Hoodie Allen‘s first mixtape Pep Rally was incredible because RJ Ferguson perfectly appropriated indie-rock as beats, giving Allen an unimpeachable framework. Allen coulda rapped the phone book, and I would have loved it.
Allen’s second mixtape Leap Year is incredible because Hoodie Allen is an excellent rapper. I mentioned in my previous review that he wins the namecheck award, but in Leap Year he uses his extensive pop culture knowledge to make witty jokes and provide social commentary.
Allen’s past writing songs for their own wit’s sake, and now he’s enjoying the fact that his wit can take him places. This newfound maturity is definitely related to the fact that Leap Year comes from his first year of making a living off music. Allen lives in his skin here instead of trying to appropriate a (hopefully) future self.
Not to say that RJ Ferguson drops the ball: RJF (as Allen so monikers him in the acknowledgments) is even better at his craft here. Pep Rally played the “Yeah, but do you know THIS song?” game, while Leap Year is (appropriately) over it. The smooth yet perky beats here are clearly from something, but I have no idea what. The beats float the rhymes very pleasantly and don’t distract, which is awesome.
This is best shown in standouts “James Franco” and “#WhiteGirlProblems.” The former, easily the funniest of the tracks here, uses a sample of (get this) “Clap Your Hands,” the second track off Black Eyed Peas’ 1998 debut album Behind the Front. Talk about deep cuts – that thing wasn’t even a single. “James Franco” is a party anthem, as well as an update on Hoodie’s last year; it includes a hilarious name-check to a music video that people “didn’t believe” — including me. The beat’s got movement, Hoodie’s flow is strong, the wordplay is fun and clever, and the whole thing comes off perfectly.
“#WhiteGirlProblems” morphs Eliza Doolittle into a hook singer, just like Marina and the Diamonds from Pep Rally‘s “You Are Not A Robot.” He takes on exactly what the title says, culminating in a great list of people who have white girl problems – and I don’t want to ruin the punchline. Seriously. Listen to it.
Also not to be missed: “Soul on Fire,” “You’re Welcome” and the single “Dreams Up.”
There’s still room to grow for Hoodie. His slower, more serious songs (“Push You Away,” “Moon Bounce”) fall short of the brilliance he displays as a hyperactive cultural commentator. While the songs aren’t bad, they currently feel out of character for him — and thus stick out oddly on the album. But there’s a huge jump from his last mixtape to this in maturity, so it’s reasonable to assume that some time will hammer out this issue.
Hoodie Allen’s Leap Year is a fantastic mixtape. The density of the lyrics will keep listeners coming back for more, and the excellent beats will keep them pleased while spinning it repeatedly. What else can you ask for in a mixtape? Hoodie kills it. Pick it up free here.