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Not your regular rap

Australian hip hop trio, Hilltop Hoods, step their game up on latest full-length, State of the Art

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Who: Hilltop Hoods

When: Sunday, Feb. 7, 9 p.m.

Where: Garfinkel's

Cost: $20 in advance at Billabong, Katmandu, clubzone.com

These days, the genre of hip hop tends to conjure up mental images of bitches and bling, fast cars, mansions and a generally lavish lifestyle. But let's face it - that's not what it's all about for all rappers, at least not for the Hilltop Hoods.

MCs Suffa (Matt Lambert) and Pressure (Daniel Smith), and DJ Debris (Barry Francis) are the men behind the music of the Hoods, all key figures on the Australian hip hop scene, which has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. But when the Hoods started out, it was in its infancy, and their goal wasn't to get on top of the game.

"It was about us bludging school and stealing liquor from our parents' liquor cabinets and getting drunk and having fun," Smith laughed. "And it kind of evolved from there."

Suffa and Pressure met up in a high school in the hills of Adelaide, South Australia, and later were introduced to DJ Debris. The three were friends first, united by a shared love of hip hop culture.

"I guess it's the friendship the three of us has that bonds us closely, as well as our love of music," he said. "I think it's a good foundation to have as a group."

Today, the group is considered by many to be a driving and defining force in the industry.

"It was always a hobby for us - it was fun, it was just a passion that we had. It was something we did because we enjoyed doing it."

The Hoods didn't actually start making a living off their music until 2003 when their album, The Calling , finally blew up on the radio.

Since then, their full-length efforts have been met with critical acclaim from the industry. One of their more recent releases, The Hard Road: Restrung , was a labour of love that forced the Hoods back into the studio to tweak all of the tracks from The Hard Road so they could be accompanied by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

"We recreated the album with a 32-piece orchestra, which was quite a challenge," Smith said. "It was something very different for us. Normally, our music is very kind of old school, sample-driven hip hop. So to work with a symphony orchestra was an amazing experience."

What started out as a simple remix project turned out to be a lengthy and tedious task, as the artists ran into serious issues with tuning their tracks, ultimately pitch shifting all of their music to work with the orchestra's piano.

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