May 17, 2010

Reader Review: Hilltop Hoods - State Of The Art (June 12, 2009)

(For today's Reader Review, Miguel (who used to have his own blog, Music Lives, in case you were familiar with his work) visits Australia to spin State Of The Art by the Hilltop Hoods. Be sure to leave some comments for Miguel below.)

Now, not much is known of the Australian hip hop scene, and I for one, could not care less about anything else besides the musical aspect of it. From what I have gathered, they seem to appreciate the importance of making music Down Under, much more so than the image and the lifestyle. (This is a trait that American hip hop artists can learn from.) Today, I am going to review the country's most famous group, the Hilltop Hoods, whom most folks (including myself, at least until recently) have never even heard of. But first, a little history for the sake of it.

Hilltop Hoods consists of Suffa, Pressure, and DJ Debris. The crew was established way back in 1991, when the three met in high school. They connected based upon a mutual love of all things hip hop: they often list their influences as The Notorious B.I.G., KRS-One, Gang Starr, and the Wu-Tang Clan, although none of these acts seem to have made their mark in the group's musical style. After a decade of working crowds at live shows and rap competitions, the Hilltop Hoods were finally noticed by the Australian media, and they were quickly signed to Obese Records, which I'd assume was an American label if I didn't know any better.

Their first major release, The Calling, was the first Australian hip-hop album to ever go gold and then platinum in the country (which means only 35,000 and 70,000 units sold, respectively,) and their second release, The Hard Road, did just as well, with critics praising the band's extensive sampling and the multi-syllabic lyrics (which are only impressive if they mean something, but I digress.) After a few years of extensive touring, they released their third major label album, State of the Art, which is quite an arrogant album title if you can't live up to it.

Let's see if they can.

There's no rap album intro, which is a huge plus already. The beat hits hard, and the rappers seem to just verbally flex. The GZA/Genius sample was a nice touch, too.

A pleasant jazzy beat with heavy drums. Lyrically, this track falls on the side of “The Return” and not so much those on their previous two efforts, but there is a bit more depth to be found on here.

The big single from the album, which means jack shit to us American listeners. The repetitive use of the chorus does make this song stick with you, but in a good way. Suffa’s voice is much easier to understand than Pressure’s, as his accent isn’t nearly as thick. Sorry, just noticed I haven’t mentioned the accent thing yet, but it stood out rather noticeably on here. The beat has a pleasant piano loop, and I really wish I knew what this was sampling.

I wasn’t really feeling this one, as it’s too in your face, at least when compared to the last three songs. Supposedly, it's about the rap industry, but listening to Common (Sense)'s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” (which is mentioned on this song, non-coincidentally) would make for much more constructive use of your time. You should listen once and never go back.

Not knowing the origins of these samples bothers me, butI do know that the music here wasn't lifted from the similarly titled Elton John or Monica songs. Oh, and this goes back to the pleasant sound I prefer hearing from the group. The hook is decent enough, and the lyrics about the band’s history are worth hearing. Also, Suffa brings his A-game, while Pressure brings more of a B+

Pharoahe Monch? I was not expecting that at all. (Well, the first time I heard this I wasn’t expecting that, anyway.) He contributes a nice guest verse in a good, but not great song, with a chorus comprised of Common samples.

I’m feeling this shit; the one billion references (yes, I counted) to celebrities that died too young should get old, but doesn't, and that makes “Chris Farley” an ironic party song that makes you want to party while advising against it at the same time.

Pressure finally adjusts his flow, and doesn’t do a bad job with a sped-up delivery. The beat is a bit harder than previously, but it still works, especially with the nice guitar sample contained within The chorus is a sample from someone that sounds like it could be No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, but I can’t be too sure. Trials sounds comfortable, but doesn’t add much to the song. I am not sure what the Nas samples at the end were supposed to do, but at least they didn’t take anything away from the song, I guess?

The beat is strange, but I love it. The Hilltop Hoods are at least keeping up with the high standards they set with their previous two efforts. I’m happy with this.

A Pressure solo song that is leaps and bounds more serious than the rest of this album has been so far. The blues piano/violin-driven beat works really well.

Another sick beat, courtesy of Suffa and DJ Debris, that the two emcees do a good amount with. I would like to know who keeps chanting “Hillatoppa”, though.

Suffa takes us through the past fifty years in, yeah, you guessed it, five minutes. He does a commendable job at hitting all the basic points, and the beat is pleasant without intruding on the lyrics, which are the obvious focus on here. A nice way to end the album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: State of the Art by Hilltop Hoods really impressed me, as it has extremely strong production the whole way through. Although the accents from the emcees might confuse you at first, you'll adapt to it fairly quickly. There is something for everyone on here, and for the all-around hip hop fan, this definitely helps promote Australia’s hip-hop scene, whatever that may actually be.

BUY OR BURN: If you can find this, definitely buy it. If you have to order it online, it's worth it, since every song with the exception of one works well. Hopefully they release all the instrumentals at some point, as well.

BEST TRACKS: “Super Official”; “Chase That Feeling”; “Still Standing”; “Chris Farley”; “Parade of the Dead”; “Hillatoppa”

- Miguel

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Be sure to leave your thoughts below.)


  1. AnonymousMay 17, 2010

    whats with all the international bullshit?

    you have people reviewing french garbage and now this and you still dont have a review of the new deck?

  2. Hilltop. Been a fan of these guys for a while. I was first drawn in by the fact that it was Aussie rap, but they are a pretty solid group (though a bit too heavy on the samples).

    Good review.

  3. AnonymousMay 17, 2010

    review the binary star masters of the universe pleaseeeeeeee

  4. AnonymousMay 17, 2010


  5. lol, haters. People who can't appreciate the use of samples are really missing out. It's part of the culture.

    The sample in "Chase That Feeling" is "Pass the Word" by Mad Lads, and the main loop in "Still Standing" is "Your Teeth In My Neck" by Scientist.

  6. Tile GroutMay 18, 2010

    @ Anonymous: why don't you write a review of "the new deck"? I'm not being sarcastic; the reader reviews on this site are good reads and your perspective could be a counterweight to some of the album reviews that you aren't feeling. All I know is that writing a reader review that's posted on HHID is on my bucket list.

  7. Thank you Chantelle and Jeff, and for the first anonymous, why are you in such a rush to see the new Deck album get trashed? (because it will)

  8. check out bliss en eso equally as good and also australian.

  9. you should review their other two (major) albums; The Calling and The Hard Road

  10. great review! as a Hoods fan i'm skeptic on some of the criticism on some of Pressure's work- none the less a good review.

    If u get the time perhaps listen to their release Drinking From The Sun (2012). The 1st part of a double LP release.

    It came in at #22 out of the "Best 80 Hip-hop albums for 2012" on this US blog site!