How quickly the world changes. By the time Beat goes to print, Adelaide hip hop royalty Hilltop Hoods will have flown in at the 11th hour to close out this year’s edition of Splendour in the Grass as a stand-in for an absent Chance the Rapper. With a bevy of guests and a full-scale production, the trio pulled out one of the best performances of the entire weekend.
Just a few days prior to all of that, however, the Hoods were simply chilling at home – a calm before the storm of their second-ever arena tour, taking place this August.
“It’s a good crew,” says Matt Lambert, aka Suffa MC, as he details the ensemble that are part of the upcoming tour in support of their most recent album, The Great Expanse. “We’ve got Plutonic Lab on the drums, as always. He’s indispensable. Our horn section are guys that we play with every time we do Australian shows, and sometimes when we’re over in London as well. This will be our first tour with Nyassa doing vocals with us. She is on a couple of tracks on The Great Expanse, so it made sense to bring her out as a part of the show. The plan is to have a few special guests every night, as well.”
When asked if there was any pressure on the group to scale up their performances to match their first arena tour – the Drinking From The Sun, Walking Under Stars: Restrung tour of 2016 – Lambert confesses there’s an element of that. From his perspective, it’s about finding the right fit to coalesce with their vision of how a Hilltop Hoods show should go down.
“Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up MCs and DJs hip hop show,” he says. “I saw the Beastie Boys do just that, and it was – to this day – one of the best shows that I’ve ever seen. I think, for us, it was about going big. You can’t top something like the Restrung tour – it was never about matching up to that. For us, a tour like that and a tour like this one are like apples and oranges.
“People came to those shows with a very specific theme and an idea in mind, whereas this tour is more about a celebration of this new album we’ve just put out into the world. We just want to make this a huge show, as big and as exciting as we can make it.”
The Hoods will also present an open challenge to their audiences with their choice of main support for the tour: Melbourne singer Mojo Juju, who scored the biggest critical acclaim of her career with last year’s arresting Mother Tongue LP. Her wide-ranging, dark and soulful music is a far cry from ‘Cosby Sweater’ – a fact not lost on Lambert and co.
“She’s a bad motherfucker,” he says of his future tour mate. “We get the idea that our audience might not be perceived as being open-minded, but we’ve genuinely been so inspired by how receptive our audience can be. When we did our European tour, we had Adrian Eagle – who was on ‘Clark Griswold’ – opening up for us. That really opened us up to the possibilities of who we can tour with.
“I like the idea of putting something that doesn’t traditionally correlate with what we play on the same stage as us. Mojo is a really special performer. We can only hope that people like it as much as we do.”
Now over two decades into their career, Hilltop Hoods shows have expanded into cross-generational experiences. The twenty-somethings that discovered the group circa The Calling or The Hard Road are now milling about in the crowd with people that were born the year those records came out – and, in some cases, bringing children of their own.
“I honestly don’t care how people came to our music, or how long they’ve been a fan,” says Lambert. “I’m just grateful that people still want to listen to us.”
Hilltop Hoods bring their Great Expanse tour to Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on Friday August 9 and Saturday August 10. Tickets available via Ticketek. The Great Expanse is available now via Universal.