Hoodie Allen has been giving away his music for years now, but today marks the first time Hoodie is kindly asking his fans to pay for his tunes. For sale today is All American, a collection of eight songs that all have one thing in common: they’re completely original material from Hoodie Allen and his producers. Thus far, Hoodie has made a name for himself by taking samples from popular songs, flipping them, and rhyming over them with catchy flows and clever mentions of current events in the pop-culture and sports worlds. The eight tracks on All American are Hoodie’s alone; there are not any samples, and there appears to only be one feature (Jhameel sings the hook on “No Faith In Brooklyn”).
A simple flip through Hoodie Allen’s profile pictures on Facebook will give you a glimpse into the progression that he has made in his musical career. He went through a major rebranding right around the time of Pep Rally‘s release, when he apparently decided it might limit his fanbase and future by sticking to what he had created: a personal image of being a nerdy white rapper. Instead, he decided to put away the lens-less glasses and pull out the Hoodie Allen we see today: a cleaned up, cooler, and sexier artist. Visually, the transformation is easily apparent. Sonically, there has certainly been growth as well. But the difference and growth that we saw between Pep Rally and Leap Year doesn’t seem to be quite as defined now with All American. That’s not to say that he didn’t take strides, because he did. But I think this album is more about the growth of Hoodie Allen as a person and a branded artist than the expansion of his sound to something we had never heard before.
Continue reading to get a track-by-track review of Hoodie Allen’s All American…
The album opens with “Lucky Man,” which has an enormous hook – I can almost gurantee that you will be singing this one as you’re walking into work, walking into class, or walking around your apartment. And you may find that your walk turns into a little hop-step. It’s catchy, it’s fun and it’s memorable. “No Interruption” is one that starts off slow, in my opinion–there’s nothing incredibly desirable about it until the piano chords drop and suddenly the song is dangerously addictive. At the end of the track, I think it’s a winner. There isn’t much of a segue into “Eighteen Cool,” which I found to be a low point on the album. Perhaps I’m becoming a grumpy old woman, but I think it was just way too poppy for me. I think Hoodie’s flow takes a bit of a step backwards on this track, and the message he’s sending doesn’t necessarily agree with his personal branding efforts: “I ain’t goin’ home if I aint goin’ with the baddest chick.” I’m almost positive that this will be a hit with a huge chunk of Hoodie’s fanbase, but it just doesn’t do it for me.
Jump to “Top of the World.” Hoodie seems to be channeling his inner Kanye West. This track threw me for a bit of a loop. When it started, I continued to wonder where this braggadocios side of Hoodie was coming from. “Went from workin at Google to watching my Google Alerts/ I’ve got a buzz bigger than Google Earth” seemed pretty egotistical to me, but then at the end of the song he dropped a curveball: “We makin’ money right now, so let me give it all out.” And that’s when I realized that this is exactly the personal brand that Hoodie has been building for the past couple of years. He hasn’t allowed himself to become a celebrity who is above everybody else; for the entire journey toward fame, Hoodie has included his every fan. He responds to every Tweet he receives, he responds to wall posts on Facebook, and today he’s even offering to personally call and thank every single person who purchases All American. Hoodie might be on top of the world, makin’ money right now, but if that isn’t giving back, I’m not sure what is.
The fifth song on the album is “No Faith in Brooklyn,” featuring Jhameel. I was really excited to hear Jhameel’s contribution to the album, but as it turns out, I think he might have weakened this song a bit. This song might have been the strongest showing from Hoodie on the album. Between sounding a bit like Lupe Fiasco in the Moneyball mention to speeding it up to a very impressive speed at the 1:30 mark, Hoodie showed off his skills on this track. Unfortunately, the skill doesn’t show through on “Small Town.” I thought Hoodie sounded a bit too much like Travie McCoy on this track, which is a sound he’d do well to avoid.
The seventh track on the album, “High Again,” is one of the more creative tracks on the album. It sounds the most different from the rest of Hoodie’s material, and I commend him for that. My biggest expectation from this album was a sound a little different than what we’ve come to know from Hoodie, and this track is exactly that. The beat sounds different, the flow is a bit more creative, and the hook is sonically intriguing. The closing track, “Ain’t Gotta Work,” relies heavily on production values, and while the melodic value of the hook is admittedly fun, I think I go back to my old, jaded self with this one. The message, though fun for Hoodie’s lifestyle, just doesn’t really resonate with me. But I think I’m very different from most of Hoodie’s fanbase, a bunch of him will likely revel in the lyrics “Here we go/ on our way/ we don’t got no job today/ we don’t want one anyway.”
For me, the album has its highs and lows, but overall, I think Hoodie did a really good job with the album. The most important thing that he can do for himself at this point is to continue carrying through with his promised brand of being your friend rather than your favorite celebrity. He’s built an incredible fanbase in the “Hoodie Mob,” and this album speaks well to his faithfuls. The low points, in my opinion, came when the incredibly humble rapper came off as pretentious, but they were outshined by the creativity of the beats, rhymes, flows, and melodies. Hoodie continues to grow, and as long as he maintains his image of being a friendly rapper doing his thing and giving back to his fans, I strongly believe that he’ll continue to grow and, in his own words, “shock the world [and] all the labels and all the blogs who overlook us, who think this is just a fad.”
You got this, Hoodie. I may not love every single song on All American, but it’s about so much more than that. You have proved yourself to be talented and true. I am on your side.