On April 10th, 2012, an EP by the name of All American debuted at number one on the iTunes ‘Top Albums’ chart. The artist behind the album was an independent rapper known as Hoodie Allen. Having created this album at the age of 22, his lyrics were about living carefree and captured the essence of college life in one’s early 20’s. About seven years later, more mature and experienced, Hoodie Allen has released the extension to All American on August 16th, it’s title being Whatever USA. The 9-track record encompasses songs that remind us of those beloved beats on the 2012 album but contains lyrics from a much more grown-up viewpoint on life.
As the opening song, the title track ‘Whatever USA’ namedrops colleges all across America. Whereas in All American Hoodie was living the life of a partying college kid in America, he now nods to kids in faraway cities. As he told Zach Sang in an interview, Hoodie acknowledges the fact that although his fans who are going to colleges such as Ole Miss and Alabama are free and independent, they are also confined to small spaces in the middle of, for lack of a better term, Whatever, USA. He also states that those are the fans that he appreciates the most; ones who travel hours to see him when he is in their nearest city. It seems absolutely fitting to open with this track on an album meant to reassure those stuck in their small hometowns that there is still the possibility of achieving everything they may believe is impossible. Not to mention the shoutout All American gets directly from the radio-like ending of the title track, which in turn gets listeners ready for what else is to come on the album.
To run through the tracklist quickly, track two is entitled ‘Come Around’ and features Christian French. If you’re in the mood to feel like you’re in a coming-of-age film, this is the song you’ll want to listen to in your bedroom. Next up is ‘60 Seconds,’ featuring two of our favorite artists, Gianni & Kyle. Though this song deserves its own full page review, we’ll save that for another time. ‘You Should Let Me Know’ and ‘Giving Up On Us’ are two songs that show honesty and vulnerability in a long-term relationship. Transparency creates a moody tone in these songs, which All American would have never approved of, but seems absolutely vital to this updated project of Whatever USA, where it is clear that our favorite independent rapper has been doing some growing up.
‘IDK Why’ throws us back to the sound of Hoodie Allen’s 2013 project, Crew Cuts, and its catchy lines thrown over a feel-good tune. And finally, the lead single, ‘Never Going Back,’ closes out the album with its optimistic lines and cheerful sound. No matter how much you may hate your hometown, that last song will leave you wanting to throw all the windows down and drive through it like you own the place, which brings me back to the one track I skipped: ‘Hometown Kid.’
This is the track that really pulled the whole thing together for me. A lot has happened since Hoodie Allen released All American in 2012. He has put out four full-length records, a handful of singles, and been on countless tours where he meets just about every single fan that shows up, even remembering most of their names. Oh, and did I mention that he does all of this all by himself? As an independent artist, he has no one that manages him, so he is hands-on in every aspect of this career that he has created for himself. So, it seems appropriate that he should return home with a royal welcome from the people that grew up with him. Of all his wordplays and clever puns, my favorite Hoodie lyric is actually a quite serious one that comes from this song, which is as follows: “My goal was not to blow up, just not to blow out my brains // ‘cause if I couldn’t create, I’d probably go insane [...] I made it.” All in one verse, Hoodie explains what his mindset was going into this unlikely career in music. Radio success was never his goal, just a perk that might come along with everything. His goal, rather, was to create art that meant a lot to him and would be enjoyed by fans from all over, no matter where they live or where they come from. And although the only way for him is still up, he has to give credit to the fame he feels when he thinks about his hometown and the people in it.
Whatever USA is very much about growing out of your hometown and becoming who you were meant to be, but it is also about remembering your roots and the fact that there, you will always be somebody to somebody. There is no fault in saying that the Hoodie Allen behind 2012’s All American would be very proud of himself today and his latest release.
Whatever USA is available now on all streaming services and phase one of the WUSA tour begins in Ohio on September 19th. If you’re not convinced by this new album, check out our articles on Hoodie’s live performance, as it is something to be admired on its own!