On paper, Steven Markowitz was the typical Penn student. The 2010 Wharton graduate concentrated in finance, landed himself a job at Google and learned how to work hard, play hard.
But today, Markowitz — more commonly known as Hoodie Allen — is anything but typical.
Besides being a brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi and a member of the sprint football team, Allen spent most of his college years working on a start-up — his music career. He often played shows at fraternity parties and Student Planning and Events Committee concerts, and gained instant fame on campus upon releasing the single, “UPenn Girls” in 2009.
After a slew of critically acclaimed EPs, Allen today is releasing his first full-length album, “People Keep Talking.” With only pre-orders, it is currently at number four on iTunes’ hip hop album charts and includes a collaboration with Ed Sheeran.
Despite his notoriety at Penn, Allen entered the corporate world post-graduation. Less than a year after starting at Google, however, four of Allen's performances on Long Island, where he grew up, completely sold out. Riding the coattails of that success, he left the tech giant’s coveted campus to pursue music full time.
“There were a ton of opportunities to pursue music in a real way and it allowed a leap of faith to see what it would be like,” Allen said. “It was really a timely thing, things were continuing to grow and grow.”
Allen's degree, though, did not contribute to his decision to jump into the music industry. In 2008, when Allen was a junior at Penn, 34th Street Magazine asked him how his degree would help him in the rap world. "Um. Zero percent, not at all," he said.
In March 2012, Allen released his first EP, “All American,” which debuted at number one on iTunes. The “Crew Cuts” mixtape followed in February 2013, which included collaborations with Chiddy Bang, Shwayze and Chance The Rapper. The last EP before “People Keep Talking” was “Americoustic,” an acoustic set that reached number one on iTunes’ hip-hop album charts.
When 2010 College graduate Joseph Portelli picked out his freshman year roommate on MySpace, he had no idea he would be sharing a room in Hill College House with someone who would later play Madison Square Garden.
“I can still picture Steve’s first mixtape cover, it was a teacher writing on the blackboard with a chalky font,” Portelli said. “It’s amazing because he’s come a really long way from the artwork on the MySpace page and the rap that he posted.”
Portelli and Allen roomed together for three out of four years at Penn and joined sprint football together. He recalled one of his favorite college memories as introducing Allen to his friends from home and later hitting fraternity parties.
“I found Steve to be a bright, witty, sarcastic, interesting guy who was easy to get along with and we had a lot of fun together,” he added.
“He used to stay up until 4 a.m. just responding to people on MySpace,” 2010 College graduate and friend Brett Copell said. “He literally responds to every single fan he has.”
While Portelli and other friends pressured Allen to go out during senior week, he spent most of his free time working on what would become his breakout single, “You Are Not A Robot.” He released the track in June 2010, which helped his subsequent mixtape earn over 200,000 downloads.
Allen said that he drops by campus any time he is performing in Philadelphia. "I f---ing love Blarneys. #Classic," he tweeted after stopping into the bar on 39th and Sansom streets on Sept. 30, 2012, after performing at the Trocadero Theatre earlier that night. 34th Street reported that he also "went home with a [Chi Omega] girl and ended up spending some time at the XO house after a few drinks" that night.
On Nov. 29, Allen will return to Philadelphia again, performing at the Liacouras Center as part of his "Hang with Hoodie" tour. “I love to come hang out at Penn and creep around and force my band members to try Bui’s and Allegro’s,” he said.
Allen has already dropped three singles off “People Keep Talking.” The first, “Show Me What You’re Made Of,” debuted in May, followed by “Movie” in August and “Dumb for You” in September. Of the unreleased tracks, the biggest predicted hit is “All About It,” a song born out of a collaboration with and featuring Ed Sheeran.
“[The album] really represents what it means for me personally, being in a society where you can get instant feedback,” Allen said. “There’s so much positive and there’s so much negative and clutter and noise — don’t lose your own opinion among the others around you.”
Nickelback and Creed, Allen joked, was some of the noise he wanted to listen to.
Later, he credited OutKast, Amy Winehouse, Childish Gambino and other soul music as his real influences.
“I really like any music that feels fresh and energetic,” he added.
Before his days of friendship with flame-haired megastars, Allen was a student in Suzanne Diamond’s interactive media marketing class. He showcased his talents to the group when Diamond asked the class to find a way to get students to come to a new club meeting.
“Steve basically did a mock rick roll so he got to combine his interests and it all just cracked everyone up,” Diamond said. “I’m really thrilled for him and his success.”
Though Allen hopes to hear his album playing from every window in the Quad during his next campus visit, he refuses to be satisfied.
“You never completely get complacent, that’s a dangerous mentality to have,” Allen said. “That’s the energy I’ve been trying to keep since 2011.”
And he advises others to follow his path.
"College is just sort of the most amazing time and I see that every time that I play these schools," he said. "Use your time wisely … or you can just get drunk every night. It’s really up to you."
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