Based out of Adelaide, Australia, Hilltop Hoods has been performing for over 20 years.
courtesy Hype Music

Hilltop Hoods offer you a shot of sweat

Seasoned Aussie rappers bring their eclectic style to Calgary

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Hilltop Hoods are one of Australia's premier hip-hop groups, and with multi-platinum sales under their belts, that assessment is pretty accurate. The ensemble -- who recently celebrated 20 years together -- is widely known for their energetic delivery and slick lyrics. Their recent release, Drinking from the Sun, is yet another step for the group that started as three teenagers at a high school in Adelaide.

For MC Pressure, the album's title is the most obvious sign that the band, and indeed the genre, is on the rise.

"It's more of a metaphor -- hip hop, for a long time, was this underground thing and now it's basking in commercial success, so we're kind of coming from an underground place into the light of day."

For Pressure and the rest of the band, getting out of that underground place hasn't been easy. When Hilltop Hoods was first forming, the financial realities of being musicians hit them hard. Their first album, 1999's A Matter of Time, wasn't touched by record labels, as it was perceived as too "niche" -- three white guys from Australia isn't the stereotypical rap-group mould.

But the Hoods kept at it, eventually securing a government grant to self-distribute and self-produce the album. Pressure recognizes the importance of that grant for the band, and he says the band seeks to give back with their musical initiative, simply titled "The Hilltop Hoods Initiative" -- a $10,000 grant given to one Australian hip-hop artist each year.

"We just want to grow the community and give other aspiring artists the same opportunity we had," Pressure states. "It wasn't just the money, though -- the exposure from winning the grant gave us a little bit of buzz, and that's always helpful for someone just starting out."

Quite a bit of time has passed since the mid-'90s, though, and today the group is celebrating their second platinum single, "I Love It." Pressure says that the success of the single is nice, but there wasn't much selection in terms of how they wanted to introduce the album.

"Part of the reason why we chose 'I Love It' -- and we put it out three months ago, which is a huge lead time ahead of an album -- was because it was one of three tracks that was actually done." Many artists know that feeling well -- sometimes a piece is done way before the entire album, and it does no good to squat on it.

Another thing many artists know is how pleasant it is to work with big names in the industry. In the case of Drinking from the Sun, the Hoods jumped on the opportunity to work with some big names.

"The two main guys we wanted to get on this album were Chali 2na and Black Thought, because we're huge Jurassic 5 and Roots fans," says Pressure. "Our lists [of who we want to collaborate with] are pretty similar because we grew up together, so there are a lot of the same influences."

But just because you enjoy a lot of success and work with some of the most notable people in your genre doesn't mean that you aren't human, as Pressure found out while writing the album.