Hip-hop rose in the 1970s from years of evolving music based off of African and Latino cultures and communities in New York. It's a style of music that has taken off and been changing ever since. From DJing to MCing to beat-boxing, hip-hop is has spawned countless styles and genres that we hear today. Not to mention that hip-hop is closely tied to much of pop culture these days, with some of the most well-known artists and producers falling under the hip-hop scene. Many say that hip-hop is dead, since the game has changed so much over the decades, but those who believe that are overlooking the natural path that any genre takes. Hip-hop is still very much alive, but with a different feelings, approaches, and whole new attitudes. In recent years, there has been a surge of new hip-hop artists that fuse and take from other genres to make a completely different sound while simultaneously spitting lyrics about other subject matter that doesn't have to do with big booty, slamming back shots, or slingin' dope.
Rising hip-hop star Hoodie Allen (Steven Markowitz) is a prime example of where hip-hop is today and showcases one of the many paths this particular genre can take. His latest album, All American, which peaked at #1 on iTunes and #10 on US charts, showcases his catchy style. He utilizes a style of hip-hop that is anything but traditional, and it has paid off in the most fruitful of ways. He can be compared to the likes of Mac Miller or G-Eazy, but at the end of the day, he is nothing like them. Hoodie Allen's snowballing fame left first gear in 2009 with the releases of Bagels & Beats and Making Waves. Things really started picking up when he released "I Am Not A Robot" in June 2010, which sampled the song "You Are Not A Robot" by Marina & The Diamonds. After witnessing its wild success, he worked even further and eventually released Pep Rally in September that same year. The next year, he released another album, Leap Year, which marked the time in his life where he decided to devote his life to being an artist.
Play: Hoodie Allen – You Are Not A Robot
Play: Hoodie Allen – James Franco
With only a handful of albums, EPs and mixtapes, he has managed to attract hordes of fans in a small time span. I had the opportunity to exchange some words with this rising star in the small college town of Oxford, Ohio to get to know him a little bit better.
Hoodie Allen has something to say.
EARMILK: I understand that you used to work for Google. When did you exactly realize that you wanted to pursue music?
Hoodie Allen: Way before I started working there. Yeah, I've always wanted to do music for a really long time. The beginning of my senior year (University of Pennsylvania) was when I got the job offer at Google. So I was going out to Cali, and kinda at the same time is when some things started taking off online, like the music. I kinda knew I was going out to California, but at the same time I'd been taking meetings with labels. My world was very weird at the time so I had a feeling I wasn't going to last very long there, and it didn't before I decided to jump in full-time.
Play: Hoodie Allen – Back To The 50's
EM: How did your family and friends take that decision?
HA: They're very supportive. My family is always about making sure to get an education and do it and had to graduate. I do have my degree at the end of the day, although I probably don't use it how most people use their degree. They've been super helpful with everything.
EM: Have you ever thought about experimenting with types of music? Why or why not?
HA: I think experimentation with other stuff is great. My real focus has been more-so trying to create a sound that I can build upon and get really comfortable with. I think almost everything is experimentation 'til you find what it is that your sound is. I definitely jumped around. When I was 16 making rap music it was like, super underground, lyrical, backpacky, social consciousness sort of stuff a little bit of a departure from what I'm doing now. And the music I'm making right now that isn't out is kinda a little bit different than All American, a little bit less poppy, a little bit more refined. You always kinda learn new things and try new things, but it's doubtful that I'll do country music or folk. I probably won't be branching out that far, but you know…
HA: *laughs* It could change though, who knows.
EM: What's your routine for making and developing a song?
HA: I don't write to the track that often. I don't get with the melody of the beat and write to it, that's not usually the process. It's usually like, I'll sit down with the producer who I work with, we'll come up with something from scratch, make something from some chords and a melody he has in mind, and try to come up with a hook that rounds it off, what does the song feel like, and then he'll be layering in drums and building on that and maybe I'll start writing verses. It'll go back and forth and usually in those sort of sessions, I'm just trying to get the hook down. I like to write the verses usually at another time separately. More or less it kinda starts like that, the best songs I've done worked like that.
Play: Hoodie Allen – Ain't Gotta Work
EM: You mentioned that you were working on another mixtape and I heard it is going to be released at the end of this year or early next year. Do you have any clues for all of us for what to expect it?
HA: In comparison to other projects, it's some of the best rapping that I have ever done. There's a bit of a return to certain sampling or that certain sound in a lot of ways, which is good, because I think that's what everyone really got in to my shit to begin with. So getting back to that a little bit is good and hoping I won't get sued in the process [laughs]. Big songs, really, I think it's mature, a little bit less silly. That's how I would define it. And the one thing about this is that a lot of the times I haven't done features in the past, I really want this to be feature-heavy in comparison. That's kinda the goal for it. Hopefully I'll have some cool guest features on it to talk about.
EM: Sweet, we're excited for it! Is there one big regret in your musical career?
HA: My biggest regret is probably that it took me so long to find out what I want to do. It's all for a reason, for how things played out. But for the longest time, say when I was 18 or 19, I was really, really going after it. I think I was going after it so hard that it was never going to happen. The times I had my successes were when I was being most carefree about the music I put out and not putting any pressure on myself and that's when everything started taking off. So if I could go back, take what I knew at 21, and apply it back when I was 18.
EM: What do you think the future holds for you and your music career?
HA: I just hope that I will be doing this for a long time. You know, for me, it's just the number of fans as much as the quality of the fan that I have and making sure that they continue to feel very connected to me and really like the music. As big as I can make that, the better. That's really my whole goal, to do this, to be comfortable doing it, to be able to raise a family and enjoy my job everyday.
EM: That about wraps up our interview, is there any last thoughts to say or shout-out?
HA: Shout-out to EARMILK, you guys have supported me for a very long time. It's one of my favorite sites to visit and it's been very cool getting posted on there. I always tell Montrey on emails that it's dope to have his support. You guys have a very cool comment section also. It's good to have engaged readers, so shout-outs to EARMILK of course!
Play: Hoodie Allen – Making Waves
Play: Hoodie Allen – Flipping Out
Play: Hoodie Allen – No Interruption