Review Summary: For the second mixtape in a row, the most creative part of Hoodie Allen is his name
For a rapper who has only been in the game for two years, most of which while also working as a Google employee, Hoodie Allen has undergone many changes in identity. Mixtape Pep Rally seemed to cement him as one of the more clever MC’s in the hipster-hop game. When Childish Gambino came along and supplanted him as having the best punchline deliverer around, Hoodie started to steal heavily from Gambino’s style, resulting in the unequivocal disaster Leap Year. That album, along with newfound blogosphere hype and relative fame, brought another facelift to Hoodie’s ever-changing style.
Although All American sees Hoodie ridding himself of his Gambino-like rhyme schemes, he has become mired in another identity crisis. Most all of his songs now seem to borrow heavily from Wiz Khalifa- he even goes so far as to steal the song structure and portions of the beat of Wiz’s party anthem “No Sleep” on lead single “No Interruption.” Surprisingly, the Wiz influence works very well on All American. Hoodie has now adopted a delivery heavy on sing-song rhythms and slurring words together that falls somewhere between his Pep Rally days and Wiz’s Rolling Papers era style. As a result, his song compositions have changed vastly from his other efforts. Most songs are now reliant on catchy hooks and relatable, cautious verses. Most of the creativity is gone from Hoodie’s lyrics, replaced instead by a sample of stock tales of Saturday night debauchery and the many women that Hoodie apparently now attracts. Frankly, as a longtime supporter of Hoodie Allen, it’s hard not to miss the days of Pep Rally when Hoodie actually sounded like he was having fun instead of telling us how much fun he’s supposedly having.
Ultimately, All American falters because it all sounds hollow. The new flow is clearly not of Hoodie’s own design, it’s just an attempt to cash in on what plays on the radio right now. Anthems that were once replete with witticisms like “You’re so damn beautiful/like January Jones” have been altered to fit the new persona that he has adopted- one of a hard partying, champagne popping superstar. Anyone questioning whether or not this is just an act or a case of severely inflated ego will have their questions answered on the preposterous song “Eighteen Cool.” This song targets the popular kids that Hoodie went to high school with; however, the song is more braggadocio about how Hoodie goes to the club (and doesn’t even mention the VIP section, perhaps he can’t even get it) and tells his former haters that they “Peaked at eighteen/cool.” The problem with this song lies in Hoodie Allen being far from a household name- he barely has enough money to finance a Midwest tour. “Eighteen Cool” sounds like it should be dripping with irony- after all, this is the same guy who samples Marina and the Diamonds and writes songs about James Franco- but is actually 3+ minutes of shameless ego-boosting. The shameless self-adulation is the common thread on All American, and it is a worn thread by the end of this short, eight songs, mixtape.
Nothing feels special about Hoodie Allen anymore. He originally sold himself as a nerdy non-conformist, think hip-hop’s Rivers Cuomo, but, like Cuomo, his fun, loose style has become co-opted by narcissism and a drive for fame for which he will stop at nothing to achieve. The music is entirely devoid of originality- Hoodie has even disposed of former producer RJA in favor of simpler, more radio-friendly beats. The indie music samples have gone the way of the witty lyrics, and Hoodie is a worse artist for it. Even though this album is an improvement over Leap Year, Hoodie is a shell of his former self; yet another bland rhymesmith who really doesn’t have much to offer to the scene.