By Selin Kaya
MC Pressure expands on fears and inner-workings ahead of Hilltop Hoods’ world tour, The Great Expanse
Selin Kaya speaks with MC Pressure (a.k.a. Dan Smith) from acclaimed Australian hip-hop group, Hilltop Hoods, on their eighth studio album and up-and-coming world tour.
Australian hip-hop royalty, Hilltop Hoods, have been around for as long as I can remember, as I distinctly recall my mum putting on an old Triple J’s Hottest 100 CD, with the renowned flute melody from Nosebleed Section playing in the kitchen. In primary school, we used to send Hilltop Hoods songs via Bluetooth, so we could make an attempt to rap the verses together (in adoration, of course). It’s probable that a majority of Australian teens, young adults, and even parents, have a story akin to mine, and rightly so. With a career spanning over 25 years, and a subsequent intergenerational fan base, it’s no surprise that the group have broken records with their new album, The Great Expanse.
In early 2019, the group – Suffa (Matthew Lambert), Pressure (Dan Smith), and DJ Debris (Barry Francis) – released their eighth studio album, The Great Expanse, which debuted at number one on the ARIA albums charts. This placing not only made it the Hoods’ sixth number one, but set a new ARIA record for most number one albums by an Australian band or group. Pressure said figuratively and statistically that this is the group’s biggest album and world-tour to date, albeit their first world tour.
“We put The Great Expanse out a few months ago now and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s kind of hard to gauge how well the record is doing until you put your own show on sale,” he said.
“So I guess if you want to measure it by that, it was our biggest album ever, because we’ve put our biggest shows up in Australia, and the biggest world tour we’ve ever done. Well, the only world tour we’ve ever done, and it’s selling like crazy.”
In response to personal feelings and fears about the tour, Pressure expanded on the sheer volume of the tour itself.
“My main fear is that I’m going to collapse in a heap of exhaustion before it ends,” he laughed.
“I’m laughing, but I’m kind of serious, it’s like 51 shows in 14 countries, I think, in 5 months.”
“And do you know what? I was okay with it, until everyone that I’ve shown the schedule to looks at it and goes, ‘Are you going to be okay?,’ and I’m like, ‘Shit! Maybe I’m not.’,” he said.
“Hopefully I can still stand.”
Hoods’ fans have seen them play the Australian music festival circuit (with additional Australia-wide tours), notably at Splendour in the Grass in 2014, and most recently the 2018-19 leg of Falls Festival. Earlier this year, the group supported Eminem’s concert tour in Australia and New Zealand, performing in venues such as the MCG in Melbourne and ANZ Stadium in Sydney. From Pressure’s notes on the tour, it seems as though this tour will be an unforgettable Hoods experience.
“[Fans can expect] A much bigger show than what we’ve been doing at festivals if people have come along… it’s gonna [sic] be our biggest and longest,” he said.
“We’re playing about three quarters of the new record, and that’s kinda [sic] one of the reasons that we’ve had to extend and expand the length of the show, the catalogues getting so big.”
Their album, The Great Expanse, features diverse collaborations with both old and new faces. The likes of Illy, Ecca Vandal, Adrian Eagle, and Ruel, all appear on the 13-track album. Noting the differences in flair, Pressure said all of the groups’ collaborations were organic.
“I guess each one of those collaborations we did on The Great Expanse kind of happened in pretty different ways,” he said.
“Illy’s a long time collaborator and friend, so we just hit him up and we’re like, ‘We’ve got this song, that we think sounds very much like an Illy song, you should jump on it,’ and he was like ‘I love it, it’s definitely up my avenue,’.”
“The Ruel collab happened in a totally different way, his manager is an old-school hip hop DJ from Melbourne, called Flagrant, that we came up with back in the day, so he’s kinda [sic] our generation of Australian hip hop heads,” he said.
“We were very big fans of what he was doing… so yeah, most of them have, they have their own story, it’s all pretty organic.”
Whilst scrolling on their Facebook page, I found a comment from a fan who was 59 years old, and had just missed out on tickets to Hilltop Hoods’ Adelaide leg of the show. I mentioned this to Pressure.
“I guess the longer you’re around, the broader the demographic of listeners who come to your shows,” he said.
“We did the restrung tour in 2016 where we did a bunch of medleys and we recreated them with a symphony orchestra and toured around Australia, and the age demographic at that show, I think for the first time, there was like 50 year olds and 10 year olds on their shoulders and I was like, ‘Man, this is not the crowd that it was back in the day. This is even better!’.”
In addition to this, Pressure said that Adelaide will always be a favourite place for the group to play at, as this is where Hilltop Hoods originated.
“Adelaide will always be a favourite place to play at, it’s home, friends and family all come along, and it’s a massive night and we always have lots of drinks and carry on with all of that with the people closest to us afterwards,” he said.
“So it’s always pretty special coming home to Adelaide.”
You can stream Hilltop Hood’s album here: https://hilltophoods.lnk.to/TheGreatExpanseWE
Or catch them on their world tour, The Great Expanse, with tickets via their website: https://hilltophoods.com/