Ingenuity, wittiness, incredible entrepreneurial spirit…it seems as though if we search hard enough, we can find these things in the most unexpected places. Those familiar with Hoodie Allen (Steve Markowitz) and his background as a Wharton-educated Google employee turned white rapper know Hoodie’s inspiring devotion to his fans and following his dreams have played no small role in attracting a larger following.
I must admit that three weeks ago, like approximately 60% of the Princeton student body I had no idea who or what a ‘Hoodie Allen’ was. As the peer pressure slowly began to mount and I found myself in front of the Ticketing Booth buying 2 center-balcony seats, I had little idea of what to expect beyond “quirky hip hop” (obviously, I didn’t know what that meant, but it’s a bit provocative.)
For those of you who still may be as in the musical dark as I was, Hoodie is a rising independent hipster-hop artist who gained fame through his covers and mixes of an amazing array of music, such as Marina and The Diamonds’ “I Am Not a Robot.” Almost equally as important, he has gained the reputation of being extremely humble and respectful towards his fans, responding to every tweet he receives and promising to personally call everyone who buys his new album All American. Hoodie Allen’s music itself reflects both his quirkiness and his potential for growth as an artist. And there is certainly room for improvement. It would be a mistake to go to one of his concerts searching for lyrical masterpieces beyond “Pass me on that Absinthe, now watch me change my accent.” Yet All American represents the first time Hoodie has sung his own hooks, and addicting tracks such as “No Interruption” make this laudable step seem even more impressive. Compared to others in his genre, Allen is an extremely impressive performer, full of enthusiasm and having noticeable vocal talent. Rather than using a recording to play the samples he raps over, Allen has vocalist and guitarist Kyle to sing these samples in the background, creating a captivating and dynamic contrast on stage.
What makes Hoodie’s music so enjoyable and touching to me, however, is knowledge of his backstory. As I researched his time at Google balancing full work days with planning concerts/composing music until 3 AM, I couldn’t help but think of this drive and be reminded of my friends here in the Orange Bubble. While nothing about Hoodie Allen is ‘regular’, it is only at Princeton where I find myself regularly meeting individuals who possess the spirit and ambition required to work day and night to fulfill their passions while excelling in obligatory academics. Whether these people are musicians, athletes, artists, programmers, or club leaders (in other words, everyone who goes here) they all share the extraordinary ability to balance necessary tasks with a feverish pursuit of something more. On a personal level, Hoodie’s songs and performance style have a certain playful flavor, spiced with the type of pop culture references and jokes my friends would make while chatting in Frist (“This crowd is high…*cough* James Franco.”) Perhaps that is where Hoodie’s appeal amongst college kids stems from; as we stood cheering in the stands of Richardson Auditorium, we felt like we were cheering on not an unapproachable music legend but a fellow Tiger and friend.