Our Hoodie Allen feature was originally published in the November 2019 issue of Beyond The Stage.
For any aspiring artist, it takes a lot of work and dedication to put yourself out there and get recognized. It might be a bit easier in today’s world, with social media being so prevalent and part of our everyday routine. Whether you know from a young age you want to pursue music or start later in life, taking the initial jump to that begin that journey with endless possibilities can be quite daunting.
Rapper Steven Adam Markowitz, professionally known as Hoodie Allen, knew from a young age he wanted to pursue music. He discovered his love for hip-hop and rap at 10 years old, rapping to beats he would find online. He then showcased his talent to the internet at 13 and to his friends and family and 16.
Yet, like most aspiring artists who drop everything in the moment, he didn’t quit everything and dive right into music. He continued with high school, went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, from which he is a proud alum of as shown in his lyrics and after, managed to even land a job at Google.
Although having a great job, Allen still knew he wanted to pursue music and went to multiple meetings with record labels that ultimately never pulled through. The Long Island-native decided to take a leap of faith and quit his job at Google, moving from San Francisco to Manhattan to pursue music full-time as an independent artist. Looking back, that decision definitely paid off — as he went from tech exec to a rap sensation.
The now 31-year-old singer-songwriter, although still fully independent, has seen so much success already.
His unique mix of hip-hop, pop and a bit of pop punk in his music, with his clever and fun lyrics makes his sound something so special and nothing like any other rapper or musician now. His debut EP landed a spot on Billboard’s Top Albums, gaining popularity from singles like, “No Interruption” and “No Faith In Brooklyn”, and soon after, he released his popular 2013 mixtape, Crew Cuts, and first full-length album, People Keep Talking.
Hoodie Allen has also collaborated with a multitude of artists, including the likes of Ed Sheeran, Chance the Rapper, Blackbear, Kyle, State Champs, MAX, Spencer Sutherland and many more, but yet still remaining under the radar to many people.
The “Small Town” singer has just wrapped up his North American tour in October in celebration of his latest album Whatever, USA. The nine-track project tells the story of the ups and downs of the past few years — particularly while creating this new record. This new album brings some nostalgia of his early music like, his mixtapes Pep Rally and All American while also offering a whole new vibe for a brand new era.
Living in New York, the rapper traveled back and forth to LA to write and record the album. Talking with Allen, he explained how the distance of living in New York and recording in LA gave him a chance to live away without any pressure to be constantly working and in the studio and gain experiences to mold lyrics and inspiration to take back to LA.
Whatever, USA is one of his most personal pieces, sharing personal experiences and an album that he felt was necessary to be vulnerable at the time. “I think music, in general, is at its best when you’re really vulnerable,” saying it was a more vulnerable process from the start to the release of the final product. With the new record, the rising hip-hop rapper aspired to evoke the feeling of “falling in and out of love with your surroundings,” and wanting fans to “find themselves and place themselves on the map of Whatever, USA.” And he succeeded.
One of Allen’s now trademark moments live is the segment during his song, “Cake Boy” which he throws cakes into the crowd brought by fans before the show. “The reason these things became a thing in the first place was to have these exciting moments during a show.” Throwing cakes into the crowd and riding a blow-up raft to surf the crowd have now become tradition for Hoodie Allen shows and making songs like “Cake Boy” even more popular live, hopefully making it a forever thing if fans are up for it. He says, “As long as they keep bringing cakes, I’ll keep doing it.”
Apart from music, Hoodie Allen has an immense love for his fans.
“Since day one, before anyone cared, I made it a point to interact and comment with them– the early days are where fans emerged. I always noticed that having real interactions with people and showing them I appreciate that, lead to them knowing how real I am.” Getting to meet fans on tour is one of his favorite parts although as tour goes from interacting on the internet to real life, it gets harder to maintain interaction online.
“I was always told it would be impossible to maintain connection all the time, but I like a challenge,” is his response to never wanting to break that bond as his goofy, but confident personality shines. “Even if I can’t physically respond to every single thing, there are different things I can do to keep it up. I feel like the reason I’ve been able to do this as long as I have is because of those relationships I’ve managed, and to have these people in my life. it’s never been unmanageable.”
Allen is one to keep it real and genuine with himself and his fans. “I’m never too cool or too good for anyone to know how much the support means,” Growing a connection with his fans also means growing more comfortable as his fans have become with him getting to the point of roasting each other. “If you can get to the point where you can roast your fans and they’re like ‘Yes, thank you’, then, you’re doing something right.”
As an independent artist, Hoodie Allen does mostly everything himself but has no problem with that.
“If I’m not the biggest person in the world, at least I’m in control of my fan relationships, my distribution, when I want to tour, when I want to drop something and it’s been so powerful and real.”
When asked what advice he had for other aspiring independent artists, he mentioned how some aspects of how he started getting recognitions are no longer prevalent anymore but, “People just have to be creative and find different ways to breakthrough with the different platforms. Make stuff you love and think of who your potential audience is and how you can get in front of them, and once you do get some people, treat them well.”
Hoodie Allen is one of the most passionate, down-to-earth artists around and is truly the epitome of dedication and hard work — constantly releasing new music and giving his all for his fans, getting everything done, despite not having a label to back him.
So what’s next for this rising star? For now, Allen is planning to work on new music, release some singles, a possible acoustic project, and a European leg of the Whatever, USA tour. There is no doubt he will do great things and he has proven that by his immense dedication and love for his career and his fans.
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