By James Murphy
Enormous lines snaked along the Port Road entrance to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre as the Hilltop Hoods’ home crowd welcomed the Aussie hip-hop royalty back to the stage after a three-year absence for the conclusion of their Show Business national tour. The South Australian, and arguably the Australian hip-hop scene is the house that the Hilltops built. Before them, it would be hard to imagine a 10,000 strong crowd for an all-Adelaide line-up of musicians: the Hoods, A.B. Original, and Elsy Wameyo. When they began, 25 years ago, there was debate about whether Australians should even create hip-hop, especially in the Aussie accent. Those questions aren’t asked anymore. When DJ Total Eclipse spun some Eminem between sets, one rowdy female fan shook her head and exclaimed “I’m here for Aussie hip-hop”. Fans like her were in for a treat.
As the opening bass line of The Great Expanse’s ‘Leave Me Lonely’ hit, the stage curtain dropped, revealing the live band, featuring a three-piece horn section, DJ Debris spinning the decks on high atop an enormous LED HTH logo and MCs Suffa and Pressure decked in black active wear; and make no mistake, they got active. Suffa and Pressure ran a marathon up and down the pair of runways, all while spitting rhymes; that’s some cardiovascular endurance.
In a frenetic opening, the Hoods ran through some hits: ‘Chase That Feeling’, ‘1955’ and, following a chat with a young fan in the front row, the breakthrough, the song that launched the empire, ‘The Nosebleed Section’. Alongside local vocalist Nyassa, the Hoods then shared new tracks ‘Show Business’ and ‘A Whole Day’s Night’; tracks hinting at some mid-career, middle aged malaise. Melbourne’s Illy then made a surprise appearance for the collab, ‘Exit Sign’ and then, in a poignant standout, Pressure poured his heart out on ‘Through the Dark’, a song inspired by his son’s battle with leukemia which moistened eyes on a night mostly filled with dancing.
For the set closing ‘Higher’, the audience was encouraged to take off a single item of clothing and wave it in the air; a woman wielding one of her purple Crocs tried to coax men to take their shirts off. It was a diverse crowd; the Attorney-General and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation was deep in the throng, as were the underage and the retirees. The Hoods began on the fringes, in a newly created niche; now they are the mainstream. For their two-set encore, they opened with ‘Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom’ and closed, of course, with ‘Cosby Sweater’, where they invited A.B. Original and Elsy Wameyo back to the stage for a verse each.
Wameyo showed she was stadium ready as she filled the stage with her charisma and talent as she shared tracks from her six-song release ‘Nilotic’. A.B. Original then took the stage, mixing new track ‘King Billy Cokebottle ’ with ‘2 Black 2 Strong’ and ‘Dead In A Minute’ from Reclaim Australia. Briggs and Trials invited Marlon Motlop to the stage for ‘Dumb Things’, and if Motlop didn’t already have a burgeoning music career (on top of his previous football career), he could easily make a living as a Paul Kelly impersonator. For ‘January 26’, Ben from Bad//Dreems took Dan Sultan’s role on the chorus; another reminder of the strength of the Adelaide music scene.
The final stop on the Show Business tour was a pyrotechnic firing, confetti shooting, beat blasting homecoming, 25 years in the making.