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An Aussie accent on hip hop

Australia’s Hilltop Hoods continue to pave the way for hip hop down under

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Who: Hilltop Hoods

When: Tuesday, March 4

Where: Garfinkel’s

When Hilltop Hoods first entered the hip hop scene in Australia more than a decade ago, there was only a handful of wordplay artists.

The Perth hip hop group, made up of emcees Suffa, Pressure and DJ Debris, helped usher the genre in.

“(Hip hop) has gradually built in popularity in the last 10 years, thanks to the hard work of a lot of good people, and the support of our national youth broadcaster Triple J,” Suffa said.

“Basically, the main challenge for Australian hip hop artists in the past was to get equal exposure to other genre’s of Australian music – particularly radio play,” DJ Debris added.

Hilltop Hoods, along with artists such as Vents, Pegz and Muph & Plutonic are taking hip hop to the masses via radio waves and festivals. Hilltop Hoods writes about this journey in their track Roll Up:

“We paved roads with our soul and suffering. For the stage coach carrying hip hop to roll on up in.”

And hip hop is rolling in with an Aussie accent. Despite many Australian hip hop groups adopting North American accents, Hilltop Hoods sounds true to their home country.

“We have always refused to put on an American accent, which is something that seems really popular amongst non-North American groups,” Suffa said. “So sometimes people find it weird when they first hear us, even Aussies, but they usually get over that.”

The two emcees’ broad Australian accents run over beats celebrating the traditions of funk, jazz and soul.

The group has delivered five albums. Their most recent is a re-recording of their highly successful album, The Hard Road . The Platinum-certified record won two 2006 ARIA Awards with five of its singles earning honours in Triple J’s annual Hottest 100 accolades. The Hilltop Hoods entered the studio in 2007 to rework their successful release, incorporating the 31-piece Adelaide Symphony Orchestra into the soundscape, and earning the Best Urban Release accolade at the 2007 ARIA Awards.

“We first got the idea to work with an orchestra when we got asked to perform at the 2006 ARIA Awards,” Debris said. “We thought we’d do something different for such a big show by employing a quartet to accompany our usual three-piece lineup.”

“We just thought it would be fun to play around with a less traditional format and get an orchestra involved,” Suffa said.

Tracks such as the Monsters Ball and An Audience With the Devil swelled with drama and emotion as a result.

“The tracks that worked best with the orchestra were the tracks that had a lot of feeling to start with,” Suffa said. “They were all really challenging as it was a whole new way of doing things for us.”

Their music is traveling near and far with sold out national tours and standout festival spots at Big Day Out, Splendour in the Grass and The Falls Festival in Australia, as well as international showings at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire and Berlin’s Popkomm. Glastonbury and Canadian Music Week will soon be added to their credits, including a stopover in Whistler on Tuesday, Mar. 4 at Garfinkel’s.

“I’d say that Australian hip hop definitely has a distinctive sound – even if it’s just because of the accent,” Suffa said.

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