Social media has proven that artists can have success even if they aren't signed to a record label. New York's Hoodie Allen is one of those success stories. After leaving a very comfortable job three years ago, he's released four mixtapes and toured across both the States and the U.K. His home-grown career can be summed up in one principle: reach out to your fans and treat them as well as they treat you. Allen, who just released the radio-friendly Crew Cuts, called in to talk about his career.
When did you first show interest in hip-hop? What first inspired you?
I started writing music at about 12 or 13 years old. My favorite rapper at the time was probably Mos Def, but I was generally interested in rap that told stories that resonated with me. That's why rap became the style of music that I wrote. Writing music was always something I loved to do, and now it's my job.
The Google Headquarters has been proclaimed to be one of the greatest places to work. Did anyone say you were crazy for leaving?
It was definitely a risk, but the people around me supported me, thought it was a good decision and were hoping that it would work out.
And it did work out. One of your most notable qualities is that you're very personal and giving to your fans. When All American was released last year, you promised to call all the people that bought the mixtape and thank them personally. How many people have you called?
Well it wasn't everyone. It was everyone that signed up for it on my Facebook page. I've called about ten thousand people so far, and I have about twenty thousand more people to go.
You also do a lot of "crowd-sourcing" when it comes to promoting your shows and music, and in return, you offer gifts and even meet and greets. Why do you choose to involve the fans in this way?
Well, it's definitely a successful way to raise awareness socially. And I don't like the idea of VIP tickets and having to pay for the experience of a meet and greet. I base my meet and greets on you being a promoter of the show: someone who completes tasks given to my street team/fanbase. It's about how much you believe in what I'm doing and what you want to do to help, rather than about how much money you can spend.
Would you ever consider playing an intimate house show for your fans?
Stuff like that is tough sound-wise. I perform with a band, so it's not as simple as me just showing up at someone's house with a mic. But I think it's a great idea, and if I ever get in the position where I can do that and I'm able to afford it and do it right, I would love to.
It's no question you certainly love your fans. Is that why you gave your newest mixtape away for free?
Yeah. It was a thank you to all my fans that supported All American and for making me grow so big. In the last six months, I must have doubled my fan-base. So I wanted to give back to them all.
Your first single off of that mixtape, "Cake Boy," has a mouth-watering video to go along with it. Did you have fun shooting it?
Oh yeah, that was a very fun video to shoot. I probably ate way too much cake that day, and I won't be in a dessert mood for a while.
With that being the first single of the new album, will you be doing anything cake-related in your performance?
We've pondered the idea. We have some ideas about having a bunch of cake there, as another thank you to the fans. And we're probably going to make a mess out of it somehow.
Not too long ago on Twitter, you stated that Mandy Moore's "Candy" is the greatest music video ever. Why make such a proclamation?
Because I went through puberty watching that video. It brings me back to a simpler time, and she's just perfect.
It's nice to know you aren't afraid of sharing sentiment on Twitter. Speaking of Twitter — Since she's of the same generation of hip-hop as you, what do you think of Azealia Banks and her confrontational demeanor on Twitter?
It's not for me. I'd rather have people talk about my music than my Twitter rants. But it's not my place to say; she knows what she's doing musically, and if it works for her, so be it.
In your earlier work, you used to sample a lot of different stuff, like Marina & The Diamonds, Florence + The Machine, The Black Keys, etc. Your newer stuff hardly samples at all. Why did you decide to ease up on the sampling?
I still like sampling, but to me, it feels like filling in the blanks of someone else's work. And some of that stuff can inspire my own songs, but there's something about writing from scratch that's so fulfilling.
Speaking of The Black Keys, in the picture on your Wikipedia page you kind of look like their drummer, Patrick Carney.
Well, luckily, I don't wear those glasses anymore.