Hitch a ride with Hoodie Allen, the happy camper
by Natasa Kvesic |
As I entered the Roseland Theater, I couldn’t stop my knees from shaking. I sat down on the couch in the basement where so many musicians have chilled before me, probably with the same “pre-show” (or in my case pre-interview) jitters. There, trying to get comfortable on a tattered, brown velvet couch, I waited for East Coast rapper Hoodie Allen.
Running through a list of greetings I should open with, I completely forgot about what I wanted to ask him first. So I went with the most safe and basic question I could think of: Are you a crinkle type of guy, or fold? As in, with your toilet paper.
“Definitely fold,” Allen said. “I think fold is the way to go, the way of life. I tend to like to have some kind of structure within my day.”
As an independent artist who handles his own finances and constantly seems to be putting new music out, the fact that he appreciates a sense of routine to his day is no surprise.
Allen has been writing and recording music since high school, but refuses to let me know what his rapper name was back then due to the risk of exposing his humble beginnings. Instead, he gives me a sneak peek into what the songs were about.
“I was like 13-years-old. There was one (song) called ‘The Return of the Undadog’ and there was one called ‘15 Minutes.’” Allen said. “That was the hit when I was 14. All of my music was super underground, backpacky hip-hop. Like, as many multi-syllabic phrases I could fit into one song.
“Also my voice was also super low like this,” he said, demonstrating his low baritone. “I think I just went through reverse puberty or something.”
Since his high school days, Hoodie hasn’t stopped grinding out new tunes and 2010 is when he got the first sweet taste of recognition for his work. Fresh out of UPenn, he released a mixtape called “Pep Rally,” right after the immediate success of his single “You Are Not A Robot” which sampled a song from Marina and the Diamonds called “I Am Not A Robot.”
“Pep Rally” itself included samples from various artists like Ellie Goulding, Two Door Cinema Club, Death Cab for Cutie and Flight Facilities.
“With ‘Pep Rally,’ we started with the Marina and the Diamonds song,” Allen said. “With the hip-hop remix of it doing really well, I thought: ‘Well, why don’t we just keep that aesthetic and try to look at all the other stuff that we’re listening to.’”
Allen has come a long way since his first release. He has come out with new music every year since his initial mixtape, all without being represented by a record label. His new album “Happy Camper,” released last month, is classic Hoodie at his best.
Full of playful lyrics paired with a sarcastic undertone, it was so successful that it made it to the number eight spot on Billboard’s Top 10 Albums. But the album title doesn’t really reflect what he is talking about in songs like “Intro To Anxiety” and “Are U Having Any Fun?,” where he questions his lifestyle and whether or not he’s making the right choices.
“It’s meant, I guess, sarcastically to be honest,” Allen said. “Happy Camper comes from the idea that we put out there for the world, whether it’s on social media or otherwise. It came to me from looking at my Instagram, like I’m always smiling.
“I’m always posting these pictures looking really happy. And it’s not always a full representation of who I am as a person. It just brought the idea that we always show people what they want to see, how much fun we’re having. But on the inside it’s way more complicated than just that constant idea of happiness.”
Still sitting on the same old tattered couch, I was stumbling over what I wanted to ask to finish off the interview. After delving so deep into what he wants to communicate to his fans, I wanted to end on a happy note. Then I remembered Hoodie’s background: He’s Jewish and a native New Yorker, so he must know Adam Sandler and the classic “Hanukkah Song.” So I went for it.
Would you ever consider doing a cover of Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song”? “I would 100 percent do that,” said Allen. “I don’t know how to reach out to Adam Sandler, but he lives in New York so maybe I’ll run into him!”
Natasa Kvesic is a staff writer for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.