Can Twitter Make Hoodie Allen a Star?

Slate's Culture Blog
April 17 2013 9:13 AM

Can Twitter Make Hoodie Allen a Star?

hoodietwitter
Hoodie Allen's Twitter avatar.

When rapper Hoodie Allen wanted to get on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, he didn’t go through managers and publicists to set up an appearance. Instead, he called upon a group of people he believed could get the job done quickly: his dedicated Twitter followers.

On April 8th, as Hoodie was in the home stretch of a sold-out cross-country tour, he posted a short video on YouTube directed at Fallon. “My fans mean the world to me,” he says in the video, “and I know it would mean the world to them if I could make my national television debut on your show.” Hoodie’s fans—called the Hoodie Mob—took care of the rest, tweeting the link to Fallon thousands of times. Five days later, while Hoodie wrapped his tour at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, Fallon responded via Twitter: “I hear that you are killing it at Roseland—one of my favorite places to see music. Congrats. Let’s talk.”

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Hoodie, née Steven Markowitz, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 and landed a job with Google at the same time that he was beginning to pursue a rap career. He quit Google before long to focus on music fulltime, but the web has remained central to his professional efforts. Though he remains relatively unknown, he’s built a loyal fan base without a manager or a record label, fans committed enough to bother Jimmy Fallon until he takes notice.

Plenty of musicians use social media. What distinguishes Hoodie’s approach is how extensively he interacts with his fans on different platforms. On Twitter, where he has more than 200,000 followers, he almost never stops responding to fans. He has sent out 100,000 tweets since joining the site a few years ago, which is roughly three times as many posts as Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Barack Obama—combined. He’s comfortable with older technology, too. After his 2012 self-released EP All American cracked the top 10 on the US Billboard chart, Hoodie told fans who purchased the $5 album to provide their names and phone numbers on Facebook, and he personally called all the customers who signed up to thank them for their support.

Television is a logical next target for Hoodie, and Fallon’s show is the ideal platform: Much more than Letterman, Leno, or Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon is a bona fide hip-hop fan and arguably just as web-savvy as Hoodie himself. And it doesn’t hurt to make a fan out of the guy who’s about to take over The Tonight Show