Gazing at the Hilltop


11. Aug. 2007, 23:01

Hilltop Hoods recently released a reworked version of Hard Road, the Hard Road Restrung. Its a response to the incredible live performance at the ARIAs. I looked long and hard for a version of this song higher quality than YouTube as The Hard Road translates to classical extremely well. As if my wishes were answered, not only did Hilltop come through with Hard Road, the made an studio album.

The album is just beautiful, it makes my brain hurt to think Hilltop Hoods doesn't get any acknowledgement stateside as they're one of the most exciting hip hop groups, anywhere, under any classification.

Australian hip hop largely has been ignored by the US. I started thinking about that. Both Butterfingers and Hilltop hoods have mass appeal and well worthy of any hip hop head's ears. However, the relative isolation has allowed Australia to cultivate hip hop without being interfered. It parallels the better parts of American hip hop and seems somehow to have dodged some of the trends that have been hurting hip hop, like endless mixtapes, completely brain dead rap like crunk, hyphy, and screwed (for any overseas readers, two of those trends glorify drinking cough syrup to get high) and complete fantasy rap about bitches, hoes, dealing drugs and shoot outs. Sure there are a few acts in this same vain in Australia but at the same time there's hostility to Australian MCs who try and cover up their accent to sound American. This sort of attitude, while hard nosed has kept the culture true to Australia and taking the art form and rather than mimicing it to a fine point, they put their own twist on it. Australia mirrors the US with its often troubles with racism, so its only right that hip hop would cultivate and trhive in Australia (check The Brothahood if you don't believe me.) Brothahood is rather mediocre but they do illustrate the tension in cultures.

Australian hip hop as a whole is not grating or annoying like many of the UK "Garage" acts, which probably can only be appreciated in dark, blaring clubs of London after years of prolonged hard drug use. Instead, its authentic, and seems to have a bit more accessible than more recent rap. There's other international scenes, often lurid as much as the US. The Germans apparently have white supremacist rap with artists like Bushido which seems so much like an oxymoron that its dangerous enough to make the Universe implode. Fortunately Germany seems to be isolated as far as outright racist rap international as near as I know (Granted the US has had its cases, dead prez skate the line). Being monolingual like a majority of Americans, its hard to find non-english rap accessible, so most of this has been slanted towards English speaking places, but you can't talk about international hip hop without at least putting MC Solaar on the list. French hip hop, what I've heard is good but I can't really name many artists. There's also Sweden, who have a few groups that rap in English, like Loop troop and Denmark, like Pete Philly & Perquisite, but also feature plenty of rappers in their own native tongues. Japan has some dope MCs, but the names escape me.

I hardly count Canada as international being so close to the US that aside from measurement systems, better health care, and a few cosmetic differences but they've contributed to the international scene. Swollen Members reps BC well.

There's others too repping Australia like The Optimen and Lyrical Commission whom do right.

I'm hardly an expert on Australian rap, and I'm probably missing some big names but its the best scene for American fans to go digging if they're looking to find dope MCs off continent.


  • U2Angel

    Just bought The Hard Road Restrung yesterday. Really brilliant album.

    12. Aug. 2007, 6:31
  • honkynut

    Just enjoyed your journal post whilst listening to the original 'Hard Road'. Whilst I won't proclaim to be any sort of huge hip-hop fan or authority - it makes me mad when people associate the style with the mass market US crap base that suffers from what you describe - and consequently most people ignore a lot of quality stuff. As much as some of the attitude still irks me a little at times; I still love hearing my fellow aussie accents in acts like the Hilltop Hoods - but what makes good Hip-hop, IMHO, is something catchy with [i]intelligent[/i] rapping & story telling associated with it. I'm sure there are plenty of other quality US acts, but I when I do defend Hip-Hop & Rap to people - I quote the likes of Michael Franti, early Eric B & Rakim, Grandmaster Flash and some of Gil Scot-Heron's early proto-rap (to coin a phrase) - genuine heartfelt poetry put to music which makes you think about the context from whence it came. But when a style boils back down to image & just trying to out-attitude someone else - I switch off mightily quick. (oh and I should clarify... my handle aint a racial or sexual thing... it's sort of local acorn here in Australia :)

    17. Aug. 2007, 7:53
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