Review Summary: One of the more underrated hip-hop records of the year.
Hoodie Allen hasn't really been himself these last couple musically. Ever since the 2010 success that was his second mixtape Pep Rally, which helped propel him to the hip-hop industry as one of the most witty, clever MCs in the game that deserves some well-needed attention: Allen has been on the decline in terms of originality and in distinction. His 2011 mixtape Leap Year showcased that, altering what was working in Pep Rally to a new route that outright stole from Childish Gambino. His debut EP in 2012 with All American wasn't anything different either, and while his next EP in 2013 with Crew Cuts was a definite improvement from both sets: it still lacked the wittiness and enjoyment that made Pep Rally such an intriguing and fun listen. Fast forward to 2014, and Hoodie Allen drops his much-anticipated debut LP People Keep Talking. This debut is undoubtedly one of Allen's best sets of material in the last few years, displaying with confidence a step in the right direction for the New York-based rapper/songwriter.
What made Pep Rally one of the most critically-acclaimed mixtapes of 2010 was the creativity in his lyrics with his numerous nods to pop culture and humorous jokes, as well as addition to the enjoyable beats that were produced. People Keep Talking sees Hoodie avert back that, not entirely however but mostly laced in the musical and lyrical direction of Pep Rally. Tracks like “Sirens” take a step back to that form, with a beat that sounds familiar to Tinie Tempah's “Till' I'm Gone”: however it's pretty good and the lyrical content reinforces that, packed with just the perfect amount of comedic material and pop culture references. One thing that is definitely new and unseen in previous Allen material is a showcase of his stance towards things like relationships and even jabbing at the mainstream music industry: such as in “Sirens” where at the end a “phone call” from a person that works for a major record label ironically titled “Gigantic Records” letting Allen know about their feelings towards his LP but “they want to change everything”. It's as damning an accusation as you'll get from an artist, yet also with some truth in it at the same time. Considering we've seen Allen rap with a humorous and fun edge to it, it's really refreshing to see him touch on touchy topics such as that. Other tracks like "Overtime" and "Dumb For You" see Allen directing his raps towards more serious stuff. "Against Me" featuring Max, which is probably the best track off this LP: with a slow mellow piano melody looming in the background that has the feeling of a Drake track such as 2011's "Over My Dead Body": also see Allen rap about his past struggles, his focus on his music, and that he'll come down on his "haters". Tracks such as "Against Me' see a significant decrease of the jokes, even to the point of none at all, that he puts in his music: however the pop-culture references still loom pretty visibly on those specific tracks. The production on People Keep Talking is pretty excellent, with the beats mostly done by RJF and !llmind and doesn't really use samples: another thing that's practically unheard of from Allen considering in year's past it wasn't the case, with the sole sample on the self-titled track from the hit 1983 Isley Brothers track "Between The Sheets".
People Keep Talking isn't all entirely in on Allen's return to the form of his critically-acclaimed mix-tape in 2010: it also sees some of the stuff of previous records such as All American and Leap Year that isn't really that appealing nor fun to listen to at all. "Show Me What You're Made Of" is a prime example of that, with Hoodie throwing in numerous jokes in his lyrics that feel corny and even annoying to bear listening to. In the tracks that do People Keep Talking justice, Allen didn't toss in too little or too many nods to pop culture or jokes: he did just the right amount of them. In these tracks that degrade the record, it's mainly plagued by the repetitiveness and over-bombardment of this that fails him. These mediocre songs are complete reminders of what wasn't working with Hoodie in the first place. Tracks like "Movie" and "Act My Age" also have this particular issue, but fortunately the amount of tracks like this are minimal. Hoodie Allen's debut LP definitely contains some of his best material that he's put out in years, and that's saying something considering the disappointments of year's past which has led him to being so underrated as he is today. If he can completely erase doing tracks like what he did in past sets like All American and the disastrous Leap Year, it'll definitely be of immense help to returning him to the status he once garnered when he debuted Pep Rally as one of hip-hop's wittiest MCs on the mic. It's not his best set of material undoubtedly, but it is far better than the majority of mix-tapes and EPs he's released, and a step in the right direction for the New York-based rapper/songwriter and that could be a very promising thing for him in the future.