Sometimes at a music festival, you find yourself at a show so on point and fulfilling that it makes you question why people have jobs and do anything in life other than watch amazing live performances. Australian hip-hop group Hilltop Hoods provided one of those shows at Phillips Backyard on Saturday night.
From entrance to exit, MC Suffa, MC Pressure, and DJ Debris supplied Rifflandia’s hip-hop lovers with an immense magnitude of energy — they did not stop moving and the spirited flow of their lyrics kept the crowd’s hands in the air for the entirety of the show. Their deep understanding and intuition of each other was evident in their effortless improvisations and the seamless flow of the entire production, and their catchy hooks provided ample opportunity for audience involvement.
It was their relationship with the audience that made their performance so satisfying. Though it was just a one-hour set, Hilltop Hoods did not acknowledge the audience – not even with a “Hello, Victoria!” – until 20 minutes into the show.
Their attitude was the epitome of casual, and their unapologetic absorption into their own music was fully infectious. When MC Suffa and MC Pressure finally did speak, it was to hold the audience accountable for bringing their own energy, making their own noise, and moving their own bodies.
Towards the end of their set, Hilltop Hoods made a Macklemore-style “Same Love” speech, saying, “This is the Hilltop Hoods and we don’t give a fuck about race, religion, orientation, or anything else.” They spoke – and rapped – with an authority that made questioning them impossible. The whole crowd raised a fist in solidarity for the appreciation of real hip-hop, and the mutual love was palpable.
And then came the game. The MCs asked everyone to participate, and the whole crowd agreed in the form of ample cheering – and then they explained the rules. The game was simple, and something that many people at music festivals want an excuse to do anyways: take off one piece of clothing, and hold it up high in the air while dancing as hard as you can to their last track of the night.
It didn’t matter which piece of clothing you chose. All that mattered was wholehearted participation in a little collective dancing, and a lot of collective hip-hop love.