Ho99o9, “SKIN”

With the help of Travis Barker, the industrial rap duo focus their feral energies into a surprisingly cohesive thesis statement.

Ho99o9, SKIN

With the help of Travis Barker, the industrial rap duo focus their feral energies into a surprisingly cohesive thesis statement.

Words: Mike LeSuer

March 10, 2022


Coming up on the 10-year anniversary of The Money Store, the breakthrough record by rap futurists Death Grips feels like a gift and a curse—the former to anyone who’s gotten any sort of perverse joy from the album over the years, and the latter to any left-of-center rappers coming up under the glitchy, industrialist shadow of that monolithic cultural moment. While the JPEGMAFIAs of the underground finally seem to be having their moments outside of the context of Reddit boards ignorantly decrying their plagiarism rather than celebrating a unique spin on a fresh sound (the turn of last decade generally felt like a tough time to explore new musical frontiers), it’s still disheartening to stumble upon message boards and comment boxes littered with these brush-offs.

That’s why I hate to admit that, for once, Death Grips remained my reference point throughout Ho99o9’s impetuous SKIN. But although there are certain elements of online-ness emanating from it—the LP invokes two iterations of the Tony Soprano “I hate this fucking shit” meme within the first two minutes, for example—the DG connection really only feels relevant to the aggressive analog percussion that stitches the album together, providing an instrumental that improbably matches the feral personas of emcees theOGM and Yeti Bones. In fact, the longer I spent with the album, the more I realized that this logged-on feel the album carries is mostly just my brain filling in blanks—there’s something about the duo’s manic delivery that feels completely unplugged.

The drumming that boldly challenges the in-turns intimidating and—true to their moniker—horrifying raps was notably provided by the album’s producer Travis Barker, the A-lister version of Zach Hill’s more cultish weirdo-popular-kid persona and perhaps the only percussionist maximalist enough to fill the role. The album really hits its stride on the overwhelming 90-second opener and lead single “NUGE SNIGHT,” which presents the most undistilled mixture of Barker’s impossibly hard drumming and cool trap bridges before easing into one of the record’s heaviest guitar moments on the next track. As a testament to the record’s embrace of really all forms of intense genre, the warped alt-metal of “BATTERY NOT INCLUDED” opens with an audio clip decrying techno, which foreshadows the pulsing “push-button drum machines” of “PROTECT MY BITCH PT.2.”

And the Barker features aren’t even the most jarring contributions to the record—over SKIN’s 12 tracks we hear the menacing barks of Slipknot’s Corey Taylor—hardly more viscous than the Ho99o9 verses that punctuate it—followed immediately by unsettlingly cool vocals from Int’l Player Bun B over a blown-out beat on “SLO BREAD.” Longtime fans of Ho99o9 probably won’t bat an eye at these high-profile cameos pulled from a fascinating variety of pop cultural moments, but in opposition to last summer’s Turf Talk tape—which featured a less commercial tier of very-specific-person guests, like Pussy Riot, Plack Blague, and Surfbort’s Dani Miller—this record feels like a fully focused thesis statement for a band that’s less interested in hyperlinking disparate corners of the internet together and more intent on earnestly presenting the contents of their Case Logic CD wallet.