Music

What Went Right With… Hillfiguz?

Da Hillfiguz logo by What Went Wrong Or Right With made to look like the Tommy Hilfiger logo

Da Hillfiguz (also known as “Hillfiguz”) was a Hip-Hop group from Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York. It’s members were Dogface, Danga, and T-Hall with T-Hall serving as producer and Danga & Dogface rapping. Hillfiguz were yet another Hip-Hop group who had the potential to be golden era greats but were overlooked in favour of weak-ass, wack, radio-friendly Hip-Pop performers. The latter third of the ’90s was a time in which Hip-Hop music became aggressively mainstream, leaving anyone not conforming to the “Jiggy” sound (the prevalent style of the time) in the underground, despite most (if not all) MCs in this “lower” tier having more talent than the lames in the charts.

Hillfiguz’ first single (“Pain/Break It On Down”) was released in 1995 on Landmine Entertainment and the group’s head-nodding song “Too Many Suckas” was included in DJ Premier’s Crooklyn Cuts mixtape a year later. The group then released two further singles on Stretch Armstrong’s Dolo Records; “Up On Prospect/Boom!” in 1996 and “Not Enuff Time/Da Broke Theory” in 1997. “Not Enuff Time” was simply a renamed reissue of “Too Many Suckas”, “Up On Prospect” with its steady beat and Notorious Big sample was a decent track, “Boom” was a catchy joint, but “Da Broke Theory” was my favourite of the Hillfiguz’ songs. With its infectious hook and head-nodding production, I still play this track to this day…

Aside from these singles, there was a freestyle by Dogface (over the “Too Many Suckas/Not Enuff Time” beat) included in Armstrong’s Lesson 1 album…

And Hillfiguz appeared on Trip-Hop producer Tricky’s Grassroots EP on the opening track “Heaven Youth Hell”, incorporating a few Smith Bros.’ Broken-Language-esque lines (as they did in “Boom”)…

Hillfiguz also dropped an EP which included the song they made with Tricky and most of the singles from their Dolo Records releases (minus the hard to find “Break It On Down”). All in all, the crew had several tracks to their name which did the rounds on the DJ mixtape circuit for a couple of years during the latter half of the 1990s. I always hoped they were working on a full-length album but unfortunately that never happened.

Hillfiguz Vinyl stickerIf the “R.I.P.” description under the above YouTube freestyle is anything to go by, Dogface may have passed away but that’s unsubstantiated. The image on their 1997 single (left) featured an image of only two of the group’s members but since they never had any music videos or interviews, I have no idea which members these two are. If anyone has any further information, please leave a comment below.

Back to their music, this Hot 97 freestyle over Mobb Deep‘s “G.O.D. Part III” proves how much talent the group possessed, had a major label come calling, Hillfiguz could (and should) have been more than a footnote in Hip-Hop history. (The freestyle starts at 3 minutes in)…

The mid ’90s was filled with attainable street-wear references; artists including Smif-N-Wessun and Heather B mentioned Timberland and Helly Hansen and rappers such as Thirstin Howl III were obsessed with Ralph Lauren’s Polo. Brownsville’s M.O.P. associated the Brownsville/Ocean Hill area with the Hilfiger brand with the double meaning lyric “Hill Figga” and the Hillfiguz were another of these mid-to-late ’90s, Brownsville, Brooklyn, fashion brand-referencing MCs. Memorable name or not, one thing’s for certain: had label executives and A&Rs not preferred the R&B chorus/’80s Pop sample combo, rappers like Hillfiguz could have been bigger. Instead of merely mentioning Masta Ace and M.O.P., Da Hilfiguz should also get a shout-out when fans speak about B-Ville rappers. Regardless of how much or how little music they made, they were some of the greats.

Not Enough Time

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