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Recently I've been trying to investigate new music after realising how little new stuff I actually listen to, with most of my music purchases rap albums from the 90's. I was discussing this with a good friend of mine who quickly disappeared and came back with this album (and indeed everything else the group have ever done), insisting I should try it. I was opened minded at the thought of an Australian rap group, I'd never heard any Aussie rap songs that I can recall but I do remember seeing a Australian rapper, Justice, win one of the top freestyle battle competitions and beat The Saurus, one of the better competitors about, in the final so I knew there were some skills there. Upon listening I couldn't have been happier to discover this group.
The Hard Road is the 2006 release from the Hilltop Hoods, the premier hip-hop act from Adelaide, their 4th full length album, and 5th release in total. The group consists of Mc Suffa, Pressure MC, and DJ Reflux, the group was originally formed in 1991 when the MC's were at school together, and released their first major EP in 1997. The MS's decided on the name after growing up in an area in south-eastern Adelaide nicknamed by the local youth as the hilltop, also with the help of local rapper Flak who suggested the full name Hilltop Hoods.
The band have received several awards in Australia for this album, while they can also be credited for basically creating a hip-hop scene in Adelaide and promoting hip-hop all across Australia.
(Sample information comes from wikipediea)
1 - Recapturing the Vibe
A decent enough start to the album but by no means one of the group's better tracks. The beats are nicely put together and the lyrics solid but nothing special.
2 - Clown Prince
The 2nd single from the album, Clown Prince is a track that reminds me of a mix between up and coming Geordie rapper Stig and American Hip-Hop legends The Pharcyde. The lyrics are a comedic track about drinking and the mc's bigging themselves up, whilst the production is sample heavy and can only be described as upbeat and bouncy. A great track.
"Laying Pipe" by Pornosonic
"Excursions" by A Tribe Called Quest
"Things Done Changed" by Notorious B.I.G.
3 - The Hard Road
One of my favourite songs from the Aussie rappers, The Hard Road is the story of each members youth and journey to where they are now. The lyrics in this one really work well and convey each members different paths well, these guys really seem to excel at tracks like this. The production features several different instruments, its sounds to me like they used a full band to record the music on this one instead of the usual rap trick of using drum machines and recorded loops. Love this track.
"Out In The Woods" by Leon Russell
4 - Stopping All Stations
A very clever song telling the bleak story of a war veteran involved in a violent mugging and a women who tries to help him. Each of the 3 verses takes the different perspective of the people involved, the old man first, the women second, and finally the thief. The story telling is fantastic, when you listen to the lyrics this song really grabs your attention well it certainly does mine. The music is again a major triumph, these guys really know how to produce a song, love this track.
"Ego Trippin' (Part II)" by De La Soul
"1-800 Suicide" by Gravediggaz
5 - Conversations from a Speakeasy feat Omni
A very blues/jazz sounding track with the hip-hop sound mixed in, some lovely samples and cuts, love the use of the piano. This track is my first experience with New York emcee Omni and I have to say I was impressed, he has a deeper sound than Suffer and Pressure and spits smoothly and confidently. Both HTH emcees come with their usual skills and do not disappoint. This is a track to put on to relax and unwind to, just sit back, listen and bounce your head.
"You Gots To Chill" by EPMD
6 - What a Great Night Intro
A quick interlude of one of the band members getting in drunk the morning after going out and being confronted by his partner.
7 - What a Great Night
The third single from the album, WAGN's music sounds very similar to the Lenny Kravitz track 'Get Away' and works well, I can see why this one was picked as a single, its catchy, bouncy, radio friendly and just all round a great song. In case you haven't guessed the lyrics are just about a night out and the next morning, plenty of celebrating drinking with your mates here, love it.
8 - City of Light
Another track telling the story of what the band members did before they made a success of themselves and what their experiences were in Adelaide. Another excellently produced track, its a very relaxing sound in contrast to the lyrics and there story of struggle.
9 - Obese Lowlifes feat Mystro and Braintax
A comedic track featuring British mc's, Mystro and a personal favourite of mine Braintax. The rappers are basically putting themselves down on this one while also taking shots at politicians Tony Blair, John Howard, and George Bush. It's quite a short song but works very well for what it is.
"These Walls Don't Lie" by Promoe
10 - Circuit Breaker
A fun, upbeat song that is again a major success when it comes to the music production, while the verses basically allow the mc's to have fun and show off their skills, the answerphone message at the end of the song is pretty funny.
"Professor Booty" by Beastie Boys
"Buddy" by De La Soul
11 - Breathe
One of my favourites on here, a laid back, piano laced track, this one has some of the best production I've ever heard outside of Dre, the Rza, and Gangstarr's DJ Premier, love the Biggie Smalls sample. A solo track by P De La Rocha, the lyrics are a reflective look on life.
"Unbelieveable" by Notorious B.I.G.
12 - The Blue Blooded feat The Blue Blooded Allstars
The whole BBA crew feature on this one, with each member getting between about 25-45 seconds verse time. Some very clever lyrics in this one, I guess that was bound to happen when so many emcees are put together, they are bound to try and out do each other. The music features a variety of instruments and comes out sounding very polished, as most of the album does.
Verse 1: Suffa
Verse 2: Mortar
Verse 3: Trials & Sesta
Verse 4: Hau
Verse 5: Drapht
Verse 6: Vents
Verse 7: Muphin & Pegz
Verse 8: Pressure
Verse 9: Honz
Verse 10: Pressure
13 - Monsters Ball
Musically excellent with great use of piano and violins, I'm beginning to feel like I'm writing similar things for the production of each track but that because I really can't find anything to fault. The lyrics are excellent, quite an interesting song overall.
14 - Audience with the Devil
More story telling, this time the Hilltop Hoods are meeting the Devil, the Devil is offering them the chance to join him by his side but also tells them it doesn't matter if they don't as human kind is destroying itself more everyday. The commentary on the state of the world hidden inside this story is powerful, lyrically this may be the hoods most clever track.
Contains samples from an episode of "Millennium" entitled "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me"
15 - The Captured Vibe feat DJ Reflux
An instrumental track mixed by DJ Reflux, I'm not quite sure what purpose this has here, it does sound decent but it does seem quite odd to feature an instrumental on such a high quality album.
16 - Ya Feel Big? (secret track)
A very Wu-Tang sounding track, this really should have been included on the album as a main track such is the quality. The production is almost haunting, while the lyrics are an attack on some of the bad side of the hip-hop culture and how jealousy grows among rivals and haters once you gain a little success. Two lines really stand out to me - 'I love hip-hop, but f*ck me, sometime it don't seem like hip-hop loves me', 'I never dropped the ball for 200 grand, I'd rather be poor and have 200 fans'.
Overall a deserved 9/10 for one of the best albums I've heard in years, I haven't been so excited about discovering new music since I heard Sway back in 2004. Australian hip-hop must truly get no love as this group released their first album in 1997, yet I've only just heard of them in this past month and I've been listening to rap for about 15 years, music of this quality deserves to be heard by a world wide audience. For some the Australian accent may not work for you in rap (doesn't bother me, I've been known to listen to several foreign rap styles, apart from the UK and US stuff), but no one can take away from the production of this group, they really excel in this area. I recommend this for any rap fans interested in quality lyrics and production.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Recapturing the Vibe
2 Clown Prince
3 Hard Road
4 Stopping All Stations
5 Conversations from a Speakeasy - Hilltop Hoods,
6 What a Great Intro
7 What a Great Night (DNR)
8 City of Light
9 Obese Lowlifes - Braintax, Hilltop Hoods, Mystro
10 Circuit Breaker
12 Blue Blooded - Funkoars, , Hilltop Hoods, , , , Vents
13 Monsters Ball
14 Audience with the Devil
15 Captured Vibe