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Set withing the backdrop of the music industry, specifically hip-hop, Alonge Hawes "Blue Collar Hustle" sets it's sights on letting viewers know, just what it's like to make it in the world of professional music. At first that is. Season one is all about the hustle. The struggle of getting those first tracks finished - then finally beginning the impossible task of promotion. These modern times are not like a few decades ago. Back then you created something good and the people came - as did the labels. Today, getting noticed is hard, expensive work - and don't expect any help from those ever illusive labels. Even if they are interested, you still have to be the bank as well as promote yourself. Times have changed. No question about that.
The crowds however, love real hip-hop. The gritty hypnotic beats and lyrical precision always find it's way into the souls of even the most unsuspecting individual. Including myself, who was never really a huge fan, but found myself strangely drawn to the background tracks Hawes production features. "Blue Collar Hustle" for me, a white boy, really made me stop to think about how much of hip-hop I attribute to gang culture. Never fully giving it the chance to be heard and appreciated, as an art form - like any other musical style. I realize that doesn't say much about me personally, I've done myself no favors admitting that - but as they say... it is what it is and man was I wrong. Alonge Hawes and his troupe have proved that over and over again.
As season one ended on my screen some time ago, I was reminded of the struggles faced by this crew of talented individuals. The work/life balance, that is hard enough on it's own, compounded by the start of a newly formed company - obviously made for some excellent onscreen drama. Yet the fact that this new company was formed around a recording, and struggling artist, just made things that much more interesting. Season one focused on the beginnings and struggles of this crew. Getting shit done and still providing for the family. Then, as if that weren't enough...
...topics of racism and real life, outside the studio were introduced, but left to settle in the background. Season two really switches things up. It returns and zooms in to those constant issues of racism and race politics, using the music scene and family, as the backing momentum to keep things going. As stated in the show itself, season two uses the leverage it's already gained to ask some serious questions. The show is all the better for it. "Blue Collar Hustle" keeps things real, as it attempts to stir up some kind of emotional response from it's viewers. Especially for people like me, who maybe need to be reminded from time to time, what the world is really like... outside my personal comfort zone.
As for Ajani, Quan and the rest of the crew? Let me just say some major changes take place in season two, and by the end of episode four? Let me just write I'm excited to see how the music is going to evolve as things progress.
"Blue Collar Hustle" is a low budget indie series. So don't expect technical perfection. Season one has it's issues, mainly involving the image quality - but also featuring some iffy audio and unusual edits. Season two does manage an improvement - mostly. Some of those same issues re-occur, but no nearly as much. Far less sketchy video and an edit that's a little slicker at times. The audio, save the backing tracks, still go hay-wire however, but as an entire production? The improvement of season two is clearly evident. Like any show, some episodes are simply better than others.
Here's the truth. I've been watching this series since episode one. Along the way, I've really grown to like - and appreciate what I've seen. The story here tells so much and is a good one overall. Perhaps I'm being a little generous with my rating? Maybe my ability to write an unbiased review has been compromised? Hell, it probably has! You know what? That's the perfect reason to give "Blue Collar Hustle" a four star review. I've grown to like the show so much - that I know I'm not writing from the outside anymore. Any show that takes me out of my comfort zone, and out of my confined little bubble is a good one. Any show that elevates itself high enough, so that I can't remain unbiased, definitely deserves to be noticed. If I'm not impartial anymore it's because "Blue Collar Hustle" made me that way - so why wouldn't I think it's great? I've said it once I'll say it again. Give this show a chance and you'll be impressed as well. The bones are solid. The writing and acting are solid. "Blue Collar Hustle" may not be perfect... but either is life. A solid four stars.
Season 2 conclusion. Episodes 8, 9 & 10
The wrapping of season two of "Blue Collar Hustle" is a bittersweet ordeal for me. On one hand, these final episodes were really great - and the fact this series is maturing is incredibly evident. I believe I once wrote, that the entire cast of this series played their roles in a believable and true way. Yet comparing them then to now is apples and oranges. Watching this troupe perform onscreen is not only a dramatic treat... but any time I see pictures of this crew I'll forever think of their characters here - on this show. Potentially that could pose a problem later down the road - with other projects - but that bridge can be crossed when the time comes. For now, I only have the highest of praises and respect for this group of actors - who took a bunch of character concepts and made them a reality. I will be changing my overall ratings for each season accordingly, using the final four or five episodes of season two as my comparative guide.
But what about that other hand I wrote about above? The bittersweet feelings about season two ending? As I'm pretty sure anyone reading this knows, "Blue Collar Hustle" is a low budget indie series. With that said, there are never any guarantees. Season three may not happen - or cast changes may be made. Who knows? It's the way of the world and with season two wrapped up - I'm hoping like hell these guys push on and continue with the struggle. If all goes well I expect... I hope... all or most of the minor technical issues get resolved. The last few episodes of this season have seen a massive improvement already - here's my crossed fingers for bigger and better. Hell, I love this show so much - I'd even volunteer my time to help with post production, Haha. To all involved, what a way to end a season!
So what stories do these final two episodes tell? For starters, we get a return to the music industry itself. Without question, the few episodes prior dealing with the characters, and not really the music scene, paved the way for a splendid finale. These final two episodes deal with decisions, record labels, and some discord that forms within the core - finally blowing up in the last episode. There's a lot of change needing to be addressed within the next season. A lot indeed.
Some great points of interest? The aftermath of Anaya's encounter with her acting coach - for starters. She may not get a lot of screen time in episodes eight and nine, but what she does get, ups the ante of the show. Her and Ajani's relationship are put to the test and with what has just happened with her, mixed together with Ajani's considerable commitment to the core and Quan himself, let's just say that a breaking point is reached and crossed. Maybe for good - but with the couple attempting to fix their problems by episode ten, family life for Ajani may just heal itself.
The seeds of discord between the core are also explored with the inclusion of some new characters. Harvey Harvey and Teyana Owens. Both characters were handled brilliantly. Both the acting and character concepts. Harvey Harvey, a label owner, really pulls a rabbit out of his hat with his performance. A little sleazy. A lot arrogant and a whole lot of personality. My favorite thing about this guy? That he doesn't see himself representing these character qualities. This is showcased within his final dialog. What's wrong with boy? This man really thinks he's the one offering the favor - and maybe he is? His inclusion was the perfect way to highlight the growing tensions of the group. Excellent.
Teyana Owens plays the cliche investor. A hard nosed woman looking for the payout - with the ability to keep her end of the deal. This character may be a little overdue in the show, but Roxzane T Mims, who plays the part, nails it. Cold. Steely and smart. I'm not going to go into details on what happens... but I really hope to see more of both these characters. They really add a dynamic to the core group. One that until presented, I wasn't even aware was missing.
At the end of the day? Hats off guys. Although the core is not quite what it used to be, I'm really hoping things work out in the end. Real life is full of ups and downs and twists of fate. You think you'll be one place and end up in another. Sometimes these changes are not bad. Blessings in disguise. In my heart of hearts however, I hope if nothing else, friendships can be reestablished. Of course I hope the core end up sticking to the old plan and membership. But who knows. To anyone looking for something to watch "Blue Collar Hustle" comes highly recommended. If not for the back story, I'd recommend newcomers start with season two. It's much more polished and even, dare I say, much more dramatic. Yet season one isn't no slouch - and to get to know these characters - I would highly recommend watching. But damn. Need I write more?
Season 2 Episode 6: Me And Your Mama - Episode 7: They Reminisce Over You.
Continuing the trend of leaning more towards the personal relationships of the characters, these newest episodes of "Blue Collar Hustle" introduce some of the more horrific aspects of real life. These include sexual harassment and even death. Something almost all of us can relate with on one level or another. What got to me was that the sexual harassment scene came right out of left field - and what's even scarier? The fact that it came out of nowhere felt perfectly real. In today's world, Alonge Hawes and Jairus Burks, who wrote the episodes, reminds us that you never truly know who you're dealing with. Professionally or personally. The entire scene during the acting class was a stark reminder of that.
We also get a chance to not only connect more with the past of the leading character Quan, we also see a massive leap in character development. "Blue Collar Hustle" isn't yet old enough for us to really know it's characters. Like our favorite folks on our favorite ten season TV show - you know what I mean. So in an attempt to flesh out it's stars quickly, the "Blue Collar Hustle" team has been adding elements from the past, of the various characters. This not only helps increase the episode count, but also adds a depth to the show that currently isn't present. Simply because it's still relatively new. This production/writing element is quickly becoming crucial to the stories of the characters. Layers upon layers... and it's only through this tactic, that we really get to see growth in the people populating this world.
I've kind of avoided writing much on episode seven. In my opinion, this is more of a stand alone episode, dealing with a death in the family. There isn't much forward motion in this segment - but as in the previous, it gives a little more history. This was a sad one for me because I can directly relate. I can also say that the episode was handled with class - and not just as an emotional crutch for the show. I'm thankful for that. This sort of topic should never be used as a gimmick alone, and I'm glad that doesn't feel was the case here.
Generally speaking, season two of the show has been hitting up on some very tough topics. More personal than music related. I'm not complaining, but the departure from the roots of the series has been noticed. Then again... I find myself asking what other choice was there? In order for the characters to grow, as they are, a more character driven approach had to be taken. I also find the overall arc of season two is helping establish these characters into my mind - as real people living their lives. The histories and quips of these people is so important - as is shedding light on so many darker aspects of life. And yet... I still miss the music.
I'm not going to go into a massive technical monologue - save to write that the visuals are improving, the writing is great, the acting is great... and the audio is more or less the same as I've written all along. Investing in some lapel mics, or a boom operator, or hiding a mic somewhere where the characters are speaking would do wonders. Once the audio issue is fixed... well reader, that's the last hurdle this show has to overcome.
As it sits right now, "Blue Collar Hustle" is a great show that is evolving into an even greater one. When season two has wrapped, I plan to re-write and re-review both seasons individually. That includes the general overviews. How they compare? How they relate? That much is deserved because in all honesty? S1 and S2 may have the same characters and the same general back story - but they are two different beasts entirely. Directly writing about Episodes six and seven? Well done.
Season two Episode five "Justify My Thug" review.
I mentioned above that "BCH" is maturing and evolving as a series. Episode five solidifies that statement, representing an apparent darker story poking it's head above the fold. This episode is a heavy hitter, dealing mainly with Jose, and the past life baggage he carries with him. Specifically, the years of his youth.
His backstory is the stuff of stand alone movies. Life in the hood and growing up tough. The musical aspects, that started the ball rolling in this series, not only takes a back-seat - but are almost completely ignored in this episode. Character development is key here - and Alonge Hawes and Jairus Burks waste no time directing their way straight to the meat and potatoes of the story.
In this episode, we start off with a bang before backtracking a little, seeing Jose's home and family life for what it is. Normal. A normal happy home. The seeds of the episode are planted when Jose gets a text from an old pal. A relic from another life. Although a bit apprehensive, he agrees to meet up with his old friend for reasons of loyalty. Jose however, has no intention of starting anew the life he so desperately wants to stay away from. As it turns out, his friend Luke, has other ideas. It's only when Jose tries to walk away things get sticky. In his mind, the days of Strong Arm and Quick Hands, their old street names, are over. If only Luke agreed.
I believe this is probably the darkest episode of the series to date, and probably one of - or maybe even - my favorite. The shift of "Blue Collar Hustle" has been written on the walls since season two began. Now that the series is established, it can easily shift into character development and branch off into some really dramatic sub-stories. While the series continues to use the music as the foundation, there is lots of wiggle room to expand. Aside from Jose's story, we also hear a little regarding the aftermath of an earlier episode. A slow time for gigs. I was glad that was included. It kept the series gelled together. It's always good to expand, but never forget where you started.
I'm not going to continue to beat the dead horse, regarding the technical aspects of the episode. Let me just write that it's more of the same. Mainly in the audio department. I can, and will add this. Once these technical glitches are ironed out - "Blue Collar Hustle" will explode.
Read original S1 review here.