrics throughout. But it's balanced out by somewhat underwhelming production, especially compared against ambition of what ho99o9 trying to achieve.The closing track 'Dead Or Asleep' is wonderfully menacing as it peaks and valleys is indicative of the album as a whole.
As polarising as Ho99o9 may seem, they have done exactly what they set out to do, without compromise. To take influences from so many places, whilst still being as focused as 'Skin' is no mean feat and while it can be hard to define the line between the worlds the band traverse, no one else out there is walking that line right now as well as they do.
Words: Sarah Shodipe
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