Hilltop Hoods: City of Light
Label: Obese Records
Author: Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez
Adelaide, South Australia isn't the first place you'd go if you were looking for dope rap. The coastal city, known as the "City of Light," boasts a population of over a million and amongst those million plus stand the trio of the Hilltop Hoods. Consisting of DJ Debris and emcees Suffa and Pressure, the group has made Adelaide, and Australia as a whole, a legitimate source of quality rap music. The Hoods and their Obese Records label mates have already gotten their props from us with quality releases such as "The Hard Road: Restrung," but "City of Light" marks the group's first venture into the DVD business. Off the heels of two platinum albums, "City of Light" follows the group as they do everything from make videos, go on tour, and remix their critically acclaimed album "The Hard Road." The documentary is an insightful and detailed look at the creative process behind the making of an album and will give fans a new appreciation of The Hilltop Hood's music.
As the DVD starts out we get Suffa giving us the back story behind one of the group's tracks as we find out that the production was a family affair. His brothers provide the instrumentation while his mother gave him the sample on the record as it comes from a bedtime song she used to sing to Suffa. Moments like this are sprinkled throughout the DVD as Suffa has no issue showing us the records sampled and giving us the story and inspiration behind many of the tracks he produced. It's an insight you don't get from many American producers who are scared to give away the secrets of crate digging. While they obviously enjoy the money that comes from successful albums, moments such as this show us that they do it as much for the success as they do for the love of hip-hop and their fans. The group's honesty and sincerity come through on the rest DVD just as much as it does in their music. The making of feature for the video "The Hard Road" shows the crew revisiting a concrete factory they used to work at and also showing love to a local hip-hop collective through an impromptu cipher segment.
Aside from cementing their reputation as genuine nice guys, the DVD also lets the viewer ride along as the crew follows up a successful album. We see The Hoods on tour, packing venues in large cities and rocking small crowds in small towns with equal energy and enthusiasm. The best segments tend to be the making of video features. "What A Great Night" shows us that despite success it's still a community effort as they crowd a warehouse with friends and friends of friends and lots of free liquor to recreate a club atmosphere. "Recapturing The Vibe" gives us insight on what would be an otherwise confusing video as the group gets creative and invents an extreme sport called "adult swinging" (and no, not THAT type of swinging). Though the entire DVD is entertaining, the most compelling part of the documentary comes when the crew is approached by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and decides to remix their entire album with an orchestra backing them. Having an orchestra play background for a hip-hop act looks easy when you see it on MTV Unplugged, but The Hilltop Hoods give us every step of the process. Composing orchestra parts would seem like the most difficult part, but the documentary shows us that recording, mixing, and mastering an orchestra is completely different from making your typical rap track. The long process has a great payoff as in the end we get to see The Hilltop Hoods perform with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in their hometown in front of a crowd of over seven thousand.
"The City of Light" is an excellent and entertaining look at the life of hip-hop stars. It doesn't matter that you may not be familiar with The Hilltop Hoods (to be honest, I'd only heard them featured on other people's albums), you'll enjoy this DVD. The fact that The Hoods make dope music doesn't hurt the viewing experience, but it's their insight and honesty that make this release so compelling. On top of the great feature you also get a decent amount of extras. An outtake loop and full videos for the four singles from ‘The Hard Road" are included. The best extra comes with the full length concert they performed along with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. I'm sure that longtime fans of the Hilltop Hoods need little motivation to purchase "The City of Light," but even newcomers might want to consider this DVD as their introduction to The Hoods and to Australian hip-hop as a whole. Even if you don't end up digging the group's music (and I can't see why you wouldn't), you'll get an in depth look at what it takes to be a successful rap act.
Content: 8.5 of 10
Layout: 8.5 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: January 22, 2008