Hilltop Hoods are an Australian hip hop group that formed in 1994 in Adelaide, South Australia. The group's founders are Suffa (Matt Lambert) and MC Pressure (Daniel Smith), who were joined by DJ Debris (Barry Francis) after fellow founder, DJ Next (Ben Hare), left in 1999. The group released its first extended play, Back Once Again, in 1997 and have subsequently released six studio albums, three DVDs and a "restrung" version of the 2006 album, The Hard Road. Three of their albums have peaked at number one on the ARIA Albums Charts: The Hard Road, State of the Art (2009) and Drinking from the Sun (2012). Two tracks have reached the top 10 on the related ARIA Singles Chart, "Chase That Feeling" (2009) and "I Love It" featuring Sia Furler (2011).
Hilltop Hoods have toured both in Australia and overseas, including playing at music festivals: T in the Park, Oxegen, the Big Day Out, Clipsal 500, Southbound, The Great Escape, Splendour in the Grass, Bassinthegrass, Groovin' The Moo, Falls Festival, Pyramid Rock Festival, Rollercoaster, Come Together Festival and Make Poverty History.
At the ARIA Music Awards of 2006 they won 'Best Independent Release' and 'Best Urban Album' for The Hard Road. In 2007 they won 'Best Urban Album' for their remix album, The Hard Road: Restrung (2007). They won the same category in 2009 for State of the Art and in 2012 for Drinking from the Sun. In 2009 Debris also won 'Engineer of the Year' for his work on State of the Art.
The first preview of the band's seventh studio album, Walking Under Stars, was uploaded to the Hilltop Hoods SoundCloud page on 21 June 2014, and the album was released in partnership with the Universal music company on 8 August 2014.
1987–2001: Formation, early years
Two of Hilltop Hoods' founders first met in 1987 when MC Suffa (aka Matthew David Lambert) and MC Pressure (Daniel Howe Smith) attended Blackwood High School in Eden Hills – a suburb of Adelaide. In 1991 they joined up with DJ Next (Ben John Hare) through a mutual friend and formed an Australian hip hop group. Their name was supplied by fellow local MC Flak (from Cross Bred Mongrels) – the suburb of Blackwood is known by locals as the Hilltop. The band's influences include American hip hop artists: Notorious B.I.G., KRS-One, Gang Starr, Wu-Tang Clan and Public Enemy.
At live shows Next was the group's DJ, for recording he contributed audio engineering and all the scratches on their early works. He regularly competed in the local Disco Mix Club (DMC) tournaments, winning South Australian DMC champion multiple times. Hilltop Hoods recorded a demo, Highlanderz, which was released on cassette tape only. As well as Pressure and Suffa on vocals, the group included MC Summit aka DJ Sum-1, but he did not appear on later Hilltop Hoods work.
The group's first official release, in 1997, was a vinyl-only, seven-track extended play, Back Once Again. Production was handled by DJ Debris (Barry John M Francis), scratches by Next, vocals by Pressure and Suffa. The third track, "Shades of Grey", features Debris with a verse, and was co-written by Francis, Hare, Lambert and Smith. Fifth track, "Mankind Must Suffa" also features a guest verse from Quromystix (aka Quro, Andrew Michael Bradley) – a member of Finger Lickin' Good and later the Fuglemen. "Mankind Must Suffa" is credited to Lambert, Smith, Francis and Bradley. Back Once Again is out of print and unavailable for retail purchase.
The group's debut studio album, A Matter of Time, was released in 1999 on CD only. As with Back Once Again, it is now unavailable for retail purchase. All scratches are performed by Next, a track, "Let Me Show You", has no vocals – solely showcasing his turntable skills. American MC Bukue One (Tion Torrence) appears for a guest verse on "Deaf Can Hear". The track is credited to Lambert, Smith, Francis, Hare and Torrence. The album was released independently but with financial assistance from Arts SA – the band were inspired, in 2005, to set up their own Hilltop Hoods Initiative, to help local artists. After the album appeared, Next left the group and moved to Melbourne. By 2005 Next had established a mixtape website, as of December 2012 he has been a freelance web developer for 13 years and was based in Adelaide. In 1999 Debris, who was also a member of the Cross Bred Mongrels, replaced Next and became the Hilltop Hoods' full-time DJ.
Hilltop Hoods founded the Certified Wise Crew – a hip hop collaborative – with local groups Terra Firma, Cross Bred Mongrels and After Hours. Certified Wise Crew has since expanded to include MCs Trauma, Blockade, Kolaps, Flea, with Vents and Funkoars joining in later years. Hilltop Hoods received two nominations for the Hip Hop Act of the Year Award at the Australian Dance Music Awards and again at the 3D World Music Awards in 2001 and 2002. In 2001 the group's second album, Left Foot, Right Foot, was released with Lambert, Francis and M. Veraquth producing.