In two years, rapper/singer-songwriter Hoodie Allen has gone from Google employee to an internet hip-pop star behind two successful mixtapes and constant social media interaction. With his debut EP, "All American," out today (April 10), the Ivy League alum looks to solidify his presence beyond the social networks and towards the Billboard charts.
"I feel like I've built a really unique relationship with... my whole fanbase in general," Hoodie told The Juice. "I'm hoping [that] everything we've built is going to lead to us making a really cool breakthrough with this EP."
Success in the rap game never seemed likely for Hoodie Allen, born Steven Markowitz. In the summer of 2010, Allen, still working at Google, released " You Are Not A Robot." With little expectations, Hoodie uploaded and pushed out "Robot," which samples Marina and the Diamonds' breakout smash "I Am Not A Robot." Within a couple months, "Robot" surprisingly amassed millions of views on YouTube and dominated the top of the Hype Machine charts. The track's success encouraged Allen to leave his desk job and pursue music full-time.
Allen released his mixtape "Pep Rally" in the summer of 2010 and followed up last summer with another, "Leap Year." Building on the success of "Pep Rally" and "Robot," Hoodie dropped "The Chase Is On" as a single off "Leap Year," gaining more fans with a slick music video featuring MTV "Skins" actress Sofia Black-D'Elia. Hoodie sold out gigs last year at storied NYC venues SOB's and Webster Hall with the help of a rapidly growing fan base.
Hoodie has cultivated his dedicated following online by taking a transparent approach: He acts as his own publicist and takes the time to personally reply to and interact with each fan via email, Twitter, video chats, YouTube videos, and more. With over 50,000 Twitter followers, 115,000 Facebook fans, and 68,000 YouTube subscribers, it's safe to say it's worked out well.
Hoodie crafted his recent project, "All American," over a period of five months, carefully building tracks from scratch in lieu of sample-driven beats and hooks with long-time cohort and producer RJF. "I would describe it as liberating," Allen revealed. "It was like, 'Okay, I hear this idea in my head, I hear these original ideas, [and] I'm putting them and piecing them together.'"
"I never really pigeonhole myself as a rapper," he further explained. "I look to guys like Andre 3000 who are just complete chameleons in what they can do." Hoodie injects an honest element into "All American" that feels more singer-songwriter than straight up pop star. "I think I flex a little bit more of those muscles on [the EP]," he said on diversifying his sound with singing and songwriting.
Since its release last night, "All American" has already hit the top of the iTunes charts and shows no signs of slowing down. Hoodie is hard at work planning his next moves as he preps his headlining tour for later this month and an upcoming mixtape. But Allen is most excited to connect with fans who have yet to see him live and has high hopes for "All American" as a hit summer record.
"I think people are going to [get] a really fun record that [they'll] want to play during their summer and it's going to be their driving music," Hoodie said. "I get excited about connecting to people in that way, as their soundtrack."