Adelaide has a unique hiphop scene that’s fuelled by the love and dedication of its fans and practitioners. Although we seem to miss all the larger acts that tour our fair brown land, the scene is still pretty large and healthy for a small town. Maybe it’s because the DJs and Acts we have here are as good as those that tour. One such act is the Hilltop Hoods, who have been lauded in international as well as local press. With 3 albums and a following from Gawler to Mt Gambier, they’re about to embark on a national tour with the 2003 DMC Technics World DJ Championship Heats, performing and judging. We spoke to DJ Debris (Barry Francis) about the state of hiphop and a few other things as well.
“Deep down I always had a notion that we’re going to get somewhere”, Debris begins, “because of the skill and dedication of the people I work with”. The Hilltop Hoods formed about 8 years ago, as most groups form, by someone hooking someone else up with common interests. This common interest centred on hiphop, and out of the South came three young hoods who knew how to rock a mic. “I think we’ve grown out of the Hood attitude, as has our music, although we try and make music for the ‘street’ that appeals to the Average B Boy,” Debris says.
With regard to the local scene, Debris has nothing but praise. “The hiphop scene in Australia has come a long way, a very long way, from where it was when I first entered the scene. It was very fragmented between state to state. There wasn’t very much communication between the states,” he says. “Now it’s very collaborative, mainly due to the internet and online community. Plus the availability of home studios… everyone seems to have one. There’s probably been a 20 fold increase in terms of local releases. I think dedicated followers of hiphop want to see hiphop remain underground, at the street level. And I don’t think Aussie hiphop and the Aussie accent will ever get accepted to the level of US stuff,” Debris muses. “If people live in Australia, and people know that its where they are from, and they’re rapping about guns and American issues rather than local issues, your average hiphop punter will see it as a load of crap really.”
The Hilltop hoods are fiercely independent. “We always want to keep it independent. We’ve never aimed to go commercial. We make music for ourselves, and our friends, and the people who like us.” It’s this kind of attitude that keeps Aussie hiphop ‘real’ and stops it sliding off the rails, like it seems to have done in the US. On this topic, I asked if there could ever be a dance remix of Hilltop Hoods. “We’re dedicated to hiphop, no disrespect to other forms of music, but that’s what we do. I don’t think we’d ever make a dance track. Maybe an instrumental track for a movie, that’s more our niche,” Debris says.
“We used to do a lot of collaborations with people in the past, but we’ve backed away from it with this album, tried to focus on ourselves and try to get our own sound without having too many people with their hands in the pie,” Debris says of their forthcoming album, ‘The Calling’, which should be out Mid-September. “But we’re always open to collaborations, we’d like to work more with Pegasus from Melbourne, Regent, Downsyde, Hijack & Bones, people we have in the past”.
DJ Bones will also be present at the DMCs, and I wondered how they go about judging such a competition. “I’ll be looking at Originality, skill, ability to beat juggle and scratch, variation, the ability to master of all DJ techniques,” Debris says. “Usually at a competition there’s someone who really stands out, who gets the crowds reaction”. The DMCs have been running for 17 years and cover 30 countries, with many currently well-known DJs and producers having performed in the comp, including Adelaide’s Groove Terminator and Brendon, EK, Ransom, plus overseas acts like Carl Cox and the late Tony de Vit. In 2000 Australia’s best ever placing was achieved by DJ Dexter from The Avalanches, who finished 2nd, which is no easy feat. Could this year be the year a South Aussie makes it all the way to the UK Finals? Find out by checking out the skills of the Hilltop Hoods, DJ Next and DJ Bones, as well as a heap of hopefuls who will surely tear the place up!