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This past Labor Day weekend Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival played host to some of the brightest stars in electronic dance music, but it was Hip-Hop and its rebellious spirit that will remain in the brains of Windy City concertgoers.
Raucous performances by the likes of Action Bronson, Talib Kweli, and Riff Raff entertained festivalgoers, and show stealing sets by headliners Kid Cudi, and Snoop Dogg capped off the weekend’s events.
Performing to a late arriving yet enthusiastic crowd Southern Australian trio Hilltop Hoods made new fans during their hour-long set in Chicago’s sweltering heat. New to America, but not new to the music business the Hoods are comprised of Suffa, MC Pressure, and DJ Debris.
The group recently released its seventh studio album, Walking Under Stars. The album features appearances by Maverick Sabre, Drapht, Aaradhna, Dan Sultan, and Brother Ali. In support of the album Hilltop Hoods are touring North America to expose this part of the globe to their brand of Hip-Hop.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Hilltop Hoods about their performance at the North Coast Music Festival, exposing American fans to their music, and their new album, Walking Under Stars.
TRHH: What’s it mean to you guys to perform at the North Coast Music Festival?
MC Pressure: North Coast Festival is an amazing opportunity for us. It’s our first time in Chicago so it means that we’re like fresh meat in front of an audience that don’t know who the fuck we are. It’s like starting all over again for us. We get to go out there, prove ourselves, have a lot of fun, meet new people, meet with our fan base, and connect with people we’ve never played in front of before, so it’s huge for us to be able to play this festival.
TRHH: How do you feel your set went?
Suffa: It was okay. We were early and we weren’t expecting anything. That’s the key when it comes to stuff like that. It was hot, but by the end we had a crowd and they were rocking with us. We enjoyed it.
MC Pressure: It’s kind of interesting to watch people’s faces. They kind of walk up with not much expectation and by the end of it those same people are kind of getting into it. That’s the reward for us.
TRHH: How is it different performing in the States versus performing in Australia?
Suffa: We’ve been doing it for a long time back home and we’re established. If we play a festival set like that back in Australia we’re usually on a headline spot so we’re playing to 10-20,000 people. You adjust your mindset and you’re playing to a few hundred, but we try to give the same set wherever we go regardless. If it’s 200 people or 20,000 we try to give the exact same energy. Your sun doesn’t help though [laughs].
MC Pressure: I thought the “C” in Chicago was meant to be fucking cold! You’re a bunch of liars. TV has lied to me [laughs].
TRHH: [Laughs] Hey, it’s the summer time, it’s going to be hot. Explain the title of the new album ‘Walking Under Stars’.
Suffa: This is part two of a set of albums we’ve done. We did ‘Drinking from the Sun’ in 2012 and this is the second record in the set of two. Drinking from the Sun was about Hip Hop in our country coming to the surface and becoming popular. Walking Under Stars is sort of like a celebration of that a little bit.
TRHH: What inspired the single ‘Won’t Let You Down’?
Suffa: Wifey [klaughs]. That’s a song about our partners. We were working with Maverick Sabre who has such a soulful voice and it lends itself to that sort of song. Wifey is a big fan of Maverick as well so it’s almost a gift to her as well getting one of her favorite singers on a track dedicated to her.
TRHH: The video was crazy! Who came up with that?
Suffa: [Laughs] I wrote most of our video treatments. There were a lot of people confused on Twitter, Facebook, and the Youtube comments and everything. I said it on Twitter and I mean it, I’d rather confuse you than bore you.
MC Pressure: Some people were just outright angry with the confusion that it caused saying, “I fucking hate this video ‘cause I don’t get it! It’s dope, but I don’t get it! Fuck you!”
Suffa: It polarized people. Some people were like, “I fuckin’ love it, this is really different.”
TRHH: I liked it.
Suffa: Oh cool, thank you.
TRHH: How’d you wind up working with Brother Ali on ‘Live & Let Go’?
MC Pressure: I’ve been a big fan of Ali and so have the other boys. In the last ten years everything he’s dropped has been dope. I’m a big fan of pretty much most of the shit that the Rhymesayers camp puts out. Our manager touched bases with Ashanti, his manager and we ended up meeting up with him in New York. We were recording at the Red Bull Studios there so we ended up hanging out with him for a couple days, getting to know him, and recording the track. It was a really fucking good opportunity for us to make a track organically. It’s so easy with the internet these days to throw someone a 16 bar verse or a beat or whatever. It was really good to have the opportunity to sit in the studio. All of us wrote our raps in the studio the day that we recorded them together. We were all on the same page so I think it really helped with the whole vibe and authenticity of the song as well.
Suffa: We’re working through our favorite emcees — emcee by emcee. We’ve worked with Pharoahe, Black Thought, Chali 2na, and now Ali.
DJ Debris: It’s a bucket list.
TRHH: Who’s next?
Suffa: I don’t want to say in case they don’t want to work with us [laughs].
TRHH: You guys have been around for a while and are big in Australia, but how important is it for the group to make it big in the U.S.?
Suffa: It’s not. That sounds weird but we’re ambitious with music and we work hard and everything, but we don’t lay there at night going, “We’ve gotta make it, we’ve gotta make it.” We’re established back home, we’ve toured for years, we’ve bought our houses, we’ve got our families set up, so if we can get it popping over here it’s definitely a bonus and something we’d love, but as far as priorities go, our priorities are family and shit like that. Ambition goes down the page a bit.
MC Pressure: I think the bottom line is as long as we can make a living off of our music and be comfortable, that’s enough. We don’t have to be rich or the biggest. As long as we’re comfortable and we can make the music that we want to make, tour, and bring it to people – especially overseas. It’s a gift for us to be able to come over here and perform to several hundred people at a side show. Ten years ago I never would have dreamed that I could come to the States, the birthplace of Hip Hop, and be able to perform in front of 3-4-500 people at our own show. That’s a gift for us. It’s almost like a luxury.
Suffa: But if it does pop off then we’ll take that [laughs].
MC Pressure: Of course. I think that’s the best attitude to have. You can’t try to blow up. You just have to make the music that you’re feeling, be authentic, and make sure your music is you. If it happens, cool. That’s the only way to blow up. You can’t just aim to blow up. You come up fast and you disappear just as fast.
TRHH: What do you guys think of Iggy Azalea and how are people feeling her back home in Australia?
Suffa: She’s just as popular back home as she probably is here. She’s pretty big with the kids. To be honest I can’t comment on her because I’m outside that world. I’m listening to the new Roots album, Pharoahe’s P.T.S.D., and that type of music. I haven’t even heard her so I can’t comment on her. Most people consider her an American artist because she’s lived here for such a long time and she uses the American accent. It’s very much rap music rather than Hip-Hop.
MC Pressure: She’s a product of the American music industry and not the Australian industry. Obviously she was born in Australia, but her music comes from here. People don’t look at her like homegrown music.
Suffa: She’s successful; more power to her, fuck it.
TRHH: You guys are touring North America for all of September, what do you have in-store for fans that come and see your show?
DJ Debris: Hopefully less hot weather [laughs]. No, we’ve got a bunch of songs off the new album that we’re slowly introducing on this tour. We’ve got songs from our last album, what more can we say?
Suffa: We’ve got a live drummer Plutonic Lab. We’re just trying to bring energy. It’s exciting for us to be in a new territory so every time we come out we’re trying to bring as much energy as we can.
MC Pressure: It’s not even like a manufactured energy. We played in Minneapolis last night and I was like, “I hope someone walks up to this gig.” We had a few hundred people in there and that’s fucking amazing! That’s exciting to us.
DJ Debris: We played Madison and that was hype as shit.
MC Pressure: Pardon my ignorance but I didn’t even know where Madison was before we rocked up there in a bus. We rocked out at a show to a gang of motherfucker’s that knew our music. That’s a privilege.
TRHH: What’s next up for Hilltop Hoods?
Suffa: We go back to Australia. We’re doing our tour over there finally. We haven’t toured Australia for like two years so people at home are starting to get mad [laughs].
MC Pressure: They’re mad at us because we came to North America before we did home!
Suffa: It’s hot over here so we’re waiting for the Australian summer to tour probably. We’ll tour hard for the next year, hopefully be back here next year again and in Europe around July. We’re just going to hug the road really.
Purchase: Hilltop Hoods – Walking Under Stars
See Hilltop Hoods on tour:
9.05.14 – Bluebird Theater – DENVER
9.06.14 – The Aggie – FORT COLLINS
9.07.14 – Park City Live – PARK CITY
9.09.14 – The Roxy – LOS ANGELES
9.11.14 – Crocodile – SEATTLE
9.12.14 – Commodore – VANCOUVER
9.13.14 – Rifflandia Festival – VICTORIA
9.15.14 – Garfinkel’s – WHISTLER
9.16.14 – Wild Bill’s – BANFF
9.18.14 – Dinwoodie – EDMONTON
9.19.14 – SAIT – CALGARY
9.20.14 – O’Brien’s Event Centre – SASKATOON
9.24.14 – Underworld – MONTREAL
9.25.14 – The Hoxton – TORONTO
9.27.14 – Brooklyn Bowl – NEW YORK
9.28.14 – Middle East – CAMBRIDGE