Remember back when Diddy was taking major heat for sampling? Seems pretty ridiculous today. Now it seems like every time I hear a good pop song, the first thing I do is think how great it would be with rap lyrics over it. Luckily, it seems 21 yr old NYC MC Hoodie Allen has been thinking the same way. What’s even better, is the fact that his execution in creating this vision is flawless. The end result is ‘Pep Rally’, a collection of 12 crisp, shiny ‘hip-pop’ jams that’s hard not to like.
There really is an under appreciated art to sampling. It’s not as simple as slappin’ a few quick-witted metaphors over some Passion Pit track. This is painfully clear if you have ever spent some serious time thumbing through the endless array of horrible mashups that exists on youtube. It takes a good ear, a sense of humor, imagination and some serious craftsmanship to really pull off anything that doesn’t sound ‘amateurish’, more or less anything as polished and clever as any of the songs on Pep Rally.
I really appreciate Hoodie’s sense of restraint in not choosing obvious or overdone songs. From Marina and the Diamonds, to Beach House, all of the choices are tasteful and fresh. Don’t kid yourself though if you think this mixtape is just about the samples. Hoodie has some serious skillz on the mic. In ‘CRAVE’ and the opener, ‘Look at What We Started’, Hoodie shows off a whirlwind pace and lung capacity that could hold it’s own against the likes of any top flight rapper out their today. And while I wouldn’t classify anything on Pep Rally as ‘deep’, the whole album is plenty playful and intelligent. Especially if you are a big fan of sports related plays on words like I apparently am. Some of my favorites are:
“I am a male. I am a man. I be Karl Malone”
“The playoffs, I treat them like Mora did. That means I’m working with a little to get more of it”
“I mean it. Take you to an island but no not Revis. Got to steal your heart but you known I’m not thievin'”.
“focus on the move like an army brat. So let me back it up like Charlie Batch”
While sports are a prominent theme they are far from the only pop culture reference. Everything from ‘Mad Men’ to ‘Gloria Estefan’ gets lip service on Pep Rally. It almost gets to the point where you just keep replaying fifteen second chunks of songs trying to get all the references. They are layered thick but it never feels heavy handed. That’s pretty similar to the rest of the album. The whole thing is so catchy and poppy that you would think it would sound overproduced and cheesy at times, but it doesn’t at all, not for a moment. Long story short, if you haven’t been on ‘hype machine’ in the last 3 months or so and you are looking for some fresh new jams, “It’s Hoodie! It’s Hoodie!”
Pep Rally 5 out of 5
Download the full mixtape for free legally on his website!