Coming of age with Hoodie Allen

By REYAN ALI  |  December 18, 2012

Hoodie Allen cannot escape James Franco. In this case, James Franco doesn't refer to the actual actor/painter/sorta-musician/erotic-fiction subject — just to his face. In the Being John Malkovich-esque clip for "James Franco," a track off Hoodie's 2011 mixtape Leap Year, Franco visages are superimposed on assorted characters — a hot-dog vendor, a little girl with a hula-hoop, a bikini-clad dame grazing on a popsicle — along a boardwalk-like scene. Most appear within Hoodie's radius, whether the guy likes it or not.

The tune, which samples the Meters' "Hand Clapping Song" to crackerjack effect, doesn't say anything deep about its perpetually baked-looking namesake but does pay a couple of nifty tributes, with a good Spider-Man 2 pun and by referencing Naughty By Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" in a chant of "Fran-co! Fran-co!" "James Franco" is just one big nod to the contemporary Renaissance man and his influence.

In attempting to explain the song's meaning, even Hoodie doesn't sound sure about what it aims to accomplish. "I don't feel a super strong connection to him personally. A lot of people do. [The song is] not about the person. It's more of the idea of [him being] like a symbol for teenagers and 20-year-olds," says the New York–based 23-year-old, born Steven Markowitz.

The track pretty much nails the nitty-gritty of the Hoodie Allen aesthetic. It espouses a generally carefree spirit, is riddled with pop-culture nods and partially earned punchlines, doesn't get too insightful about the human experience (nor is it really trying to), and plays up the pluses of being young, attractive, and upwardly mobile. The ripped-from-the-bio boast "Ivy League 'cause I'm a genius" says it all.

Markowitz's road to Hoodie has seen its share of loops. Growing up, he was an OutKast acolyte and then a 16-year-old making Atmosphere/Living Legends-esque indie rap before finding his way to his current pop-friendly dynamic. When Hoodie Allen formed, circa 2008, it was as a duo: Markowitz rap/sang and Obey City handled production/beats. Not long after getting the project off the ground, Obey City decided he wasn't into the direction Markowitz wanted to go in, so the rapper retained the name and carried on solo. Markowitz was a student at the University of Pennsylvania when he began seriously building his music career. After graduating, he worked at Google until balancing his day job and his increasingly in-demand alias became impossible.

Nowadays, Hoodie does music full time and sounds satisfied with what's happened since launching the project. "My songwriting has definitely changed," he says. "And that's just with getting older and getting wiser. The culture has been opened up. I'm sure a lot of people are very critical as hip hop has become popular music, [but it means] I have a chance to reach a real audience — one that matters and is real. It's very surreal, because for the longest time, things could easily be pigeonholed and put into boxes. Slowly but surely, people are more willing to give things a chance and not judge you on a superficial level."

HOODIE ALLEN :: Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston :: December 26 @ 7 pm :: All ages :: SOLD OUT :: 617.562.8800 or 

Related: Haitink and the BSO, Zander and the BPO, the Emerson Quartet, the Vores Violin Concerto, and Donald Teeters’s farewell to Boston Cecilia, The Fringe at 40, Porcelain Raft eases out of the shadows, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Leap Year, music features
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