Published Apr 25, 2012While Adelaide-based rap group Hilltop Hoods are veterans of the rap scene in their native Australia, with 15 years in the game and several ARIA awards, they're relative newcomers to North America. Their latest album, Drinking from the Sun, is their first album with major label distribution in the U.S. Hilltop MCs Pressure and Suffa took a minute prior to their recent Toronto show to talk about the American market, playing festivals and angry couriers.
You guys have been around in Australia for a long time, but this is the first time you're getting some notice in North America.
Pressure: This is our first time outside of Australia with this album. It's hard to tell what kind of vibe you're getting out of a country until you get there, but I hope so.
I was watching Grimm the other day and one of your songs came on. I was like, "Huh?"
Suffa: Oh man, we were the same with it; we were like, "Oh man!"
Pressure: We did get our first deal in the States with this record, so that's probably helping.
Do you guys have trouble being taken seriously overseas, particularly in the U.S., because you're Australian?
Suffa: [In a fake American accent] "You're from Australia! That's adorable!" I don't think we've experienced it yet, but we're about to go do a bunch of shows in the States, so we'll see what happens. I think that the really urban side of things would never accept us anyway.
Pressure: The accent is too much for some people on the first listen and that really shuts them down.
Suffa: Yeah and we're never going to get to those people anyway, but we've never been really on the urban side of things. We've always been more on the alternative side of hip-hop. Most of the people we're going to be playing to are college kids and shit.
So that makes it less of an issue?
Suffa: It's less of an issue because we're essentially a party band. That translates no matter the accent.
One of the things I've noticed throughout your career is that you really like old soul samples and psychedelia samples and things like that. What's the sample searching process like for you?
Suffa: I don't go to record stores anymore; I dig online. I go to a lot of psychedelic blogs and '70s blogs and shit like that, and if I hear something I like, then I go buy it; I hit EBay or Amazon or Discogs or whatever. I can't be fucked with record stores anymore and where we're from, all the record stores are shut down anyway.
Pressure: Even before they shut down, he'd dug them to death.
Suffa: Yeah, so digging online is sick, but my courier fucking hates me. He came down the other day, literally threw a record at me at said, "I wanna get your Internet cut off," and stormed back up the driveway.
Are you serious?
Pressure: So what? He hates having business?
Maybe he shouldn't be a courier then?
Suffa: That's what I thought. I wanted to say that to him afterwards, but at the time, I was just so stunned that I didn't say anything.
Pressure: It's like the guys at your local cafeteria throwing your morning coffee at you.
Suffa: "Every fucking morning with the coffee!"
What's the most money you've ever spent for a record online?
Suffa: A record off this album would come close. It was $300 for the break for "Speaking in Tongues," which was a Body and Soul record. Having said that, it was more than we paid for [the rights to] the sample. They gave us the sample for free. That almost never happens. That's the first time it happened, for us.
Pressure: It was a great act of generosity.
There are a lot of cool collaborations on this album. How did you get hooked up with Classified? Is that a Commonwealth thing?
Pressure: He did support for a tour we did in Australia when [2009 album] State of the Art came out, and then we came back here and did a whole tour with him in Canada. We're really good mates with him and his whole crew, so it naturally just led to us asking him to jump on the track.
And Black Thought?
Suffa: That was our manager; he was on our wish list. We really wanted to work with Thought and he made that happen.
You guys do a lot of outdoor festivals. How do you adjust when you have to bring the show indoors?
Pressure: We do mess with it a little; it's good to do a smaller show sometimes. You get to do some slower tracks and some older tracks that they wouldn't like at a festival. That, and you get to play for longer, because it's your show.
Suffa: We have a lot of festivals in Australia.
Australia's a festival culture.
Suffa: We were saying before, we don't know why it's not a festival culture here.
Pressure: Because it snows.
Suffa: Yeah, but it's not like summer doesn't happen.
Pressure: Still, I think it's probably a climate thing.
Read a review of Drinking from the Sun here.