He's a Nice Jewish Boy Who Raps for a Living

A few months ago, my older daughter told me she was going into the city to see Hoodie Allen in concert. At first, I thought she was going to see a comedian, because the name was so close to actor/director Woody Allen.

“No, Mom", she replied patiently. “He is a rapper“. She the proceeded to tell me that she had already seen him once this past February at the B’nai Brith Youth Organization International Conference in Atlanta.

This peaked my interest. A Jewish rapper who was actually proud of his roots and wants to connect to his community’s future leadership?

That is what prompted me to find out what I could about him.

Growing Up on "The Island"

That's Long Island to Non-Native New Yorkers

Steven Markowitz was born on August 19, 1988 and grew up in the Long Island suburb of Plainview,[1]  which is about 25 minutes outside of New York City.

He went to Hebrew School and had a Bar Mitzvah, and he took Honors and AP classes while attending Plainview-Old Beth Page John F. Kennedy High School. While in high school and became the Senior Class president. As the senior prank, he put a car on top of the roof of the school.[2]  The principal was so amused that he wore a pink tie with green questions marks to the graduation ceremony, in honor of the car placed directly above his office.


A Strong Fan Base for Hoodie

He gives a lot of interviews for his fans.

The Start of Hoodie's Music Career

Although he always loved music, Steven never had any formal training. He began writing lyrics at the tender age of six,[5] and at age 12 started creating demo music on is computer at that, by his own admission, were quite awful.[3]  While he was in high school, there were no blogs to get his music exposed, so he visited hip hop forums to gain some exposure. It was the feedback he received that helped him learn the technical aspects of rap, like the right flow and how to deliver his lyrics.[5]

His first paid performance before a live audience was at a now defunct club called Crazy Donkey.  About two dozen of his friends came to see him perform.[5]

But it wasn’t until college that his music really took off.[4]

Musical Influences

Steve’s music influences come from a number of places. As a child of the 90’s, he enjoyed the music of No Doubt, Wu Tang and Good Charlotte. Other artists who helped form his musical styling are The Beastie Boys, Outkast, Jay-Z and De La Soul.  Hoodie describes his music as hip hop/indie/pop all mixed together.

No Faith in Brooklyn

Clean version

Hoodie Allen's College Years

He is one smart cookie!

Upon graduating high school, Steven attended The University of Pennsylvania, where he focused on his studies, getting used to life on campus, and the sprint football team.  Music was put in the backburner during this time.  When he realized that he just was not up to the level of play that his teammates possessed, he went back to concentrating on his music.  At parties, he began freestyling among his friends, and after posting his music on Facebook, his friends began to share it and slowly people took notice.

He was eventually accepted into their prestigious Wharton School of Business after having been initially deferred from the program. [5]  His tenacity paid off, and he graduated with a degree in 2010. Although Hoodie had opportunities to do music full time while in college, but he refused to quit and pursue this line of work. He did not want not want to let his parents or himself down. He actually enjoyed school and studying![3]

But more importantly, the education he received at Wharton, a top American business school, is helping him brand himself and control his destiny in a way he couldn't if he let someone else control his career.  It was a class he took during his senior year, Interactive Media Marketing, which helped him create the successful business plan he is using today.

Hoodie Allen No InterruptionCredit: www.amazon.com

He Gave Up a Job With Google for Music

Upon graduating Wharton, Hoodie took a job as an account executive at Google in Mountain View, California.  Even though this was a position college graduates would have wanted more than anything, the music was still calling Hoodie.  

He worked at his job all day, and them created music at night.  He performed on the weekends. After a year of this dual lifestyle that involved very little sleep, he made the decision to-gasp-quit his job at Google and persue music full time.[5]

He never looked back.

How College Created the Hoodie Brand

If you are like me, you associate Hoodie Allen with Woody Allen.

This was not a mistake, but a brilliant marketing ploy used to take advantage of his roots-a Jewish kid from New York who did his own thing.[5]

How does Hoodie use these strategies?

First of all, all of his earliest music could be downloaded for free. When was the last time Beyonce, Taylor Swift or Bon Jovi gave away a song, yet alone an entire album, for free?

Giving away his music for free was the perfect way to gain exposure and get his music out to as many people as possible. As a new artist, the easiest way to get your music heard is not have people pay for it.  [6] There is absolutely no risk involved.  Since most of his present audience consists of teenagers and college aged people, their funds are limited.  He sent mixtapes out to music bloggers who would listen to them and then promote his music.  They in turn would send people to his website so they could download his free songs.

Another media savvy technique Hoodie employs is YouTube.  When he is in town for a concert, he happily meets with the local internet media outlets.  While these interviews are not the most professionally done, they are one way for Hoodie to reach out to his audience on a level they understand and appreciate.  

In addition to YouTube, Hoodie is an avid Twitter user.  He answers all of his Tweets, including several my daughter has Tweeted to him.  When he performed at the BBYO International Convention in February, he Tweeted how much he enjoyed hanging out with "the tribe". 

The teens LOVED it!

He is present on his Facebook page and responds to the fans who write on his wall.  His website is fun, user friendly, and where fans can download music for free.

He's a Nice Guy

The fans are what makes his success possible, and Hoodie does not forget that.  After his concerts, he sticks around to talk to them, take pictures with them and sign autographs.  He did this for my daugher and her friends at the event they went to this spring.

You Are Not a Robot

Not a clean version

A #1 iTunes Hit

Who is Hoodie Allen?Credit: www.amazon.com

In the spring of 2012, Hoodie released his first album that fans had to pay for.  All American was his first collection written solely by him without using samples from other artists.  It rose to number 1 on the iTunes chart on April 10, 2012. Hoodie Allen released his new single “Make it Home (feat. Kina Grannis) on May 15, 2013 and it debuted in the #9 spot.[7]

Nice guys do rise to the top.

The Future for Hoodie

Hoodie Allen is embarking on a European tour this September with a limited number of concert dates.  In a recent Tweet, he asked his fans what cities should be on his next American tour, as he genuinely wants their input.  

Staying connected to his fans is what separates Hoodie from other artists.  Will he be able to maintain this level of personal contact as his popularity rises?  Only time will tell, but if the past is indiciative of the future, he is certainly going to try.