He’s topped the iTunes charts, headlined international tours, and collaborated with Ed Sheeran—but at the end of the day, Hoodie Allen is Steve Markowitz (W '10)—Penn grad who spent his freshman year at Hill house and still remembers team building in Management 100. On the 8th Floor of Huntsman Hall, Hoodie walked into a room of eager Penn students with a “Ben Franklin Quakers” purple t–shirt and a beaming smile. He was excited to be back on campus, and we were excited to have him.
Immediately, Hoodie asked the audience if we voted—the event took place on November 6, Election Day. He was followed in by the moderator and former Wharton professor, Suzanne Diamond. But providing us a break from the day’s political energy, Suzanne and Hoodie quickly moved into how this marketing and finance major traded in Huntsman Hall study rooms for sold–out venues. Here are the tips I took away from the enjoyable evening with Hoodie (with fun names based off his songs):
Tip 1: “Know It All”—Don’t Forget All That You’ve Learned at Penn
“No,” Hoodie jokingly replied to Suzanne’s inquiry if Penn has affected his success. As the laughs subsided, Hoodie clarified that while the specifics from class may not have taken hold in his brain, the important themes will always impact his decisions. He describes how he learned to be a team member in Management 100 and has used his acquired analytical skills when looking at tour.
Discussing his “Penn Brain”—as he called it—the artist remarked how he still uses concepts in Interactive Marketing, “maybe not…to sell toilet paper to someone,” he teases, “but…to find a fan and make that person a fan for life.” Hoodie explained how his concert tickets come with meet–and–greets, how he texts his fans often, and comments a gratuitous “thank you” when someone share his work on social media. He even gave the audience a raffle for free tickets with meet–and–greets for his concert the next day.
Tip 2: “Fame Is for [Hard–Working People Willing to Stay in On Saturdays]"
But moving beyond confirmation that our three–hour lectures are actually worth attending, Hoodie talked about his transition from Steve Markowitz to his new persona; the striking difference between the two—according to Hoodie—was his confirmation that “Steve Markowitz was definitely a virgin.” Despite the party images embedded in his earlier songs, he was committed to perfecting his craft while at Penn, admitting to the audience that he’d spend Saturday nights in his room writing songs and trying out lyrics.
Tip 3: Pizza Slices and Basements Before “Champagne and Pools”
With diploma in hand, Hoodie graduated and worked for Google—but, to make us feel better, admitted he’d never get a summer internship at Goldman Sachs. Just as Hoodie had balanced school and music in college, the duality of his life continued. Working at Google during the day, Hoodie would stay up late every night to work on his mixtape Pep Rally. The aspiring artist soon realized he wanted to follow his passion and decided to give rapping “1000%.” After analyzing whether he could make enough money as a rapper to justify him leaving Google, he took a 6–month hiatus with an opportunity to return to Google if music didn't work out. Though he began DJing frat parties for $500 and a slice of pizza, over time the frat party basements transformed into actual venues and sold–out shows.
Tip 4: It’s Okay if You “Ain’t Ready,” Just “Let It All Work Out”
Obviously, this decision involved a big leap of faith, but Hoodie pointed out two essential qualities for anyone aspiring for fame. (1) Trust your gut and (2) Make your own decisions. In order to prove to his parents and maybe even to himself, the artist tried for a record deal and—because he was so nervous—didn’t get it.
Tip 5: “Show [Everyone] What You’re Made Of”
However, he knew that this was no reason to give up. While Suzanne deemed this experience “humiliating” and Hoodie fake–cried “that’s a little harsh, I was gonna say unfortunate,” this rejection opened new doors. He knew he could take advantage of social media and upload songs on the internet. While this untraditional tactic worked for Hoodie, it also led him to fire team members that didn’t agree. As a 21–year–old he “was firing people who thought they were doing [him] a favor,” which is obviously awkward and hard, but demonstrates being confident enough to make tough decisions.
Tip 6: Realize “You Are Not A Robot”—Everything Won’t Be Perfect Once You Reach Fame
When it comes to making music and his new life of fame, Hoodie admitted that it’s still not always easy to balance everything. Actually, he blatantly stated “he doesn’t” and nudges us to “just ask his girlfriend.” The writing process also poses challenges. As Ed Sheeran had told him (which Hoodie declared followed by a cough “name drop”) you have to get all of the bad stuff to come out before you can hit gold. This can lead to hours of writing, but Hoodie confessed that even when his work can feel punishing it is still so enjoyable. He also plugged for any Penn engineers who could help him with an app.
Tip 7: Chill with Ed Sheeran–Hoodie’s “All About It”
As the discussion began to dwindle and Hoodie answered audience questions, the fun tidbits erupted. Pretty much, we know that Ed Sheeran is the nicest celeb and that the two of them collaborated for the 2011 track “All About It” after Sheeran got drunk and proposed doing a song together. This gave Hoodie exposure to the glamorous side of the music industry, like going to radio stations and having MTV coverage.
Tip 8: “The Moment” You Made It Can Be Moments
Hoodie felt like he officially made it when All American went number one on iTunes and he made the Thirty Under Thirty Wharton List.
Tip 9: “No Faith in Brooklyn?” Location Isn’t Key.
“Location doesn’t determine your destination” a phrase Hoodie coined on the spot and declared “ooh I like that” to—in response to an audience member’s inquiry of what city is right for pursuing a music career.
Tip 10: “Make It Home”
Finally, the rapper spoke about Penn and his two favorite memories: when he made a tackle against Princeton his senior year on the Sprint football team (which, according to the defensive back, only happened because Penn was up by like 40 points) and playing Quad Spring Fling at Penn his senior year.
Hoodie concluded with a nostalgic, “I love Penn, Penn’s awesome.”