*Become a patron and support my blog and other writing endeavors on Patreon!
Hey, everyone! I’m returning after a short break with an interview I did with Colored Girls Hustle’s Taja Lindley and Jessica Valoris. A few weeks ago I did a review of their Colored Girls Hustle Hard mixtape and below they talk about their inspirations for the mixtape and the process of making it as well as upcoming performance they have planned. Tomorrow I will post part two!
1) What inspired you to make the mixtape and who or what were specific inspirations for each of the tracks?
Taja: Back in 2012 we were both talking about how Colored Girls Hustle needed an anthem… a remix of a popular song that talks about hustling. Jessica and I have been friends for 10 years and we’ve spent about half our friendship as roommates. So, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and we were stuck in the house for several days, we got the inspiration to finally write the anthem. That was the genesis of the mixtape. We released a webcam video of us rapping the “Colored Girls Hustle Hard Anthem” and we were surprised by how many views we received so quickly. Friends shared the video. Friends of friends. And their friends. And we got so much positive feedback! From there we were like yeah, lets keep this going. Lets continue to make songs! It was fun for us and people liked what we had to say. That led us to create the Colored Girls Hustle Hard Mixtape.
Inspirations and meanings behind various tracks:
Our “Jumpsuits and Tutus” track is about how we boldly self-express ourselves. Clearly: we like to wear jumpsuits and tutus. More than that, this opening interlude is a track about who we are, how we define ourselves and what we represent.
“AfroAliens” is about embracing our quirky, weird selves. It’s a parody of Drake’s “Started from the Bottom.” We wanted to flip this idea of coming from the bottom to the top to talk about how we really journey through life: lifting as we climb, coming out, becoming full self. And to recognize what makes us “alien” also makes us powerful.
“Sick on Dem Waves” was inspired by the rap artist Future. When Jess heard the radio edit of his song “Sh!t,” she thought it was so hilarious! She couldn’t understand a word he was saying and thought it’d be great for us to do something similar on his instrumental. That song is a combination of saying everything and nothing. If you don’t listen closely, it could seem like a bunch of a yelling and random thoughts about water and hair. But if you tune in and catch the references, the song is genius.
We were inspired to create “Ooo Oh #PirateBooty” because we like to dance and twerk but needed a twerk song that articulated our values and our politics. It’s about pleasure, rejecting respectability politics, loving ourselves and claiming our bodies.
“Xigga What” is about the afrophilocosmoology of Xigga. When we were recording “AfroAliens” in the studio, Jessica came up with the term xigga — a flip on the word nigga but spelled with an X. X represents the unknown and the taboo. We used the word repeatedly in “AfroAliens,” as a parody to Drake’s use of the word nigga in “Started from the Bottom.” Jessica was so inspired by the possibilities of Xigga as a framework, she created the xigga.projeck. “Xigga What” is our song to define how Xigga shows up in our lives.
“Beez” is our song to call out all of the ways we live in a trap. In our definitions of hustle, we’re thinking about freedom — living in ways that affirm who we are and reflect our purpose. But there are so many things that stand in the way of us living with freely passion and purpose: student loans, government and private surveillance, technology and systemic inequality. “Beez” is a truth-telling piece that names all of these things. Right before the song there is an interlude “School of Life” that articulates how we have been taught to live and rely on technology — the foundation for the trap we live in.
Jessica and I are always having to negotiate and overcome fear. We wanted a song that addressed fear and encouraged us, and others, to be our boldest selves. “Get Out My Head Yo #MonsterBoo” does just that. A couple tracks later you hear “You Got This #KeepGoing #MakeMoves” which is a meditation and affirmation interlude to listen to when you feel scared and need some encouragement to be courageous.
We created the “Mama Lullaby” song around mother’s day with a message that we should honor mamas all day everyday. The song was inspired by our own mothers as well as all of the ways we mother and birth projects, people, and ideas. Mothers hustle hard! And as a reproductive justice activist it was important to me to have a song about mamas and to celebrate all different types of mamas and families.
And lastly, our “Do It Again #GiveThanks” song is our gratitude song. We wanted a track to express how thankful we are to be alive and to be here on this Earth. We also needed a gratitude song to list the names of our donors who gave $35 or more (it was a perk in our IndieGogo fundraising campaign). It’s the last track… and such a great way to end the mixtape!
Throughout the mixtape you’ll hear the voices of our community talking about how they hustle hard and what their hustle looks like. It was important for us to include these voices because part of our work is redefining hustle and we do that by showcasing how we all hustle hard.
2)What was the process like for producing the mixtape?
Jessica: Before we even began working on specific songs, Taja and I spent some time defining our values, and how we wanted to work together. We wanted to maintain the spirit of fun, sillyness and celebration as we took on this work. After defining how we wanted to work together, we created a vision for the mixtape and how we wanted to see it live in the world, and then defined what topics we wanted to talk about. Through weekly video conference calls, and a couple of in-person retreats, we steadily started writing and sharing and revising. Our process with each song follows a similar model. We first talk through what the song’s about doing a large brainstorm and being non-judgmental with any ideas that come up. Then, Taja and I play the beat and write using whatever we gravitate towards in the brainstorm. We share our work with each other, figure out an order of verses and hooks, and edit as we see fit.
Taja: The mixtape is about more than the product; it’s also about our process. We needed to have fun! Enjoying how we created this work was just as important as creating the work itself. We’ve been friends for a long time and wanted to make sure how we worked together honored who we are to each other. We check-in before we work. We talk about our day, how we’re doing and what’s going on in our lives before we begin doing anything else. We eat together. We dance together. We enjoy each other. Sisterhood is part of our process. We employ the same practices with our guest artists… who are also our friends.
3) Talk about Colored Girls Hustle for those who are not familiar with it and how its message is reflected in the mixtape?
Taja: Colored Girls Hustle is (re)defining hustle and inspiring bold self-expression. We do this through handmade adornment, the Mixtape Project (of course!), and our “On Her Hustle” interview series. The Mixtape is filled with messages about overcoming fears, authentic living, social justice, pleasure and wellness. All of these things are integral to passion-filled and purpose-driven hustle. We deserve to live a life we love. Colored Girls Hustle is helping to make that possible and the Mixtape is an affirmation, a framework and a celebration of colored girls who hustle hard.
4) Will there be tours or special performances coming up for the mixtape?
Jessica: Yes! We are opening up for an awesome hip hop artist, Gabriel Teodros, on July 16th in Washington DC. The performance is a part of his Children of the Dragon Album Release Tour. We are definitely interested in touring and sharing the Colored Girls Hustle Hard Mixtape through live performance and funky fresh workshops! Invite us to your city, event, community organization, campus!!
Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the interview!