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Hoodie Allen Brings ‘Happy Camper’ Tour to Chicago

A line of fans was wrapped all the way around the Riviera Theatre in Chicago as early as 3 p.m. this past Saturday, waiting for pop-rap music artist Hoodie Allen. The fans in the front of the line, who had been camped out since 2 p.m. the day before, were patiently awaiting Allen to come out and take his traditional “first in line” picture with them that he posts on his Instagram at every show. Some had traveled for hours, some were seeing him for the first time, and some had seen him as many as 11 times before.

Allen has always been more than accommodating with fans, consistently going out of his way to interact with them however possible. “I’ve never seen any reason but to be the most interactive, the most respectful (to fans),” said Allen. “I’m not too cool for anybody. These people give me the opportunity to do what I love and I’m very grateful for that so I want them to leave knowing that they have a real impact on me because they do.”

Meeting fans is also a big highlight for him while on tour. “It’s like the end of the circle for me; you create something from scratch, you record it, you put it out there in the world and then you get to perform it live for people,” said Allen. “It’s so great to meet the fans in real life and see that it’s not just people tweeting you on the internet; it’s real people, so that part for me is awesome.”

His latest album, “Happy Camper,” was released in January this year and when asked what makes this album different from his previous, he replied “I just wanted to set out to make music that I really loved personally and I figured if I liked it, then hopefully the people who like me would like it as well. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about 'what’s the single', or all the sort of things that can cloud the creative process. I tried to keep it very simply about the music… I never sought out to do anything but to make something for myself that was an expression of whatever was going on in my head. I felt it was very therapeutic to write and I really enjoy creating.

Allen says the final track on the album about his father, titled “King To Me,” is one he is most proud of. “It’s one of the more personal songs I’ve ever written and it’s a subject matter that’s important to me,” said Allen. “Family is a big thing for me so getting to explore that, share some details, and get a response back that was really positive encouraged me to do more of that in the future.”

The show was the definition of entertainment. Allen kept the crowd engaged throughout his entire set with his live band on stage with him. “I really think we take the music from the record and transform it into a really dynamic, great energy live,” said Allen of what fans can expect to see at a show this tour. “There’s a lot of new, cool video production and lighting production on this tour that goes beyond anything I’ve done in past. I think as a show, it’s just so much more thought out and put together so I’m excited to be here because it’s definitely a step up from last time I was at the Riv.”

Allen appeared in the middle of the crowd and threw cake at everyone during “Cake Boy,” rode out into the crowd in a blow-up raft during “All About It,” and covered portions of “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber (adding his own explicit rendition) as well as “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots. Allen said he’s currently listening to the latest albums from Ed Sheeran, Twenty One Pilots, and has the new 1975 and Macklemore albums on his queue.

When asked who he would love to collaborate with, Allen said, “I would say Justin Timberlake. I grew up as a huge fan of his, his voice, his style, his dancing, and everything.” Other influences include Mos Def and A Tribe To Remember. “I grew up really loving New York east coast hip hop,” said Allen. “That really shaped me as a rapper. I also grew up loving a lot of pop music so you see a mixture between these catchy hooks and witty raps.”

As for growing up, Allen notes that his favorite childhood memory is his first trip to Disneyworld. “I remember two things,” said Allen. “I remember riding the monorail and being like ‘this is crazy’ and then I remember this haunted house ride and being like ‘this is the end of my life.’”

Allen, who attended the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in marketing and finance, hopes students make the most of their experience. “The cool thing about college is that you get to be in this creative environment with so many intelligent, different people and you can learn a lot from them if you’re open enough to expand your circle a little bit,” said Allen. “So if you’re a frat or sorority, don’t just hang out with those people; see what’s out there and use your extra time to cultivate whatever your passion is. Or just have fun in general.”

As for the rest of 2016, Allen has a lot planned. “We’re doing a European tour and an Australian run for the mixtape. Then I’m going to get my ass back in the studio and make another one. I’m going to go back and make some more…because that’s what people like,” said Allen. “They want new music so I want to give it to them.”

Photos by Matty Vogel.

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