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Chloe x Halle On Embracing Individuality While Evolving As Women & Musicians Together

"I don't know what I'd do without her so God knew what He was doing when he put us together."

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"We don't really care about the trends you like to follow…"

These are the first lyrics that pop into my head when I think of Chloe x Halle. These undeniably talented sisters are single-handedly responsible for the Grammy-nominated soundtrack of my life, The Kids Are Alright. Their artistry has evolved from their days as YouTube famous cover artists with viral renditions of Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts" and John Legend's "All Of You". They've taken over the music charts, our television screens as the Forster twins on Freeform's Grown-ish, and graced the stages of their mentor's On The Run II Tour. Additionally, the two will be gracing the big screens showing off their separate cinematic acting chops in Miramax's The Georgetown Project and the live-action remake of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Need I say more about how incredibly talented these multihyphenates are?

When first connecting with the "Forgive Me" songstresses, I could feel their positive energy radiating through the merged call from the moment they clicked over. Before the interview started, I had to praise them for their uplifting virtual tribute for my alma mater, Spelman College, and using their platform to amplify Black voices during these times of racial injustice and heightened systemic racism. As always, I asked the Grammy-nominated "Do It" duo about their mental health and if they were OK to proceed with the interview before starting. "Right now, I'm feeling very grateful and so tired, but so grateful and happy," Chloe Bailey answered. "And I'm feeling hopeful in a way too with everything going on and seeing everyone raise their voices to make a greater change. I'm in a positive vibe right now."

I had the pleasure of speaking with Chloe x Halle about the creation and inspiration behind their latest album Ungodly Hour, their growth as musicians and actresses, and their appreciation for Gen Z activism against police brutality.

xoNecole: When did you two know that music was your God-given talent?

Chloe Bailey: I remember my parents and my aunts telling me they would hear me sing in the car when I was like two in my diaper (laughs). When I knew that Halle and I had something special together singing was actually when we had our very first performance and it was at the Spelman Summer Camp Variety Show; we sang "Summertime" and we were 5 and 7 and we won. I remember in that moment, I was like, "Hey, this might be our little thing." So, ever since we were 5 and 7. It kind of progressed from there.

You two have always been transparent about your self-taught musical abilities with production, arranging and writing. Now that your artistry and your popularity has grown and blossomed before our eyes, do you still find great importance in having a creative hand in your own work?

Halle Bailey: Absolutely, my sister and I, we definitely take ownership in every single thing that we do. Our musicianship is very important to us. Our dad always instilled in us - our dad and our mom - that we can do anything we put our minds to and you don't have to wait on other people to do these things for you; you can learn them yourself. My beautiful sister is an amazing producer, she produced both of our records front to back. We write every single word that we sing, and that is so very important to us because it's our story and we want it to be truthful and we want it to be healing and we want people to be able to relate to what we're saying. We feel like when it comes from the heart, it's best and we definitely take full ownership of everything that we do and remind each other that we can do this.

"We write every single word that we sing, and that is so very important to us because it's our story and we want it to be truthful and we want it to be healing and we want people to be able to relate to what we're saying. We feel like when it comes from the heart, it's best and we definitely take full ownership of everything that we do and remind each other that we can do this."

Photo Credit: Robin Harper

Who were some of your major musical influences growing up? Did you two have the same or did you have a different sense of musical styling?

Chloe: It was different. For me, I grew up loving Destiny's Child, Toni Braxton, Nina Simone, Jill Scott [and] would always be playing [those artists] in our household. And Erykah Badu and Outkast. There's so many people that we have been inspired by. As I've gotten older, I've really been inspired by Kelis - I love her so much. I love Imogen Heap and Grime. That's for me. Oh, and Donna Summer!

Halle: For me, I've always been a super big jazz-head since I was 5. I discovered Billie Holiday because I saw that her CD was pink and I was like, "Oh, this is cool" (laughs). I've always been a big jazz-head so Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan - those have been my go-to. That's what really inspired me to want to continue to sing.

How would you describe your sound? Obviously the lyrics are powerful and the harmonies are definitely there, but there’s a lot of variety and interesting textures that play throughout the background of your music. Do you two have a creative process when you’re in the studio or writing music, and does it differ from one another’s?

Halle: Our creative process in the studio is actually very exciting and fun. We are two very completely different human beings, so it kind of stems from one of us [starting] it and then we finish it off together. For me, I like to sit on the floor when I'm in the studio (laughs). Like I'm [an] on-the-floor-rolling-around-on-the-carpet type of girl, and [I'm] playing my guitar and just playing anything until I get inspired - starting there, for me.

I normally start with my guitar, lyrics flow and then we finish out the song together. Or maybe it varies where Chloe makes a really cool beat and we kind of build up from there and finish up the song. It's never an exact way. It's never a formula and that's what keeps it so exciting because that's the creative process. It's fun to be different and it's fun to not to do the same thing every single time. I really respect that my sister and I have two completely different creative processes because when it comes together, it's really nice.

And, what would you say is your favorite part about producing your music?

Chloe: My favorite part is that we have complete creative control and I also love having this moment when you listen back and realize what you've created from absolutely nothing. That's always a great feeling when you know it's good and not like, bad (laughs).

You two say in nearly every interview I’ve ever seen that personally you two are complete opposites. I need to know how and what do you two love about each other?

Halle: I'm an Aries and a very fiery type of person, very passionate. If I feel some type of way about something, I'm the first one to say it and to scream it and to get it out. My beautiful sister is a Cancer; she's more sensitive and when it comes to her communication style, she is a bit calm in a way. Like if we're discussing something business-related or not seeing eye-to-eye about something, she's kind of the one to walk away or hold her tongue, but me, I'm kind of the opposite. What I love about my sister is that we learn from each other, you know? I learned from her to embrace more of my sensitive side and to open myself up a bit more, and I think she has had to kind of speak up for herself and not let people walk over her in a way.

Chloe: Yes! (laughs)

Halle: We kind of learn from each other in that way and that's cool.

And Chloe, what do you love about Halle?

Chloe: I love how she knows what she wants. She'll never really take 'no' for an answer. She's so headstrong and when she puts her mind to something, she can make it happen. That's what I love about her and that's really inspiring to me, and I forget that she's my little sister constantly. She's so mature, so wise and I don't know what I'd do without her so God knew what He was doing when He put us together.

Photo Credit: Robin Harper

How do you two manage your sisterhood and your business relationship? Is there a fine line between the two relationships or can you not have one without the other?

Chloe: You know, I feel like it's really all we know. We make it work so well because we have a balance, like we're each other's best friends. Even before we create the music, we're always just laughing about situations or things the other one is dealing with. When it comes to making the music, we're just baring our souls and that's a way that we express ourselves - not only individually, but together - and it's therapeutic for us. Because we know each other so well, it makes it that much easier. In terms of the business standpoint, we don't have to sugarcoat anything with each other, we don't have to walk around the bush, we can be honest and upfront and I think it's the best product, you know, and I truly feel like we bring out the best in each other.

So much of who you are is rooted in your identity as Chloe x Halle, however it’s extremely obvious you two are individuals within your own unit. How do you embrace your individuality while being a duo?

Halle: I would say I embrace my individuality by just taking little moments to myself. I mean, my sister and I are really great at respecting each other's space when it comes to doing press all day together and at the end of the day being tired and just separately going our own way in our room. I kind of meditate and pray just to center myself or have a spa night to reset myself. But the most exciting thing is always going back to my sister. I mean, that's my best friend. At the end of the day, I am the little sister so I'm kind of the one who wants to be around her all the time, but at the same time, it's a beautiful thing to have your own identity and really have somebody who respects that and supports that and will lift you up in every single way. That's just natural and very easy for us.

And, Chloe? How do you embrace your individuality?

Chloe: Because we are individuals, naturally, it's easy. We just have to be ourselves. It's not really hard to try to be someone I'm not because that's really impossible for me (laughs). We're naturally two completely different beings, so I'm just myself. I love the water; I love working out because I overthink so much and the pain on my legs and arms, I'm thinking about that instead of everyday life (laughs), so that helps me, too. I love praying - that always helps center me because I'm learning that I can't control everything in my life and I'm learning to be OK with that. I love how we are two completely different individuals, especially with our music, too. Even our tones; a lot of times [with] siblings, their tones will sound similar, but I think because we both were inspired by completely different types of music, that definitely was an influence on our tone.

Speaking of music, your latest project was very grown and sexy in comparison to your other music. From your first project, 'The Two of Us', to your recent 'Ungodly Hour', how have you two grown as artists and how is 'Ungodly Hour' a reflection of that?

Halle: I feel like we truly have grown as artists in every way very naturally. I'm 20 now and my sister's about to be 22 in two weeks. It's easy to make music that reflects the times going on in your life. When people are like, "Oh, it's so grown," or "It's so different from what we've heard from you," it's like, yes, of course because we're growing as individuals. Every single day, there's an evolutions that's going on. We're experiencing more things. We're learning to love ourselves. We're embracing our insecurities and we're putting that all into the music. So, of course it's gonna be a bit more evolved than three years ago with our debut album, The Kids Are Alright, because for that album, we were kids. In a way, as we're becoming women, we have been documenting that into this album Ungodly Hour, which is just a story of us finding ourselves while also kind of knowing who we are and navigating our life through love, relationships and figuring out what we want and what we don't want in life and taking our power back. That's definitely a natural evolution that happened for us just because of us growing.

"In a way, as we're becoming women, we have been documenting that into this album Ungodly Hour, which is just a story of us finding ourselves while also kind of knowing who we are and navigating our life through love, relationships and figuring out what we want and what we don't want in life and taking our power back. That's definitely a natural evolution that happened for us just because of us growing."

Courtesy of the artists

When I think of the term “ungodly hour”, I think of a young man hitting me up way past my bedtime or my mom waking me up wicked early. How did you two come up with the title of the album?

Chloe: I love how the title can mean a variety of things. For us and how we were inspired, we were in this session with Disclosure and I had a phrase written in my notes, "ungodly hour", and me, Halle and the two brothers of Disclosure were like, "What can we say with this phrase?" We came up with "love me in the ungodly hour", which means love me when I'm not at my best, when I can't stay still, when my mind is going crazy and filled with insecurities, and love me when I'm the most vulnerable. So, we felt that that phrase really meant - well, really what the whole album was about. We're baring our full souls and you're not just seeing perfect angel version[s] of us; you're seeing multi-layered women. You're hearing what we're going through: heartbreak, love, learning to embrace our flaws. You hear all of that in the music and we're truly saying to the world, "love us at our ungodly hour," and that's what that title means to us.

As the album touches on more grown themes like sex and love, and really the duality of sexuality and femininity as women, do you two ever find time to date or explore romance? Do you two help each other with your love lives?

Chloe: Oh, we definitely make time because we're human beings. I feel like humans thrive off of human touch and human experience, and that's what is helping fuel the creativity and help write these songs when we go through these things. If we didn't really experience it firsthand, I don't think we'd be able to write lyrics as raw as we did because we actually were going through these things, so it felt so much more real and everyone who has one through heartbreak or love like we have, they can relate too because love is a common thing.

Even when you're with someone, it may feel so special and it's like the only thing is the world is just you two, but it's an entire world and we all have the same feelings and I'm glad that people are saying these songs reflect what they've gone through. So, definitely we make and find time - it's hard because we're working so hard and business always comes first, but whenever we have those little off-days, yeah (laughs).

How are you each putting your mental health first when it comes to creation and production of new music amidst everything that’s happening within the Black community culturally and politically?

Halle: For me, I'm honestly taking it day-by-day. I'm taking social media breaks when needed because as a Black person, it's traumatizing seeing your family get killed every single day. Sometimes I just need to step away. In terms of music, that has always been, and still is, therapy for me so when it comes to being creative during this time, we can [be a] vessel and put all of the pain into the words of your writing and singing. It just gets it out of our systems and it allows us to feel lighter and freer through all of this together. I definitely can say I've just been putting my head down, prayer, meditation, stepping away from social media when I need to and holding the ones that I love so much.

Chloe: Definitely music has been therapy and just immersing myself in that has always been therapeutic for me, and also prayer.

Right now, unfortunately we’re in a time where a lot of what’s going on in the Black community is being brought to light and you two have taken to your platforms to sing “Life Every Voice” and “We Shall Overcome”. You even pushed back the delivery date of your album. How’re you doing right now and how are you using your platform to raise awareness?

Halle: Right now, we're doing much better than we were a few weeks ago when everything kind of felt like it was piling on the world. Every time we see something like what happened to George Floyd, it's just so devastating. You get this horrible feeling in your stomach and for me, I think of my baby brother. I think of my father because it could've been them. [George Floyd] could've been our uncle. It's a terrible thing that's been happening in our community, to our people for a very long time and people are just now seeing it, or just now wanting to pay attention to it. All I can do right now, my job, is to lift people up with my voice and to stand up for what I believe in and to stand up for what's right, which is getting justice for all of our beautiful brothers and sisters who have lost their lives to senseless police brutality. That is our number one goal as this generation.

We are so proud to be part of this generation because we're not afraid to speak up, we're not afraid to yell and to demand justice. We want to be a part of that and do everything that we can. The reason why we pushed back our album was because in our souls, it did not feel right to release that during that moment and we wanted to shine the light on George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all of the others who need justice. That's why we decided to drop it a week later because at the end of the day, music is a healer and has always been healing our community for so many years ever since this has been happening to us. We have used music to heal us, so we only hope that this album has done that and eased the pain for some of us and helped us.

For more of Chloe x Halle, follow them on Instagram. Ungodly Hour is out now.

Featured image courtesy of the artists

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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