Review Summary: Putting the hip in hip-hop
Hoodie Allen isn’t your typical rapper and his image is far from gang life. From his vintage Adidas shoes to his thick rimmed glasses, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hunched behind his Mac at a Starbucks, diligently working on a screenplay. This 21 year old is a member of the new “hipster-hop” wave. Along with Chiddy Bang, and arguably Kanye West, these people have invaded the scene with a new style of rap with evidence of influence from the New York scene, although with less aggressiveness in their delivery. Hoodie brings the heat on all 11 tracks of Pep Rally, a freshman mixtape that feels like he’s been a part of the scene for years.
Being someone so young, but with evidence of an upper-middle class upbringing, Hoodie doesn’t have anything to complain about and has no words of wisdom to offer in his songs. Instead, he focuses on having fun and creativity. He slyly sneaks in a pop culture reference in every other line that fits so well that it’s hard to catch unless one listens very closely. Lines like “a free app, but nothing is free really/There's a shark in the water, I'm ready to free Willy,” puts even the Beastie Boys to shame. This type of wordplay occurs so frequently on the mixtape that it’s impossible not to smile in awe at how Hoodie does it. He’s so clever that not even name dropping Colts kicker Matt Stover feels out of place. His flow is tailor made for delivering these punch lines and jokes, and it works without making Hoodie feel like a one trick pony.
One of the definitive qualities of Pep Rally is the guest appearances. More specifically, none of them are by other rappers. Hoodie is assisted by choruses from the likes of Marina Diamandis, a spark of light on the wonderful “You Are Not a Robot,” and Chris Wallace, who delivers the chorus of “January Jones,” an ode to the Mad Men actress. The guest stars complement Hoodie very well and never take the spotlight off of the verses. Furthering the impact of the verse is producer RJF’s fantastic beats and samples. The Death Cab for Cutie sampling “So Much Closer,” is a triumph and is also one of Hoodie’s best songs lyrically. The beats are smooth and fast enough to allow for the words to come out without feeling cluttered. While the guests shine brightly, they still don’t outshine the main attraction, which is the way it should be.
Overall, Hoodie Allen has put together a very fun, albeit sometimes juvenile, mixtape. He exhibits a very unique and polished flow and his wordplay is always an experience, sometimes taking five listens to understand his jokes. He weaves verbal tapestries and lets the pop vibe permeate in the choruses and in RJF’s samples. Pep Rally is the perfect summer album that still vibes well in the winter.
Recommended Tracks: Swimming With Sharks, January Jones, You Are Not a Robot, Words of Wisdom