Interview: Hoodie Allen

joe zorzi speaks with rapper Hoodie Allen on the afternoon before his headlining show at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, N.J. …

Well, it’s not everyday you talk to an Ivy League graduate and ex-Google Employee who also just so happens to be a fairly well established rapper. But the other day, I did just that. Hoodie Allen is his name, and you may or may not be familiar with him. He broke out last year with his mixtape Pep Rally, making waves throughout the interweb. He’s now back with his brand new mixtape, Leap Year.

Hoodie recently spoke with me about his new mixtape, Emma Roberts, his current tour along with much more. Hoodie Allen will perform at Mexicali Live in Teaneck tonight, marking his first headlining performance in New Jersey.

Pop-Break: When did you first start getting interested in rapping?

Hoodie Allen: I was probably about 12 or 13 years old when I started. Kinda when I first, you know, listened to some of those pivotal records back in the day that made me fall in love with it, and I just started writing at that point without even knowing that that was what I was writing, you know?

PB: So, from a really early age you were doing this.

HA: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It was definitely not cool when I was doing it.

PB: When did you start actually deciding you wanted to do it as a career?

HA: I don’t know it kind of just happened I suppose. I had always done it. I was always serious about doing it, but obviously every point was uh … you know, I was either at school, finishing up school. After I graduated I took a job at Google. So it’s kind of like I always lived 2:25 — what the fuck does he say? But, I guess as of six or seven months ago, I’ve been able to finally focus on just this and make it my full-time thing, which has been amazing.

PB: Who do you think right now are the hottest rappers?

HA: Uh … me.

PB: [laughs] Best answer possible.

HA: (laughs) Jay-Z? I don’t know.

PB: Have you been listening to any other new artists? What do you think of Odd Future and stuff like that?

HA: Um, I’m kind of indifferent. I’m not really too much of a fan of the music, so all the other stuff doesn’t really matter that much to me. But, it’s interesting to see how something can really gain everyone’s’ attention all at once.

PB: Is it hard for you how some people just kind of bunch all the white rappers together and it’s like ‘Oh, Asher Roth, Sam Adams, Mac Miller, Hoodie Allen …’ Is that hard to get past?

HA: You know, the people who do that, fans and not fans, just kind of gotta question their ability to differentiate music in general. It doesn’t really matter that much to me because I’m friends with some of those guys and I don’t know other ones. The truth is, everyone is very different and has their own perspective and does their own thing for the most part.

In music or anything, everyone always likes to compare someone against something else. That’s how you can be comfortable, you know? Like, that’s how you associate things. So if that’s what it is, I just really focus on making the best stuff for me. And I know that the people who support me, that’s all they care about. They know that it’s different than everything else.

PB: That’s a good way to look at it. And you just put out Leap Year (free download: http://hoodieallen.com/) on July 26. What’s the response been like for you?

HA: Oh dude, it’s been awesome. It’s been so great. I really put so much effort into it, and it’s nice to see that like as great as I felt about it, it’s been received equally. So that’s cool.

PB: And I actually saw on Twitter that Emma Roberts hit you up about “Song For An Actress.”

HA: [laughs] Yeah, I’ve been trying to get her attention since then. I’ve been like, ‘Hey, come to my show.’

PB: [laughs] Hey, I think you’ve got a chance.

HA: Thanks, dude. I appreciate it.

PB: Now compared to your older stuff, Pep Rally and this [Leap Year] are maybe a little more poppier in style. Was this a conscious change?

HA: I just think it’s, like, my tastes have evolved a little bit. What I like and what I listen to and I’ve always, you know, wanted to [have] big choruses — catchy stuff. That’s always been one of those things that when I write I like to do. So, I think I’ve just gotten better at it. As I’ve gotten better at it, it allows me to try more things and that’s the change overall. You know, I think even on this new release there are a lot of songs that feel like they could’ve been in the same vein as the stuff I was making three years ago, but they’re just a little bit more polished.

PB: So, it’s pretty much just growing up, right?

HA: I think so. You know, if I had just done Pep Rally again, I’m sure some people would like it. But I’m a different person than I was when I made that record then. You know, no one was looking forward to that CD. Things have changed. With that, music changes and that’s just kind of the fun part about doing this, is that you get to try new things and take risks. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

PB: Now you’ve got this show coming up at Mexicali Live. How many times have you played Jersey?

HA: Once. I’ve only played Jersey once. It was the worst show ever. [laughs] Bottom three shows of all-time.

PB: Why?

HA: I don’t know, it just sucked. The kids there sucked.

PB: Really?

HA: Yeah, and it wasn’t like a headlining show, so it was just a pretty crappy situation overall. And they were fatigued and drunk and wanting to go home, so that was a pretty suck situation. But this is going to be awesome because it’s my headlining show and it’s a small room and it’s just going to be the most eager fans. So, I’m really excited for what I’m going to call my first real Jersey show.

PB: You gonna be rippin’ on us for being from Jersey?

HA: Nah man, I’m from Long Island. It’s basically like the same thing.

PB: (laughs) Okay, okay, that’s fair then.

HA: North Jersey and Long Island — that’s pretty comparable, so I can’t really say shit.

PB: So for anyone that’s seeing you for the first time, what should they expect?

HA: A lot of fun, man. I’m so excited to play this new set because I really just think it’s like, whether you are very familiar with the songs or not, you cannot help but have a good time. It’s just like the best hour of music that we could put together basically. And the show’s real fun.

PB: What really keeps you going? What keeps you in the rap game?

HA: Oh man, I love doing this. The fact that I can get paid to do this and I can call it my job … I wouldn’t trade that for the world, man. I’m having a great time.

PB: And now this is the rapid fire section of the interview. This is going to be very quick questions — you just have to give a one word answer or choose from one or the other.

PB: What’s your favorite color?

HA: Blue.

PB: Dogs or cats?

HA: Dogs.

PB: Long walks on the beach or long sprints on the beach?

HA: I’ll take long walks on the beach — that sounds cool.

PB: With girls or with the bros?

HA: Uhm … girls. [laughs]

PB: Pop-rock or Pop Rocks?

HA: Pop Rocks!

PB: Girls with tattoos or girls without tattoos?

HA: Tattoos! That’s easy.

PB: JWoww or Snooki?

HA: JWoooooww.

PB: Blowouts or mullets?

HA: Oh. Hmm that’s tough. Is the question which one I hate more? [laughs]

PB: (laughs) We can make it that one

HA: Well, let’s do blowouts, a nice Long Island/Jersey flavor. I have no association with mullets whatsoever.

PB: Jay-Z or Kanye?

HA: Uh, Ye.

PB: Hoodie Allen or Bob Dylan?

HA: Hoodie Dylan. Bob Allen. Bob Allen.