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Hilltop Hoods stay true to their old school

Australian hip hop heroes hit Garfinkel’s Saturday



WHO: Hilltop Hoods

WHERE: Garfinkel's

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 19, 10 p.m.


Nostalgia alert: attn. Australians.

There was a time, oh, 10 years ago when hip hop in Australia was relegated strictly to the underground. While the hip hop empire (and the record industry) had reached its zenith in America and was just beginning to crumble, Adelaide's Hilltop Hoods were toiling away, cultivating a strong fan base in a tight-knit scene that would, in a few years' time, carry them over and out into the mainstream.

It happened with their 2003 album The Calling. Although the success came largely through word of mouth, the album, propelled by the highly danceable single "The Nosebleed Section," earned platinum status. The Calling was a landmark album and it inspired a shift in mainstream attitudes in Australia and a run of hip hop acts sprung up.

Since then, Australian hip hop has never been the same.

"(It's) out of control, dude. It's never been bigger here and it's just blown up in the past four years," says Hoods' MC Pressure.

But he's modest about Hilltop Hoods' role in that musical shift. While they've been credited with taking hip hop from the underground into the hands of a broader audience, they've never been boastful about it or tried to capitalize on it.

"If people want to put that title on us, that's fair enough," Pressure says. "I guess it's one of those things we don't really worry about or think about. We just go about making the music that we want to make and if people feel it, all the better."

The trio is in the final stages of completing their new album , Drinking from the Sun . They'll head over to B.C. for a three-day tour, including a stop at Garfinkel's on Saturday before heading back to Australia to do another string of three shows opening for Eminem. Then it'll be back to the studio to put the final touches on Drinking from the Sun, which is slated for an early 2012 release.

He says they've been working on Crickets for 18 months and he says it's where their last album, 2009's State of the Art , left off. That album went double platinum in Australia and spent two weeks at number one on the Australia ARIA charts. It found the group utilizing live instrumentation, which Pressure says has been fully realized on the new album.

"We've got a few more guest producers, a few more session musicians, we have horn sections, some four and six-string guitars. We even have a quartet chamber choir singing on one track as well," he says. "It's a little bigger on the production side."

Lyrically, he says they are as confident as they've ever been. Having been at the rap game now for most of their lives - Pressure and MC Suffa formed a rap group while in high school back in 1987 before forming the Hoods with DJ Debris in 1993 - he says they hit their stride rhythmically and lyrically long ago. There are darker tracks, a few less "party tunes" than in the past - essentially a 2011 version of what Hilltop Hoods are.

"We take a little bit of inspiration of everything that goes on around us," he says. "We've been travelling the world a lot over the past few years, so I think in general the lyrics and the sound of the album have a more international feel to them.

"When you've been doing your thing as long as we have, we sort of know where we're at with our lyrics and that's very much continued from our last album."

Known for their high-energy live shows, Hilltop Hoods will be incorporating a drummer into their new sets. They'll roll through the classic tracks - "Dumb Enough" and  "Chase That Feeling," for starters - while introducing at least three new tracks.

So for those in town who lived through the Great Australian Hip Hop Breakthrough, well, this Saturday could very well be your night to reminisce. And dance, of course.



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