By Rathan Paul Harshavardan
Released Friday August 8th, 2014 - UMusic
To understand Walking Under Stars by Hilltop Hoods, one ofAustralia's unsung hip-hop pioneers, Drinking From The Sun, their offering in 2012 needed to be heard. You can hear the resemblance between the two and see how they follow in the same vein musically and thematically, although they couldn't be more chalk and cheese in their direction. The Thirst Pt. 4, sets the subdued tone the album takes subsequently, with RnB singer Aaradhna adding some soul to it. Of all the things the album shows, the personal growth the Hilltop Hoods achieved between albums presents itself in its crystal clear production.
DJ Debris relies on strings and subdued backdrops for most of the songs.The production marries the vocals perfectly, but if you were expecting an album heavy with personal sentiment, Hilltop Hoods has a surprise for you. Biggie Smalls' love for unfashionable winterwear is celebrated in Cosby Sweater, immediately followed by the equally light-hearted The Art Of The Handshake. Rap verses interlaced with documentary style explanations bring some humour to an otherwise ominous album.
Live And Let Go, immersed deeply in overcoming personal challenges is an inspirational track. Pyramid Building continues the previous track's theme, talking about how one comes out a winner in spite of trouble around us. They've really done a lot of learning over the past two years. This track showcases orchestral backdrops against a clever use of the English lexicon, a refreshing change from the run-of-the-mill mainstream rap is famous for now-a-days.
Hilltop Hoods tug at your heart strings with Through The Dark and Won't Let You Down. Inspired by his son's fight with leukaemia between the albums, Through The Dark, has MC Pressure singing the chorus and rapping the verses as an ode of comfort from a father to his ailing son. His incapability to help his son is rooted in a reality that is hard to ignore. Won't Let You Down, on the other hand, backed by piano arrangements, coos and claps is a reassuring track, and just shows the range this trio can put up on an album
Rumble, Young Man, Rumble is a track that aims to rile up the youth and give them a direction. Brainbox is not much to write about, but I'm A Ghost joins earlier tracks anchored by the piano. The Thirst Pt. 5 is a documentation of the success and ends the album on the same note it began with.
The Australian hip-hop scene is now on mainstream radio thanks to Iggy Azalea, but if you want to hear Aussie rap at its best you've got to pick up Hilltop Hoods. What makes this album stand out amongst its contemporaries is the smart use of words - a skill rappers need to be adept at - combined with consummate and thoughtful orchestral bases that simply put, take the album to the next level. Give the Aussie virtuosos a listen and I'm sure you'd be recommending it to others in no time.