At the time of this review, independent marketing-minded emcee Hoodie Allen (Steven Markowitz) from Long Island, New York (Plainview to be specific) is already pretty deep in his music career. He released his All American EP in 2012 (famous for “No Faith in Brooklyn”) and his first studio LP, People Keep Talking, in 2014 and yes, people did keep talking very well of the rapper because of it. His new album, Happy Camper, came out on January 22 and is close to EP length but is more like a long-play in breadth. The University of Pennsylvania graduate and former Google employee (sounds a lot like the path Lil Dicky took before music, college education followed by white collar job) has filled this !llmind-executive produced project with both melodies and witty rhymes in equal parts, many times running simultaneously as a matter of fact. Above all that though, Hoodie is simply himself, says what he wants and is able to connect with us with common values, sense, humor and good fun.
As a young man entering the real world, Hoodie talks a lot about what troubles him, whether it’s girl problems or the demands put on by society, but he’s also decided to be bright about where he is in life and what he has to hold on to. “Intro To Anxiety” is Hoodie’s outpouring of concerns, worries and feelings on nervousness, stress and insecurity in a nice joyful-sounding song ironically. It doesn’t feel hectic at all which is nice. “Are U Having Any Fun?” has a bunch of light dating wiles, and the honest “Remind Me Of” has Hoodie reminiscing but also some of that optimism mentioned before (one line that rings true: “we got sh*tty jobs and bills to pay”). In “So Close To Happiness,” he reminds himself of that intermediate stage of life he’s in with the very millennial-esque chorus line “big house, don’t really need that.” The next four songs in line go along with Hoodie’s thoughts on romantic love, as we’ll soon see.
In “Too Invested,” he’s completely committed to the right relationship (“put the money in the bank, girl, I ain’t never too invested”), and in the hotly intimate, super lurid “Surprise Party,” he spends a special night in with his shorty and raps “that’s just me being a little cocky, we can do it on the stairs like Rocky.” His mixed feelings about love then surface in “Make You Feel” and “Champagne And Pools.” All of a sudden he sees the relationship divisions caused by his hardwork, and in the latter song, he wishes for something other than superficial, immature, fun-obsessed girls. For the end, Hoodie has decided to put aside the chick issues for stirrings on fame and family. He weathers the storm of work and comes out on the other side to celebrate in “25th Hour,” and in “King To Me,” he speaks to his father with love in his words and voice and in general just talks about the power of family connection, to beautifully cozy piano and his own gorgeous singing.
Happy Camper is the product of no meddling label-intervention (remember, it’s self-released), quality features (Blackbear, Meghan Tonjes, Ricky Smith, SuperDuperKyle), excellent rapping (extra credit for Hoodie’s neat, impressive quicker flows), original innovative production and true proper personality. Hoodie Allen is comfortable being who he is and puts on no showy, pretentious personas, aided mainly by his producers’ help, his own skills and the fire in his belly from his ambitious Jewish roots and upbringing. He spits on relevant topics and unloads tons of awesome, memorable and highly quotable lines, some more being “I got the people divided, I call that Gaza flow” and “take out the gat and ‘Eric-Clapped’ them.” It’s not very rebellious or politically testy, and it’s perhaps too comfy in its safe suburban spirit, but Happy Camper is excellent feel-good rap that is ok to feel good with.