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Tag: Pep Rally

"She like pity parties, I like witty banter"

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.

Single: Hoodie Allen’s “Dreams Up”

Hoodie Allen is back. After dropping the frenetic, energetic Pep Rally last year, he’s got a new mixtape coming out called Leap Year. The first cut is called “Dreams Up,” and you can download it here. It’s straight-up Hoodie Allen style: RJF chops up a hip indie rock song (“White Nights” by Oh Land) into a beat without getting too crazy, while Allen drops some even flow with a lot of pop culture name dropping. It’s fun. The downside: other than slowing down the speed of his rapping, “Dreams Up” doesn’t show any new sides of Hoodie Allen or RJF. But it is only a lead single; they have a whole mixtape for that.

Either way, if you liked Pep Rally, Hoodie Allen’s still your boy, makin’ it safe for even the most reluctant of rap listeners to get in on the game.

Cause you're a cutie and I need you in my Death Cab

Since Drake, Chiddy Bang and even Jason DeRulo (okay, not really a rapper, but hear me out) have been rhyming over indie music backing tracks, I’ve been a lot more interested in rap. While I don’t seek it out (yet), I do enjoy it when it falls in my lap. And that’s exactly what Pep Rally by Hoodie Allen did.

Awesome name aside (I love hoodies), this white boy can rap. He spits fast, and he can hold complicated rhythms and rhyme schemes together for several lines. His lyrics are quirky, fun and winning the “who can drop the most pop culture references in one album?” contest. His voice is smooth enough that you can tell what he’s saying, but not so flaccid that there’s no bite. His flow by itself is pretty impressive.

But that’s not all you get with Pep Rally. Allen’s producer, RJ Ferguson, knows indie music really well, and elevates Allen’s game substantially. When a dude’s rapping over Marina and the Diamonds, Cold War Kids, Black Keys, Death Cab for Cutie and Two Door Cinema Club (among others!), it’s pretty hard to completely dislike any track, even if the rap isn’t your favorite.

Ferguson’s beats actually work with the chosen tracks/samples to make new pieces of art (as opposed to Childish Gambino’s “turn down the track and turn up my vox” approach), and it’s incredibly impressive. My favorite instances of this are “You Are Not a Robot” and “So Much Closer,” which use “I Am Not a Robot” by Marina and the Diamonds and “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab for Cutie, respectively. “You Are Not a Robot” screws with Marina’s voice and turns her into Hoodie’s personal hook singer. You will have that stuck in your head, trust me.

But “So Much Closer” is the best track here, as Ferguson and Allen transform the glacially-paced anthem into a pep rally-worthy anthem without making it feel like sacrilege. The song also namechecks Death Cab (see title) and Hype Machine, which made me smile. That’s totally where I heard the album first. Things just got meta.

If you’re into the whole indie-rock + rap = yesyesyes fad that’s been going on, Hoodie Allen’s Pep Rally is for you. I like the whole album more than Chiddy Bang’s The Swelly Express (my previous standard for this genre), although Allen has not yet produced any song as solid gold as Chiddy’s “The Opposite of Adults.” This is more of RJ Ferguson’s coming out party than Hoodie Allen’s, as I’m far more impressed with his half of the work than Allen’s. But I suppose that’s because I’m still getting in to this whole rap thing.

In mixtape fashion, you can get the whole eleven-song album for free right here. Go! Go get it. Go, Go, Go get it.