Hilltop Hoods - Rod Laver Arena
Australian hip-hop trio, Hilltop Hoods coalesced in the early 1990s in the city of Adelaide. Though it took a while for the group to gain traction (they did not release a full length album until 1999), they have established themselves as an important force within the hip-hop community.
The group is composed of MCs Suffa (Matt Lambert) and Pressure (Daniel Smith) and DJ Debris (Barry Francis). The beginnings of Hilltop Hoods can be traced back to Blackwood High School where Lambert and Smith met in 1987 and bonded over a love of intellectual rap heard from collectives like Public Enemy and KRS-One. The band additionally cites Notorious B.I.G., Gang Starr, Wu-Tang Clan, and the Beastie Boys as major influences. They would pay tribute to the Beastie Boys later in their career, covering the track “So What’cha Want” from the classic album “Check Your Head”.
The Hilltop Hoods made no effort in hiding their thick Australian accent. Along with their abstract lyrics and catchy beats, sounding as if they were lifted from a dusty 60s psychedelic record, they developed one of the most idiosyncratic personalities in the rap game. The ball started rolling after the two MCs were joined by DJ Next (Ben John Hare). Hare was not only a gifted DJ, he was also a well versed engineer and is credited for the majority of the production work on the Hilltop Hoods’ early releases. The group put out the demo “Highlanderz” (a cassette only release) before issuing their first official release, which was the 1997 E.P. “Back Once Again”. This release was made available only on vinyl and included a total of 6 tracks. The title track included a sample of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise”.
Two years later the group independently released their debut album “A Matter of Time”. This was the last output to feature DJ Next. Next moved to Melbourne after his departure and developed his own mixtape website in 2005 and additionally has gone on to act as a freelance web designer.
In 1999 Hilltop Hoods recruited DJ Debris of fellow rap group Cross Bred Mongrels to replace Next. With the new line up they released their album “Left Foot, Right Foot” in 2001. However it was not until their next release, 2003’s “The Calling”, that the group had their commercial breakthrough. The album exhibited a noticeably monaural sound, which Suffa attributes to the minimalistic way it was recorded, which was on his mom’s computer. Despite the album’s lo-fi production it was a major success. The album debuted on the ARIA Albums Chart at No. 53. By 2006 it sold over 75,000 units, making it the first Australian hip-hop album to reach platinum status.
The group seemed to be in a record breaking trend with the release of their next album “The Hard Road”. It reached No.1 on the charts, making it the first Australian hip-hop record to do so and also went gold within a week of its release. By this time the group seemed to have reached celebrity status and continued putting out chart topping albums. Their 2009 release “State of the Art” housed two of their biggest singles “Chase That Feeling” and “Still Standing”.
Their 2012 album “Drinking From the Sun” and their 2014 album “Walking Under Stars” also peaked at No.1 on the charts. The trio has since gained global recognition particularly in the States. Their album “Drinking From the Sun” features high profile American MCs such as Black Thought from the Roots and Chali 2Na from Jurassic 5.