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What is your hustle?
Colored Girls Hustle featuring founder Taja Lindley and Jessica Valoris released their first official mixtape, Colored Girls Hustle Hard, a 19-track compilation reimagining the conventional ideas of what it means to hustle and giving positive encouragement and education in their lyrics with fun, danceable tracks for and about black women, black girls and other women of color. For Colored Girls Hustle, hustling is not about getting money and material items at the expense of others, but about forging communities and movements, seeking justice, creating safe spaces for black women and girls to be who they are and love who they are completely in mind, body and spirit, and world-building and creating futures. In their description of the mixtape, they reinforce these ideas that are clear in their music, “using powerful beats and powerful words to catalyze audacious self-expression and authentic living. We speak from our lived experiences as Black women to affirm, honor and celebrate how our communities hustle hard for justice, creativity, and wellness….This is the groundwork for our vision of hustle: doing passion-filled and purpose–driven work.”
Listening to the tracks, one of the immediate thoughts that comes to mind are the various samples and 90s influences on their music, both the styling and phrasing. Besides using and reinterpreting music from Rick Ross to Bone Crusher to Method Man/Mary J Blige to JayZ to Nicki Minaj, Taja and Jessica compare to other female hip hop groups of the late 80s and 90s, specifically Salt ‘n’ Pepa. Like Salt ‘n’ Pepa, they have the right balance between catchy dance beats and party anthems, and lyrics that highlight deeper issues such as women empowerment. They also highlight the different facets of black womanhood. In “Jumpsuits and Tutus,” they mix fashion (Colored Girls Hustle create adornments as well), books from Octavia Butler and Ntozake Shange and other introductions of who they are, which is extended into the next tracks, “Colored Girls Hustle Hard Anthem,” and “AfroAliens,” where they redefine hustle and give their stories.
They preserve this with “Sick on Dem Waves,” a collection of the different ways we interact with water and the importance of water to life and culture, including hairstyling, spirituality and myths, black history and its relationship to water, swimming, cleansing, and nutrition, but also current issues of the privatization of water and the polluting of water. “Ooo Oh #PirateBooty” is an anthem about loving and finding pleasure in your body outside of the objectification and respectability politics, and that loving yourself and finding the divinity and magic in yourself as you are is continued in “Xigga What.” “Beez” and ” Get Out My Head Yo! #MonsterBoo” talk about coping with the fear, doubt and pressures of everyday life living in the social systems we currently live with people who are sick, unhealthy, have huge amounts of debt and are barely making enough to survive. Before ending the mixtape, Colored Girls Hustle give a final musical thanks to those who made them and their music possible in “Mama Lullaby” and “Do It Again #GiveThanks.”
But the other part of the mixtape that is memorable is the incorporation of women and others in the community and their voices. Interspersed throughout between longer songs are inspirational interludes that includes various community members giving answers to what their hustles are and spoken word pieces that complement each of the longer tracks. With those added interludes, they showcase the purpose of Colored Girls Hustle and encompass the idea of “Me We,” to imagine and create spaces and futures that are inclusive to a diversity of individuals, but also working together for a common goal — hustling to be free.
Here is their video for the first single off the mixtape, “AfroAliens:”