HILL­TOP IN THE HOOD

AUSSIE HIP HOP KINGS HEAD TO THE GOLD COAST TO GET THE GC600 PARTY STARTED

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - KATHY MCCABE

Most nights Daniel Smith spent be­side his eightyear-old son’s hos­pi­tal bed­side, he would write songs.

It was a way for the man known as MC Pres­sure to the le­gion of Hill­top Hoods fans to deal with Liam’s leukaemia as he un­der­went six months of chemo­ther­apy.

You don’t hear too many songs about can­cer. Through

the Dark, Smith’s hip hop nar­ra­tive of his son’s ill­ness and hopes for the fu­ture now he is in re­mis­sion, could be the song to break the taboo.

His long­time band mates Matt Lam­bert (MC Suffa) and Barry Fran­cis (DJ De­bris) had

to talk him into singing it rather than invit­ing a guest to reprise his guide vo­cal. Then they had to con­vince him to put it on their sev­enth stu­dio record, Walk­ing Un­der Stars.

They wanted “real life” on this al­bum.

Through the Dark, even though it has a hope­ful end­ing, will make you cry.

Lam­bert says most of the peo­ple who heard the song be­fore the record was re­leased in Au­gust had “bro­ken down”.

“Writ­ing that song is one of the hard­est things I have ever done,” Smith says.

“I wrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it through­out his ther­apy and he re­sponded very well to the treat­ment, so it be­came a song of hope and per­se­ver­ance.

“He’s good now, he’s do­ing nor­mal kid s---, go­ing to school. And there’s no sign of the can­cer.’’

A Hill­top Hoods al­bum could al­ways be pre­sented in the clas­sic, old-school record for­mat of two sides. The A side of Walk­ing

Un­der Stars would have the life les­son songs – Through the Dark, The Thirst, Live and Let Go and Pyra­mid Build­ing. And the B side brings the fun times with Cosby Sweater and The Art Of the Hand­shake and the pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tion with Won’t Let You Down. Cosby Sweater is a pop­cul­ture his­tory les­son for those who missed the 1980s sit­com

The Cosby Show. The star of the show, co­me­dian Bill Cosby, sported colour­ful chunky knits, many of which were de­signed by the Aus­tralian la­bel Coogi.

The jumpers be­came adopted by hip hop en­thu­si­asts when Big­gie Smalls made them part of his wardrobe.

Another shout-out to the good old days could spark a resur­gence in The Art Of the

Hand­shake. Re­mem­ber the reper­toire of elab­o­rate greet­ing rit­u­als em­ployed by the cool kids, which would go on for 20 seconds?

Suffa and Pres­sure do from their high school days. Now it’s all high fives. Lam­bert says the song was in­spired by a lyric about 20-sec­ond hand­shakes in a song by Cana­dian group Notes To Self.

“I love the idea of do­ing a song that is so earnest about some­thing so stupid,” Lam­bert says, laugh­ing.

Walk­ing Un­der Stars opens with emo­tive strings, a mo­tif the Hoods have em­braced since their ground­break­ing 2007 al­bum The Hard Road:

Re­strung, which reimag­ined

TWO FIN­GERS TO EV­ERY­ONE COM­PLAIN­ING ABOUT THEIR FIRST-WORLD PROB­LEMS. WE HAVE IT GOOD, WE HAVE IT LUCKY

their 2006 record with the Ade­laide Sym­phony Orches­tra.

“We’re very posh; we like strings,” Lam­bert ex­plains, grin­ning.

Smith adds: “We love the power and emo­tion strings can de­liver like no other in­stru­ment can.”

It seems in­con­gru­ous to con­tem­plate the Hoods as elder states­men of Aus­tralian hip hop, but it has been 15 years since they re­leased their de­but record and more than a decade since they took the genre from the un­der­ground to the main­stream pop charts with The Nose­bleed Sec­tion. Their last three al­bums have all hit No.1 on the ARIA chart.

The in­de­pen­dent crew, who are re­spected for their cre­ative and fi­nan­cial support of new artists, have main­tained their po­si­tion with­out in­dulging the cult of per­son­al­ity of hip hop’s other cliches.

“When you wake up to Is­rael, Pales­tine, Syria, Iraq, Isis, Ukraine, all that s--- in the morn­ing, it’s like ‘Je­sus Christ!’ I have a lovely house and I make mu­sic for a liv­ing,” Lam­bert says.

“Two fin­gers to ev­ery­one com­plain­ing about their first­world prob­lems. We have it good, we have it lucky.”

Hill­top Hoods, Thun­da­men­tals, Lil Jon and Komes, Ar­mor All Gold Coast’s 600 Sounds, Satur­day, Broad­wa­ter Park­lands.

Pic­ture: JAMES CROUCHER

Barry Fran­cis, Matt Lam­bert and Daniel Smith are Hill­top Hoods, who will be play­ing at the Broad­wa­ter Park­lands on Satur­day.

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