Hoodie Allen still Googles himself.
No, it's not out of some strange allegiance the Long Island rapper has to his former employer, where he was an account manager at the tech giant's Mountain View, California, headquarters before he decided to pursue music full time. He reads all the tweets to him and the YouTube comments, too.
"I think it's partially my responsibility to go through it," Allen said. "I've always been a person who likes reading everything and taking it in. I've just learned to be less affected by it -- positive and negative."
The idea of navigating through all those opinions and staying true to yourself became the concept behind his new album, "People Keep Talking" (Hoodie Allen), which will be released Tuesday and should at least land him another Top 10 debut.
"The message is about being an individual and not feeling ashamed to keep going for things that are not super-traditional," Allen said. "It's amazing that everyone has a voice through social media, but don't lose your own voice in the sea of everyone else's."
Allen, 26, has been living that message. Though he continues to run his career by himself and has turned down several major-label deals, he has already outpaced those who are backed by massive music-industry support.
"People Keep Talking" has already reached the Top 5 on the iTunes hip-hop albums chart on the strength of preorders alone. Allen's tour to support the album is almost sold out, including his biggest headlining show yet, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 28.
He has reached that point by expanding his musical influences and by creating videos that enhance the songs they accompany. When he was working on the album, he was influenced by Mark Ronson's collaborations with Amy Winehouse and with Justin Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds" album. The former can be seen in the soul-leaning "Movie" and "Dumb for You," while the latter seems to drive "Numbers."
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"We're trying to bridge the gap between those two worlds and what I usually do," Allen said.
However, the biggest hit from the album will likely be "All About It," a collaboration with Ed Sheeran that was born from their friendship. "We weren't trying to make a hit song," said Allen. "We were just having fun. The best music comes from just playing around. It wasn't forced."
As laid-back as he tries to keep things, Allen said he did go into "People Keep Talking" with a clear objective. "It hopefully creates my own lane that's sort of this mix of hip-hop and pop and soul that isn't the sort of hip-hop pop mix that you hear on the radio, like Flo Rida or whatever," he said. "It's something that's completely different, but still incorporates those elements."
Whether "People Keep Talking" launches Allen's career to new levels or not, he already sees it as a success because he made the album he wanted to make. But he admits that his upcoming show at the Theater at Madison Square Garden is forcing him to re-evaluate his goals.
"It's kind of surreal to play there because it's all I ever really wanted to do," Allen says, laughing. "It was something that just seemed so impossible. So I'm cockier now. I'm going to keep shooting for the stars."
WHO Hoodie Allen
WHEN | WHERE Nov. 28, 8 p.m. Theater at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan
INFO $35-$45; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
A HOODIE HISTORY
Allen already has an impressive catalog of work. Here's a look at the highlights:
(2010, Free at hoodieallen.com)
The mixtape that put him on the map, both for his quick, pop-culture-filled rhymes and his clever use of current pop hits for the musical backdrop.
KEY TRACK "You Are Not a Robot"
His first commercial release shocked the music industry by hitting No. 1 on iTunes and debuting at 10 on Billboard's album chart.
KEY TRACK(S) "No Interruption," "No Faith in Brooklyn"
New mixtape, featuring a harder-edged sound and high-profile collaborations with Chiddy Bang and Chance the Rapper.
"Cake Boy," "Fame Is for [Expletive]"