Madball - Hold It Down (Cover Artwork)


Hold It Down (2000)


Madball is one of the most prolific bands in the hardcore underground. With the exception of a few brief hiatuses, they’ve been a cornerstone in hardcore. Hold It Down, the band’s lone Epitaph release, came out way back in 2000. And while Madball has offered us a slew of music since then, Hold It Down remains one of the band’s strongest full-lengths.

The tone and character of the record was a change-up from Madball’s previous releases on Roadrunner, and even a bit of a return to the stylings on Ball of Destruction. While Hold It Down held to much of the hip-hop and some of the metal influence of Set It Off and Demonstrating My Style, it also strayed back into a more traditional hardcore punk sound. The album moves at much more frantic pace, set forth with the opening track “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.” The song, itself an homage to a treacherous NY lifestyle, chugs along with equal parts of old-school horse-hopping riffs and fast-paced choruses, only to segue directly into the title track “Hold It Down.” That track opens with a signature Hoya Roc bass line and stalks through with signature Madball ferocity. “Hold It Down” is very much the bridge song between former Madball releases and Hold It Down as a record. It has the hip-hop feel of Set It Off but the newfound speed the band offered on this LP.

The record’s strongest song “Say What?” opens with the bombastic drums and the aforementioned hardcore punk sound that the band transitioned to on this record. Freddy’s vocal stylings here keep a mix of the head-bopping hip-hop influence with a much speedier delivery to back the fast guitar tracks, all the while delivering a no-frills critique of the hardcore underground. And then it’s all over as the track concludes in under two minutes. And, for me, that’s sort of a good thing. The song blasts forward and is gone. They hit the listener with a sonic burst and then bounce. And they do it in the spirit of their own style.

It’s worth mentioning that Madball pulls at a nasty contradiction in the hardcore underground in the middle of the LP. The skit and subsequent song “DIFMM” hits hard at the inconsistency of DIY culture. The skit itself is a young guy’s monologue hating on bands that try to make money and sustain themselves. Not so coincidentally, he then proudly admits he’ll just leave the scene behind anyway once mommy and daddy put him through college. Rife with sarcastic sounds effects, the skit hits at the heart of what bands like Madball suffer through for no good reason. And it does so cleverly.

Hold It Down is another great record in the ever-growing catalogue of one of the longest-standing hardcore bands around. Madball marched strongly into the new millennium with this release, and it still holds up some seventeen years later. In fact, it’s a terribly overlooked record in their library. If you’re a Madball fan, the easy bet is that you already own and appreciate Hold It Down. If you’re not though, this a great starting point to get into one of New York’s strongest hardcore flag-bearers.