The music industry from the 1970s and on has been an increasingly difficult one. Long gone are the times of simply forming a band, writing a hit and letting the world hear it. Well, maybe in theory things are still the same, but back then you could show up, play and get famous. Not so much now-days. In modern times it's all about the hustle. You want it? Work hard to make it and work harder to get recognized. Even then, recognition doesn't always equal financial success as it did in the old days. Now you work 100 times harder and still rely on luck. Yes. Having a good product still means a lot... but so does your image. As the years go by there is just so much more out there to compete with, and everyone wants their piece. The opening act of the musical war consists of writing and recording that ever important first album. Then, getting the funds to go further, doing it right, and allowing musical inclination and talent to be guided with financial wisdom and dreams. As hip-hop continues to rise in popularity among everyone, true fans continue to look for that realism and grit. That spark they can relate with, as the beats and lyrical precision take hold of their soul. The good in life, the bad, and the true spirit of the daily hustle. At first glance season 1 may seem to be only about the struggle, to get that first disc recorded. However, there is so much more showcased in this show, and even more than that for anyone looking to read between the lines. "Blue Collar Hustle" tackles racial issues, family, work and responsibility, and even friendships. It is also true that this show is all over the spectrum in quality, and the bad may scream low budget independent... but the good stuff within is just so damn good. Given the chance, and the full run of episodes, I suspect most would return for season 2. As I've said in previous reviews of the episodes, any show that has the ability to actually make you think about uncomfortable situations and realities, deserves a great rating. So although not perfect technically, "Blue Collar Hustle" given the chance really shines as you watch the process. The determination and the daily issues of life. The fact it's acted out so well is just the bonus. A feather in the cap for the talent in front of the lens. The final episode of the season brings us to that moment we've all been waiting for... and pauses. The record is finished, and simply waiting to be "put out into the world" and judged. It really is a great cliff hanger of sorts for anyone following the series. All that work and determination has paid off with an apparently awesome sounding disc, and we're led to believe season 2 will revolve around the promotion and success, or failure of the endeavor. I'm sure in true Alonge Hawes form, other story driven issues will arise to keep things moving forward. No doubt about that. Interestingly enough, the upcoming promotion of the new disc in season 2 is one of the lesser interesting seeds, planted for an upcoming season. Sure. We all want to know how Ajani, Quan, and the rest of the core crew fare in the real world of music, but other, possibly more interesting concepts are introduced. A possible relationship, or relationship fueled feud is on the possible horizon. Or, my favorite potential plot arc, the possibility of Ajani getting fired for diverting some of his attention to the upcoming record. An interesting conversation takes place at the start of the episode. Praise for balancing work and dreams and family life. Yet it turns out to not be so cut and dry, with possible consequences promising to be a highlight of a new season. Yes ladies and gents. "Blue Collar Hustle" is driven by music, but it's the side stories of struggle that really add the extra punch to the series. The set-ups are brilliant, ensuring interest remains high for the next step of the journey. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Come for the music, stay for the true life drama. On one level or another, we can all relate. That's the real magic of this show. So that's it. Through the episodes my reviews have went up and down. Much like the ups and downs of the series itself. As a final review, I decided to base it on all the stellar positives. The great acting. The excellent beats, the drama that unfolds we can all relate with, musical or otherwise. The series ability to have you thinking after the credits roll and finally, the heart and soul of the cast and crew behind everything. It's true you may disagree with my rating at first glance. I'm sure many will. However, if you give the entire series a chance and watch all five episodes... I have no doubt you'll forgive the instances that are less than stellar. You just need to sit back and watch. It's all here. Everything that makes a good show a good show. I'm hopeful and excited about an upcoming season. You should be as well.
Previous episode reviews and thoughts can be found below.
"Blue Collar Hustle" is an indie series revolving around music, mainly hip hop, and the lives and people directly and indirectly involved. This is my third trip into this fictional -yet real- world and my recent rating reflects the complete series thus far. Revisiting "Blue Collar Hustle" has been a mixed bag leaning heavily on the positive side. The trick for me is trying to stay neutral with my ramblings. I don't mean this in the way it probably sounds, but rather by the fact I'm getting to know these characters, as the episodes continue. It's like the way you think of yourself, or an even better way to describe it, like the way you'd write about your favorite all time TV show or series of movies. At some point it becomes hard to separate the bad from the good simply because you think you know these fictional folks. As I just finished episode five, putting in hours of combined view time, these people continue to become more familiar, making it harder to spot any written or technical faults. What's really got to me, especially these last few episodes, is the shift in dynamic of the series. What started as a musically driven drama, with a side order of social politics and racial issues, has flipped and begun showcasing the exact opposite. The music has slowly started playing second fiddle to the more important and controversial topics. This isn't a bad thing, as it's really brought up some tough topics and even tougher questions. Easily, this shift has added depth and substance to "Blue Collar Hustle" in a way the musical elements simply could not achieve. Being a white, middle aged man, it was at first tough tough to find a direct connection to these people. When I first started watching this show, I only had my love of all things musical to keep me grounded. That's changed. I'm not a racist person. At least... I don't think I am. As a matter of fact, I despise racism. I'm also one of those "people" who tends to think times have changed. The stereo-typical stories and clips I see from around the world, showcasing racism, are inflated and maybe even a little ridiculous. How could such things be real... life changing issues for so many people? Certainly not in this day and age. But then, I come across another white guy, much like myself... who sits at his favorite stool in his favorite bar and proclaims he is not racist? He has lots of "black" friends. "Black" friends I sometimes reply? "Do you mean you just have lots of friends?" Generally, my off-hand remark goes unnoticed which really gets me thinking. Or, it sparks a debate I will not go into here. My point... is that "Blue Collar Hustle" is really reminding me of these things. Especially episode four. Although maybe not always directly, topics such as this are common in the show. And, you may be wondering what all this rambling has to do with this review, of this show? Simple really. Writer Alonge Hawes and director Geoffrey Henderson have inspired this train of thought. All these questions running through my brain stem from watching. My social thinking mind asking if I'm maybe part of the problem? People like me who bury their head in the sand and pretend this shit doesn't exist? "Blue Collar Hustle" has moved beyond a musical drama and infected my brain with it's musically inspired political thinking. Damn. Who would have thought a web series... an indie low budget series, could cause so much thought beyond what's directly presented onscreen. Do I suspect this is an intentional thing from the writer? Hell yes. I'm pretty damn sure. These guys know what they're doing. Moving on. The cast, especially in the later episodes, really do fantastic jobs. It's not a stretch to write that this crew probably use real life experience when creating the personality of their individual characters. It's so much easier to play a role you know. The results end up becoming mesmerizing in the sense this "could" be a reality show. The feeling of actors playing a role vanishes and you find yourself thinking of these characters as real people. I know I ranted above on how "Blue Collar Hustle" tends to put some gritty thoughts in your head, but music is still present. The real life issues simply add to the world playing out before your eyes. Adding reality to a fictional show. This really is a plus as it keeps things fresh, real and completely interesting. I especially like the fact that another focus offered is family. The struggles to keep things moving forward and do what's right. It doesn't matter what color a person is to appreciate this stuff. It's universal and was a good idea to add in and at times, even focus on. My technical thoughts can all be read in my previous reviews below. Obviously, things get better every episode, but the one new thought I had was with the consistent nature of the length. Or, lack of it. I realize this is a web series, but some real thought should be given to having each episode in and around the same length. Maybe even consider capping off each episode at around 24 minutes. This is a standard play time for most half hour shows... once commercials are factored in. The reason? 24 and 49 minutes are natural break points for the mind. Especially in ongoing dramas. We've been programmed by the studios to accept these times as normal, and with a lifetime of TV behind me... it's hard to break that thought process. Aside from that, "Blue Collar Hustle" continues to get more interesting, entertaining and thought inducing. Come for the beat and stay for the message. You really have to ask yourself one thing: If a show can cause such thoughts in the average person... does that not make it entertaining by definition? My answer? Of course it does as well as deliver a clear message. If you want it? Go out and get it. Sacrifice what you need to sacrifice. Do what you have to do... just do it. When you consider all this, what's not to like? Given a larger budget and the same characters and writing, "Blue Collar Hustle" could easily achieve a perfect rating. In my mind anyhow. For now... Enough reading. Go and take a look. - I got a chance to sit down with the gang again for episodes two and three of Alonge Hawes series "Blue Collar Hustle." Again, I was taken into his strangely real, yet fictional world and treated to some drama and yes, some musical therapy. You can read the original review below and because this is a second run down of the series, I'm going to include the technical opinions in a safe, spoiler free box at the end of this revised write-up. "Blue Collar Hustle" presents a down to earth, gritty look at the real world we all live in. Have a dream? Work for it, or accept the given life of mediocrity so many people find themselves living. Not to say there's any shame in living the normal life. Sometimes you just have to pull your pants up and do what you need to. That's not what this series is about however, this show is about the journey and pursuit of that dream. Even while living the nine to five routine. For me, the core of "Blue Collar Hustle" is about the relentless pursuit of creative freedom and independence; using the real world, and all the pitfalls of life for dramatic embellishment. What makes this series work is the smart, real writing and the excellent direction given to the cast, allowing them to come across as believable characters and not silly caricatures. First and foremost, this is a series that really strives to be more than it is. More than another low budget YouTube series, more than another boring life series. On many levels, it manages with style. The gritty realism, smart writing and good casting all contribute to providing a highly enjoyable, surprisingly entertaining production. The characters themselves are lifted from your screen by some talented people, and although culturally driven, not so much as to alienate the series from people of all walks of life and nationalities. This is not an easy task... all things considered. As a matter of fact, as culturally motivated as "Blue Collar Hustle" appears to be, you could say it's not at all. The problems and situations these characters face could apply to anyone in any number of different situations. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy this show, it's universal problems the characters must deal with. It would be easy to write this is a "black" thing, and maybe to some extent it is. The real kicker here? It's a universal thing that everyone can relate to. This is one of the aspects of the show that surprised me from the start. It doesn't matter who you are to fully appreciate and understand the core values of this series. Now add into the mix, a series that's just plain entertaining and BAM! Welcome to the world of "Blue Collar Hustle." Individually, there's a lot going for it: a great cast, great writing and yes, some catchy tracks. The magic happens when you combine everything into one package and get to know these people. That's when this show really takes hold. While it is possible that I'm simply getting to know these characters, three episodes in that's bound to happen, but what started as a good show is shaping up to be a great one. It's all about hard work and a plan, as stated in the show itself. Right now it's pretty damn good, and should be slowly growing a decent following. So long as things keep progressing the way they are, I can easily see "Blue Collar Hustle" blowing up. Hard work and a dream is what they say. For a series with next to no cash behind it, not only was I impressed... I was entertained. Enough said.
The current state of things in the wonderful world we all live was, and is, bound to bring in a lot of indie films and series that among other things, attempt to make sense or tackle the crazy times we live in. The age of enlightenment many of us crave so deeply may just have to wait, if the current affairs are any indication. With that said, I was really apprehensive after watching the numerous spots and trailers for "Blue Collar Hustle." If the indications from the trailers were true to form, I would be writing this commentary standing on a very unstable ledge. Perhaps thats part of the problem. Attempting to smash through barriers and stereotypes is "that" much more difficult, when it feels like you're treading on broken glass. However, the beauty of an indie production is the ability to tell it like you want it. So what was I expecting from this series? Should I brace myself for a gritty real life drama, the describes the problems of today? Maybe... but the cartoon promo poster said otherwise. The trailers and spots screamed to be taken seriously, yet the artwork proclaimed comedy and parody. Perhaps this was the start of my presumptions, as it seemed the producers couldn't agree on how to present this show. Moving on, I hit that play button and braced myself. From the start it was clear that we had some real potential. A lesser indie series may have handled and presented things differently. "Blue Collar Hustle" contains a thoughtful, realistic look of how a young man's choices and responsibilities shape the life he lives, and the impact on his family. There is no question about that. The drama written in by Alonge Hawes may be a little light right now, but the potential for exponential growth is clearly present. I'm not going to give away any details, but the potential for a familiar drama, yet different enough to be great, is front and center here. Familiar in the sense of putting on your favorite shoes, yet unique enough to make them feel brand new. It's all here. The setups, the dreams, and the potential pitfalls and stereotypical ups and downs; waiting to be realized as the series continues. Things aren't perfect however, as you'll read below. The technicalities of "Blue Collar Hustle" really showcase that this is, in fact, an indie low budget production. I viewed Ep1 from my couch, on my big screen television, which really showed the technical limitations. Shots were choppy and had an unusual blurring effect whenever the camera panned. I suspect on a small screen, this would be far less evident... but I didn't watch on a small screen. With YouTube, and most major video platforms now available on most any screen, this was something that should have been considered. Aside from that, front and center was some questionable coloring of the show. One shot really nice, another not so much. One shot would feature a reddish, highly contrasted tone; followed by the next immediate shot having a blue tint and no contrast at all. Same scene and characters ladies and gents. Not location to location. This is an easy fix for anyone editing, with just a few adjustments when piecing together the footage. Speaking of the edit, for the most part it did the trick. However, numerous cuts just felt much to quick, or the opposite. I even felt a few cuts were completely pointless. Such as a medium shot, followed by a one second wide cut, only to go back again to the medium. Really fast edits like this can be distracting and make no sense. This wasn't an action scene, it was dialog driven. Another area that I kept coming back to was the noise and grain in many of the darker shots. Again, maybe this stemmed from my large screen, but again, most of this could have been fixed by a simple plugin. Where "Blue Collar Hustle" did shine was with the actors themselves, helped along by director Geoffrey Henderson. This crew never once felt fake or scripted, and all the dialog felt real and not "read off a page." I could have been a fly on the wall, listening in on real people having real conversations. Easily a high point of this series so far. Lastly, before ending this technical rant, I felt elements and scenes were a little long winded. A four or five minute cut to the length of the episode would really add to the overall impact. Especially during the "one on one" interview scenes. These spots take up a huge chunk of the run time and could easily have been trimmed down. In the end, "Blue Collar Hustle" is exactly what you are expecting... yet... not what you're expecting at all. The technical elements did influence my thoughts overall, but again, this is an indie production. You can't expect a ten million dollar experience. Where this show does shine is in the portrayals, and the promise of what's to come. My only advice, and again, this is a personal opinion... for future episodes get someone not involved in the immediate show to edit and color the footage. It would make all the difference. As it sits right now, I would be lying if I didn't write that I would be one of the first to check out episode two. I'm interested and excited. It is a safe bet to write that an update to this initial review is pending. Bring on the next.