Mature vocals, musical sophistication, precise production and a tonne of guest collaborators rounds out a full-bodied new record from the Hilltop Hoods. These home-grown hip hop legends continue to lead the way for modern hip hop artists in addition to building a sustainable legacy for years to come with their willingness to collaborate.
Opening with a searing string section introduction, the thirty-five second titular track The Great Expanse pays tribute to the Hoods’ recent success with its Restrung tour. Followed by an overture of sorts with Into the Abyss, track number two brings heady vocals and layered beats and loops to the main themes of album –Themes such as not putting up with sh*t, balancing touring with family life, Clark Griswold gets a mention as does The Great Expanse.
Already showing great success on the charts, Leave Me Lonely proves the boys still have it, with fast-paced witty lyrics over strong beats, produced by rising star Plutonic Lab. Also responsible for producing Be Yourself, a swing-inspired funky tune featuring Ecca Vandal and Nyassa, Plutonic Lab demonstrates versatility and a keen ear for structure and timing with some well-placed scratching to finish up. I can’t wait to hear this song performed live with a full brass section and Adelaide talent Nyassa on stage.
Sell it all, Run Away featuring Timberwolf and Exit Sign featuring Illy and Ecca Vandal are both tracks that not only celebrate the exceptional emceeing we’ve all come to love from MCs Suffa and Pressure, but also their willingness to collaborate with great vocal talent to build a strong song narrative. The narrative in these two tracks is built around the theme of perspicacity (aka not putting up with sh*t) as stated in the lyrics “I’m sick of us not doing this right, that’s why I’m thinking of cutting you from my life. No more. I’ll be leaving here soon, I don’t mean to be rude but this scene ain’t for me, like your Mum seeing me nude.” Clark Griswold, the first single off the album paid tribute to another 80s pop icon from the National Lampoons family vacations.
Featuring Adrian Eagle, the airplay of this track and subsequent rise to prominence of this young Adelaide artist is well-deserved. OOFT (Ponda Baba) is another swinging soulful tune with pop references to not only Star Wars but Australian Crawl’s five note chorus in Reckless. Counterweight, my favourite track off the album, starts with a stirring acoustic guitar solo and is essentially MC Pressure’s solo piece on the album. As MC Pressure has stated, Counterweight is about dealing with your vices. It’s about finding balance in your life when you’ve got vices but a family life as well.
Together with What Becomes of Us, Counterweight demonstrates that MC Pressure isn’t afraid to step up to the microphone as lead vocalist, displaying a singing voice which is mellow, dramatic and robust. Fire and Grace featuring Ruel has a soulful pop resonance to it, as does the wistful yet pop-anthem-like Here Without You again featuring the wonderful Nyassa. The finale, H is For… lends itself perfectly to either opening a setlist, or finishing off with a resounding encore in a possible stadium tour. If this album is anything to go by, the next Australian tour from these top blokes is going to be phenomenal – I can’t wait!
Album Review By Kim Burley