On Tuesday night, the Columbia Music Festival opened with a performance by Hoodie Allen. Fangirl Claire Friedman got to chat with him in (sadly for her seduction plans) a group interview–hence the questions from Spec.
Bwog: How did you decide on the name Hoodie Allen?
Hoodie: I wish I had a more interesting story — I’m going to make up one in the future — but really it’s just a name I thought would stick in people’s heads. Obviously a play on words — I’m a Jewish kid from New York City so I’m sure you guys can put it together. I thought it was kind of fitting for doing something out of the box, which is hip hop.
Bwog: You have a pretty unusual story. Going from a job at Google to a music career seems like a huge leap. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Hoodie: I’d always been actively pursuing and doing music while I was in school, [but] nothing ever really took off for me until I was about to graduate, and by that time I had already gotten a job and gone through the whole senior year recruiting process thing. So I already knew I had a job and of course that’s the time when I found a fan base and an audience. I didn’t last long at Google because my head was in other places. I really wanted to be doing this as my job so that’s how everything shook out.
Bwog: Did you always know that you wanted to make music or was there a certain moment where you said, “ this is what I want to do with my life?”
Hoodie: Well, when I was eleven I wanted to play for the Yankees but that was never going to happen because I stopped growing. …I wasn’t that athletic. But yeah, I’ve wanted to make music since I was thirteen or fourteen years old. I’ve always been writing songs so it’s one of those things that’s always a passion and a hobby until someone lets you make a career out of it, and luckily I’m in a position now that it’s tangible and it’s a real thing.
Bwog: Seeing as where you are now, would you change anything if you could go back in time?
Hoodie: I wish I would’ve been able to know what I knew at twenty-two when I was seventeen. I think there’s a good aspect to the fact that I went to college, I graduated, and that’s when everything sort of happened for me. Because, you know, my parents still like me as a result and I did learn a lot from being a normal person and going through all those experiences rather than be someone who got popular in high school and dropped out.
Bwog: You went to Wharton at University of Pennsylvania. Especially as someone coming from Long Island, what did you think of it?
Hoodie: I love Philly. Philly’s a really cool city. Penn’s cool because its like a bubble within a real big city, so you get a real nice mix of the fact that you’re on a college campus, but you can also go downtown to see museums or the nightlife in Philly or the shake and cheesesteak places everywhere — I really enjoyed Philly a lot. We’re going there on Thursday to play Electric Factory, which is crazy because when I was at school all I did was go to concerts there and now I get to play there. Oh and we get to tour the Eagles stadium because I have some cool fans whose dads have cool jobs. They’re letting us do that in exchange for a meet-and-greet-pass, which is the best deal ever!
Spec: It’s interesting that you come to Columbia because you went to Penn. At Penn what were your thoughts on Columbia?
Hoodie: Nothing negative because I’m from New York. I grew up here so it wasn’t any sort of rivalry. You know, fuck Princeton but everyone else is cool. Nah, I performed at Princeton, too. Really the people who need to book me are Penn. Everyone else in the Ivy League is doing it. No, I like Columbia a lot. I’ve never really gotten a chance to visit as much as NYU and other places in New York so I’m glad I’m here.
Spec: How did your education influence your career and your music?
Hoodie: If anything I think it’s influenced the business side of it more. I’ve basically been able to do everything, I basically run my own career and the decisions I make–whether it’s how I’m gonna roll out music, how I’m gonna play on tours, different strategies for releasing and marketing things–and that comes from being college educated and someone who’s interested in that side of the business rather than only the music. If anything I think that’s where the biggest direct influence comes from. So far so good.
Bwog: How was working with Chiddy Bang?
Hoodie: Dope, Chiddy’s the man. Technically it was just Chiddy because Xaphoon didn’t produce that track but we’ve played like twenty college tours with him since 2010 because we find that we have a similar fan base and colleges tend to book us together. He’s great. The cool thing about college tours is you make friends with a lot of other artists because the schools come in and they’re looking to make a diverse grouping together and then it works out for everyone. Really he’s a very cool dude.
Bwog: Do you have any weird pre-show pump up rituals that you do?
Hoodie: We started a little group hype-up speech and shot on this tour so we do the same ritual every single day. I have some of my own little quirky things I do right before I go on, but as a band we always take that show and get ready for it and take our minutes to really appreciate where we are and we just go hit the stage.
Bwog: Who would you say that you take the most inspiration from in your own music?
Hoodie: Jeez… musically, I’m a big fan of Kanye West, Pharrell, producers like that. The way that Andre 3000 has been able to be a chameleon when it comes to rapping, singing, you know, really he just has no boundaries as a musician. I look up to those guys for those reasons for sure.
Bwog: Do you have any general life advice to offer?
Hoodie: General life advice? Your major isn’t as important as you think. Follow what you’re passionate about. You’re better than most people at something and you should do that thing.
Interview edited for clarity and brevity