This past weekend Hoodie Allen wrapped up his Hanging With Hoodie tour with two sold out homecoming shows in NYC. We were in attendance at Bowery Ballroom for Saturday night’s performance, and here’s what we found out about the internet sensation.
1) Hoodie Allen is a gateway drug rapper
Back in 2009, when I was a columnist at the Fairfield Weekly, I wrote a column on what I referred to as gateway drug rappers, using the “gateway drug” concept from the anti-drug ads that claimed marijuana use led to using harder drugs (and yes, I’m still trying to make fetch happen when it comes to this “gateway drug rapper” idea). Gateway drug rappers are hip-hop artists who have pop sensibilities, and are oftentimes a young person’s first introduction to the genre. As artists they are sometimes ridiculed by old school, and hardcore, hip-hop heads, but they’re incredibly important in the overall landscape of the genre if it’s going to continue to grow. Personally, I had acts like DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, MC Hammer, and Young MC to introduce me to hip-hop back in the day. Listening to them caused me to want to dig deeper, and find out more. This is the type of influence, and impact, Hoodie Allen could have on the current generation of young listeners.
As I walked by the line to get into the show I could see the average age of the crowd was somewhere in the neighborhood of “Holy crap, all these girls are young enough to be my daughter,” and I was slightly worried about what I was about to walk into. Those worries were assuaged, however, once Hoodie started performing his mixture of hip-hop and pop punk, with an emphasis on the “pop” part of the pop punk, as his singing, and chorus writing, is both Warped Tour, and Top 40 radio, worthy.
My first hint that he wasn’t just a pop rapper came when his DJ dropped some 90’s classics while warming up the crowd. Hoodie, who has a full band which works in conjunction with his DJ, referenced everyone from James Franco and January Jones, to Action Bronson and Mobb Deep in his rhymes, and with songs like “Sticks and Stones” (“Orders at me, my mobb’s so deep, I’m Prodigy / Hitting me with sticks and stones don’t bother me / I ignore the wannabe’s cause honestly they’re not what I would wanna be / So part of me, please let me exit through the gift shop / My motivation is never waiting for shit to pop”), it’s obvious he loves hip-hop, and the art of emceeing.
2) He’s unapologetically himself
With so many mainstream rappers spending the majority of their time posturing, and attempting to present themselves as something they aren’t (Rick Ross, anyone?), Hoodie is refreshing in his honesty about being a Jewish kid from Long Island who grew up listening to hip-hop. He doesn’t give off a vibe that he’s on some sort of epic quest to be “down,” he’s just being himself, and, in doing so, comes off as a genuinely likable person you’d have no problem with people supporting.
3) He represents the outsider
I know it seems like a bit of a dichotomy for a rapper with pop sensibilities to connect as an outsider, but for a number of years being in the role of the “cool outsider” was how Lady Gaga rose to fame (even if she completely forgot about that when she suddenly decided she was pop royalty). One of my favorite moments from Hoodie’s show was when he performed the song “Eighteen Cool,” which features the lyrics, “Thumbs up to my friends drinking whiskey / Peace out to the girls that’ll miss me / Middle finger to the dudes back in high school / Cuz you peaked at eighteen, cool.” The vast majority of his crowd is still in high school, and from the way they sang along it was clear they felt the message of the song.
4) He REALLY loves his fans
Like many artists, Hoodie mentioned how much he appreciates his fans a number of times while on stage. Unlike many artists, however, Hoodie actually took the time to meet and greet each and every one of his fans as they entered the venue. It was a bit of a process to set up, but the Bowery Ballroom pulled it off really well, as each fan was able to say hello to Hoodie, and get a picture taken with him.
It should also be noted that the meet and greet wasn’t an added charge. In fact, Hoodie went as far as to call the act of artists charging fans extra for meet and greets “bullshit,” adding that he would never make his fans pay extra for that experience.
5) You might get hit with cake
I was talking with a mom during the show (we were two of the few dozen people old enough to be at the bar), and she mentioned she’d heard that when Hoodie performs he throws cake into the crowd. Her information was correct.
Normally I am not a person who condones wasting one of the greatest confectionary concoctions known to mankind, but I will say three things about the cake toss that occurred at the show I attended – It happened right before he performed the song “Cake Boy,” I was impressed with his ability to throw the cake up into the balcony, and had I not walked down to use the restroom a minute earlier I might very well have been hit by said cake, and worn it all the way back to Connecticut (shout out to my bladder. You saved me from a frosting coated train ride home).
* Final Verdict
Hoodie Allen puts on a really good show where he connects with his audience, both as an artist, and as a person. He’s a rapper who’s pop enough to hook the youth, but also hip-hop enough to possibly get his fans interested in exploring the genre further. Even if you aren’t in his target audience you can have a good time at one of his shows… but beware of flying cake!