Hoodie Allen (whose real name is Steven Markowitz) took the biggest leap of his life back in 2011. Instead of continuing to go on and working at a job that was going to allow him to be financially secure, Allen quit to pursue his passion for creating music. The road up to this day has been tough, as you might imagine. Shows that were staged within frat houses have now become larger venues with bigger audiences. In 2016, Allen’s ‘Happy Camper’ LP debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Rap/Hip-Hop chart and No. 1 on the Independent Albums chart.
Now comes Allen’s latest ‘The Hype’- an album that he considers to be his biggest and best. The 12-track LP (released in September) was written and recorded in Allen’s hometown of New York City alongside producers Cook Classics, Cisco Adler, Andrew Goldstein, Louis Futon, and Tyler Nicolo. With the release of ‘The Hype’, Allen continues to push his craft towards new limits.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with the hip/hop artist to talk about his journey to this point, what the aftermath was after leaving his job to go into music full-time, and much more.
How did you come up with the moniker Hoodie Allen?
I like puns and play on words and felt it represented me well.
Growing up, you would piece together some songs and perform them at house parties with friends. What got you into wanting to be a musician?
Well I wanted to do music since I was 11. I started writing raps and recording demos on my computer at home when I was in middle school and high school. By the time I was in college I had released all types of songs under a lot of names but nothing had taken off yet. It was always something I was really passionate about pursuing
What was the biggest takeaway you have after working at Google, the biggest search engine in the world?
Be creative. Think outside the box. And listen to your customers in my case the fans.
Having worked at Google, did you found yourself using some of the tools you learned with putting together your social strategy online?
Nah I had a real clear vision from the jump about how I wanted to interact with fans and be different than other artists I saw. That was something that came when I emailed one of my favorite artists in college for music advice and he actually wrote back to me. Ever since that day I decided if I ever have fans like he did, that’s how I would treat them.
When you quit, you spent the following year playing low-key shows and making just enough to make by. Was there a time that you thought that you had made a mistake?
Honestly before I even left record labels were flying me out and gassing me up. I took meetings that ultimately went nowhere so I went back to Google. It took me a few months to decide fuck it I don’t need those labels and I can pursue this full time on my own. That following year was special for me because it was the first time I could fully commit to creating and nothing else. So I was never worried.
You wrote a feature on Medium talking about the anxieties and nerves you were feeling on the eve of releasing ‘The Hype’. What pushed you to come out and share those feelings to the world?
I was voicing these things to everyone around me in my real life. It’s not just with The Hype. I always feel this way about releasing music. So I figured maybe reading that could help people. Insecurity pushes greatness and anyone who tells you different is lying to themselves.
What was the response like after your feature on Medium?
It was nice to see it resonate with a lot of people both music friends and kids who are just in college trying to figure themselves out. Glad I can speak to my audience not only through music but also about the process.
After having so much success with your 2016 release ‘Happy Camper’, did you feel pressure when putting together ‘The Hype’?
Only pressure I really felt was to outdo myself and make something that I’d want to listen to constantly. Everything else is up to luck really at this point. In terms of producers they’re all friends of mine who I’ve worked with before and really 5 producers over 12 songs is probably on the low end for a hip hop album nowadays.
With the struggles of starting off to where you are at now, was it important to showcase this journey on ‘The Hype’?
Definitely. Although I think it’s less about the journey in terms of “started from the bottom now we here” and more just a personal tale of how the success of relationships can often conflict with the success of a personal goal.
You are about to embark on a pretty lengthy tour. What are you looking forward to most while being on the road?
Just playing a whole new set. Meeting the fans who tweet me every day about new music. Getting to see them sing along. Just affecting people in a positive and memorable way. That’s all I ever seek to do.