Sometimes you sleep on greatness, and then berate yourself for your procrastination. I have been hearing buzz about Chloe x Halle for at least a year and a half. The young Atlanta duo’s cover of Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” made them internet sensations. Then Beyoncé signed them to her label Parkwood Entertainment. I will repeat Beyoncé, the meticulous show stopper who this year put out one of the best pieces of art I’ve seen in my life, signed them, and I STILL hadn’t heard their work. Today I remedied the situation.
Thanks to me forgetting to cancel my TIDAL subscription and just buy LEMONADE on iTunes, I came across TIDAL’s Essence Fest playlist, a carefully curated, masterful list full of both throwbacks and new jams. When I saw Chloe x Halle two-thirds of the way down the list, I almost skipped their song and went back to Queen’s Speech Four, but something in my spirit, that deep inner part of me that knows when I’m on the cusp of Black Girl Magic, told me to click. I am now a changed woman.
First, there was shock. “Yo, where’d that beat come from”, I asked myself. Then I entered an almost trance like state; I was completely consumed by the sound. I felt similarly when Sylvan Esso gifted us with “Coffee”, and in episode six of Underground when Ibeyi’s “River” made me sit up on the couch and turn my live tweeting into a hunt for those behind that sound.
There is something so special and significant about Black artistry. No matter how many times White America, tries to box Blackness, we defy expectations. Throughout American music history, our contributions have been diminished and erased. The Establishment recently published two phenomenal essays on the abduction of our creations. As Latonya Pennington points out, White America has tried to relegate our musical influence and impact to only a few genres, but we have consistently fought this erasure. With one album Beyoncé crosses genres with effortless ease. She firmly situates Black women back into the genres we helped establish. Chloe x Halle similarly defy the confines of the music genre. Their EP Sugar Symphony traverses Soul, Electronica, R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop, and Alternative. In case anyone forgot what Black artists, especially Black woman are capable of, Chloe x Halle are here to remind you that Black Excellence knows no bounds.
“Grandmother, the alchemist. You spun gold out of this hard life.”
Many refer to it as Black Girl Magic, but when Beyoncé uses alchemy something just clicks. I’m not sure when we first learn the skill, I just know that it is passed down, from mothers, grandmothers, and aunties. Building on Beyoncé’s alchemy, Chloe x Halle join legions of Black women artists that expand our understanding of what music can sound like and how it can make us feel. Whiteness will always seek to define Blackness, to bind it, to contain it. For centuries Black women have pushed back against White supremacy’s efforts to define us and our art, Chloe x Halle continue this tradition and illustrate the power of alchemy.