It’s safe to say the local hip hop scene is standing on its own two feet.
For years it played the poor second cousin to counterparts from the USA, even France and Europe; but now it’s a movement in its own right that has spawned much talent — and even more quality music. Crews from all over the country are representing and the Hilltop Hoods are possibly the finest exponents.
The trio from Adelaide encapsulate all that is good about music locally. After a prosperous association with Melbourne’s Obese Records, the boys created an imprint – Golden Era Records – to release their own material as well as that of their allies.
With the culmination of over a decade's worth of experience behind them, Matt Lambert (Suffa), Daniel Smith (Pressure) and Barry Francis (DJ Debris) have released again – this time the album is ‘Drinking From The Sun’. Even a few months after its release, MC Pressure is one excited cat.
“Since we dropped the album,” he explains, “we’ve been doing a fair bit of touring. We’ve done the Groovin’ The Moo festival as well as travelling to the USA and Canada for a few shows there. We also did a film clip for the third single from the album and we’re putting together the live show for the next group of tours. Basically, it’s been pretty busy but in a good way.”
When one thinks back to just how far the boys from South Australia have come, it’s hard not to feel their pride and satisfaction at being accepted not just locally, but in far reaching corners of the earth. Who would have thought a little suburb in Adelaide (referred to by the local youth as Hilltop) would have given rise to the most successful hip hop outfit this country will likely ever see? Once local rapper Flak suggested the name ‘Hilltop Hoods’, the rest seemingly became history.
And Pressure sees it like that, too: “I constantly need to pinch myself when I look back and think about just how far we’ve come. To be honest, we had no idea that hip hop alone would help us make a living, you know? We started off in music as a hobby because none of us wanted day jobs. And basically a decade later we’re still releasing albums and travelling nationally and internationally doing pretty much all we had ever dreamed about. It’s not a bad place to be.”
With the territory comes expectation and with expectation comes standards. With that challenge in mind, the boys have ensured their latest studio effort is a solid evolution from everything that has come before.
“That’s the nature of the game,” explains Pressure. “For us, the changing vibe of the sound from album to album is a natural evolution. People grow and music has to change with that; in some ways it’s about growing with your fans as you get on as well. It’s very personal and it’s an honour when people turn up at the gigs and the feedback you get is positive.”
Right down to the production, which Pressure describes as “fuller and thicker”, ‘Drinking From The Sun’ is eclectic but true to its roots.
“There is more session work, there are more instruments: elements like guitars and piano, strings, that sort of thing. There is also a real introspective sort of feel, but without doubt it still maintains the recognisable sounds of The Hoods.”
The lads are conscious of keeping the melting pot hot. “It has been a whirlwind little period recently,” Pressure admits, but it’s all for the cause.
“When we started touring overseas, that was a little bit full on as well – and now it sort of seems like the norm. We’ve spent some time in Europe in July and then we’re back to Australia for a few months and we’re doing a few festivals in that period.
“We’re going to have a bit of time off – maybe about a month or so, but we’re really looking forward to the summer season. All the festivals around Australia are pretty awesome at that time as well and it’s basically the first time we’re going to be representing the album on that scale since the release in March this year.”
Yet all of this success hasn’t gone to their heads. Pressure speaks on behalf of the crew when he proclaims just how humbling it has all been for them.
“We’re really proud to be a part of the scene in Australia. It has come so far and I can honestly say it has really come into its own. Things are at that point of fruition right now; it’s like things are at maximum capacity now in a way they have never been before.
“You’ve got people who are in their forties that have grown up with us; when you get on the social networks you’ve got guys of that age talking to you, it’s a real eye opener. It shows how far things have come in Australia and really, just how open minded and well-connected people are nowadays. There was this stigma associated with music years ago in a way that has really subsided nowadays; I think it has been good for us as musicians but more so, it has been good for the scene and the fans because when you get pushed to deliver, you basically have to.”
After gatecrashing the party, drinking all the booze and taking all your ladies, the lads from Adelaide are consolidating their position as this country’s premiere hip hop outfit with a trophy cabinet full of hard-earned gold.
“We’re pumped for the shows and can’t wait to destroy Queensland crowds,” Pressure says. “To have an album go platinum, to debut on the ARIA charts, I mean we could never have expected that when we were starting out. To hear that the show sold out in basically one day is impressive as well, so to say we’re pleased is probably an understatement.”
And with that, the pioneers are ready to go. “This upcoming tour is probably one of the longest we’ve ever done; we’ll play about three-quarters of the album as well as some of our oldies that we haven’t done in a while. We’ll have Plutonic Lab with us and a few others; we’ll be doing a special AV show for the gigs and we’re working hard on getting a good product out there.”
The Hilltop Hoods play Sprung Festival, Australia’s biggest hip hop event, at RNA Showgrounds on Saturday November 10 with Illy, Pez, TZU, Vents, Kerser, Mantra, Spit Syndicate, Seth Sentry, Thundamentals, Bias B, Briggs and more.