Monday, March 13, 2006

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HILLTOP HOODS interview in Sydney Morning Herald

Hip-hop crew stays true blue
March 12, 2006
A high school friendship has turned professional, Christine Sams writes.

HAVING just emerged from a recording studio, Matt Lambert (known as "Suffa" from the Hilltop Hoods) is getting reacquainted with friends and family. "I'm just getting familiar with my girlfriend again," Suffa says, laughing. "Like, for the last three weeks we've honestly been in the studio for about 80 hours a week." The long hours have been spent recording the final mixes for the Hilltop Hoods' next album, The Hard Road, which is due out early next month.

But having been crowned kings of Aussie hip-hop after the wide-ranging success of their last album, The Calling, the hip-hop threesome has experienced something new in the studio - the pressure of expectation.

"We were all [feeling it] a bit this time around," says band member Daniel Smith (whose stage name, ironically, is "Pressure"). "We never have before because we never had anyone expecting much of us. The success The Calling had was a complete shock to us. A lot of people are asking whether we can repeat it with this album, but whether we do or don't, I think we're happy with the album we've just made."

The three members of Hilltop Hoods - Suffa, Pressure and Debris (Barry Francis) - met at Blackwood High School in South Australia, at a time when most of their peers were immersed in US hip-hop. "It could be we don't play guitars because of a lack of hand-eye co-ordination," Suffa says, jokingly. "But it's mainly because everyone in our high school was into hip-hop - and I mean everyone. Our generation was the one coming through when Public Enemy was huge, Run DMC, that sort of thing, Ice T and LL Cool J."

Despite the strong, early influence of American rappers and hip-hop artists, the South Australian group slowly developed their own style, which included sticking with their Aussie accents - a movement that was already happening among some underground acts in Australia, including groups in Sydney and Melbourne.

But Suffa says there are still two distinct camps within the local hip-hop scene: those being themselves and those trying to be American. "We've still got people in the scene that are ashamed of being Australian and have to put on an American accent," he says. "It's a shame the young people are listening to them too. You can tell the difference between the two camps, mainly by the people who want commercial success versus the people that want to make music and have some credibility."

It's a good thing the members of Hilltop Hoods stuck to their guns when it came to using their local accents. These days, Aussie hip-hop is more popular than ever, with radio stations including Triple J leading the charge when it comes to regular airplay. "It is a sign of the times, that hip-hop really is the music of the youth," says Pressure, now 28. "These young people, who've been listening to it since their early teens, are getting older and turning 18 and going to shows now. They've got their own jobs and their own money and they're putting it into purchasing products made by Australian hip-hop artists, so it really is a growing factor in the music industry. The major labels know this and that's why they're starting to sign Australian hip-hop acts."

In the meantime, Hilltop Hoods will continue leading the charge with their new album, which Suffa says has turned out to be a little "darker". "We didn't mean it to happen that way - it's a bit more intense," he says. But the upbeat energy and creative passion shared by the three musicians has remained the same. "That's one of the reasons we've stayed together so long: the crew was based on the friendship between us," Pressure says. "All three of us still love doing it, we're enjoying ourselves. As long as that continues I think it'll reflect in our music."

SMH original article

Hilltop Hoods website

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