From rabblerousing young-bloods, known for their self-proclaimed knuckle-head lyrics, the Hilltop Hoods have risen to Australian hip-hop royalty. And after nearly two decades of churning out music—reaping awards and accolades along the way—the lads from Adelaide show no sign of slowing down.
Between mixing, mastering and rehearsing for their biggest tour to date, one of the Hoods’ founding fathers, MC Suffa (Matt Lambert) took a breather from the studio and spoke to Grok about the looming world tour, the eclectic track compilation of The Great Expanse, and the evolution of their music in the last 16 years.
Joking about the size of the tour, with 50 shows spanning 14 countries, Suffa joked that their manager was either ramping it up or might be trying to kill them.
“Our manager doesn’t give us much of a choice to be honest,” he said. “We were in rehearsals the other day and we put together this 20-song set. We’ve got 50 dates coming up, so if anything, that’s our most hectic tour that we’ve ever done; Twenty songs and 50 shows that’s one thousand songs.”
Keeping their street-cred alive, when asked about a standout story from their time on their road, Suffa alluded to the crew’s rebellious years.
“I mean the best stories I could never talk about.”
“I’ve had my favourite festival moments, like playing Splendour for the first time,” said Suffa, “but, otherwise it’s like law and order—the names and everything have to be changed to protect the innocent.”
A live fast and die young attitude is how the guys from Blackwood would have originally been described by their fans. Now, as fathers with young children, this attitude only rings true to their music.
“If I had a heart-attack tomorrow there’s not three albums of unreleased material we’d leave behind,” Suffa said.
Perhaps their latest record is a tribute to this. Unlike previous records, with clear messages and themes, The Great Expanse was named for its disjointed sound. Veterans in this realm, the Hoods have resolved to keep creating and releasing music to their fans, even if that makes for a gruelling process deciding on the track order to bring the puzzle together.
Suffa said it was a hard line to walk.
“It’s an eclectic bunch of tracks with no clear theme or recurring underlying thing to tie it together. You want variation, but you want to album to be cohesive as well. We got that variation by choosing the songs and we tried to make it cohesive by giving a track order that made sense,” he said.
The patchwork collection found on the album also gives the music space to sonically blend the new with the old.
“We choose a song like Leave me Lonely because it feels like a very Hood’s song and we’re like ‘well we’ve got to have that on our album because that’s so Hood’s’ and then we’ve got a song at the end of the album H is For… which is different for us.”
Suffa said he hoped the evolution from their breakthrough track Nosebleed section—which was written in a night—to the tighter, cleaner sound their latest record boasts, is recognised by fans.
“If you compare anything off our 2003 record The Calling to what we write now, I think there’s a pretty vast gap. Hopefully they’re sonically a lot cleaner, a lot more dynamic.”
Adding another layer to the sound on the Hood’s discography, a collaboration with Illy and Ecca Vandal for their popular new track Exit Sign, brings original flair to their latest album.
“We’ve done a track before on his record, but we’ve never done one on our record. He’s a buddy we knock around with, so working with him is really natural,” Suffa said.
“Ecca we hadn’t met before we did the song with her. She ended up coming on the Groovin’ tour with us and we got to know her a bit better. She’s a beast.”
So what can fans expect when Hilltop take on their biggest tour to date, kicking off in Auckland and closing out in Honolulu with forty-odd shows in between?
Suffa says to expect the unexpected.
“We’re playing a bunch of stuff off the new album, [but] we’re also playing a bunch of older tracks and maybe a couple that people don’t expect to hear. We’re trying to give a huge stage production and have a few surprise guests and that sort of thing.”
Ultimately, he says it’s going to be their best tour yet.
The Great Expanse World Tour takeover Australian stages from August 9 to September 7.
Shows are selling fast, visit their website for more information.