On their latest effort, Ungodly Hour, released in June, the duo is done playing dating games. “You ain’t gotta tell me what it is/ ‘Cause I saw the messages/ You must got me f--ked up/ You must got me f--ked up / I think I had enough,” Chloe sings bluntly on “Forgive Me.”
But the project isn’t just about relationships and situationships. The lead single, “Do It,” is a spirited vibe about the power of friendship and the appeal of being flexible with life’s adventures. From top to bottom, Ungodly Hour is presented as a declaration of evolution. The statement made by Chloe, 22, and Halle, 20, is one that points toward matured perspectives on love, womanhood, and artistry.
Billboard spoke to Chloe x Halle about “Do It” debuting on the Hot 100, what it’s like developing their craft under Beyoncé’s tutelage, and how it feels to be Black women artists in a climate where Black people are constantly in the news, for better or worse.
Can you explain what your album title means, contextually?
Chloe: Ungodly Hour, for us, represents loving every layer of ourselves, because you have your good side, your naughty side, all of these different things that make you who you are. I feel like the world is used to knowing the really sweet side of us, and that’s because we don’t really share our personal lives. So we really wanted to share that through the music. The phrase of the title track, it literally says “Love me at the ungodly hour.” It’s saying, “Love me not only when I’m at my best, but also my worst.” We feel like that wrapped up what the entire album means.
The sound of this project is both cohesive and varied. It weaves in and out of itself expertly, but also unpredictably. I know you do a lot of your own work, but how did you work with producers to achieve that?
Halle: Whenever it comes to us making a project, it’s very easy for my sister and I to collaborate with one another. We just know each other like the back of our hands, so we can be honest with each other. The music just naturally writes and produces itself. When it comes to collaborating with other producers, I would say we’re very open -- but also picky. We love to work with people we’re actually fans of.
For this album, some of the producers we worked with are Scott Storch, who is an angel inside and out, and also Sounwave, who does a lot of stuff with Kendrick Lamar, as well as Disclosure, which was really fun to work with them for the first time. A realized pattern in all of these amazing producers is they’re all such kind and genuine souls inside and out. We just love to collaborate with people who have the same kind of mindset as we do.
But when it comes to a majority of the production, my sister does that in her sleep. We really take ownership in writing and producing everything that we do because it’s our story to tell intimately, and everybody else should just be there to help enhance.
Do you feel like being so hands-on with your own music and creative output makes your evolution that much more critical?
Chloe: I definitely feel that because we put our complete souls into our music, and we as human beings are growing every day, that’s just naturally how the music grows with us. We used to put this unspoken pressure on ourselves, when it comes to making music and ways we could kind of level up and constantly get better, which is the case for us still.
But I think my mindset has kind of shifted more to making music that makes me happy, music that gives me chills, because I am such a big music lover and fan myself, first. So as long as I love the music and we’re allowing ourselves to create the way we’re meant to, that’s all I could ever ask for. We’re growing as women every day -- we’re learning about love and heartbreak and hardships. Of course that will help evolve the music, because we're learning about new experiences.
Let’s talk about “Do It.” It’s such a bop; I love everything about it. How did you decide it was single material? Was it made intentionally for that purpose?
Halle: “Do It” came about very, very naturally. We worked with this beautiful woman named Victoria Monét who we had known for about a year before working with her. We had always heard about her, and heard how much of an amazing writer she was. We went to her birthday party, kind of just feeling each other out before we got into a session. The session was such a fun session.
Whenever you’re working with another Black woman who is a writer, it’s amazing because you feel like you’re connecting as sisters, in a way. Especially with the content and material of this song, it’s very party-ish vibes, “I’m out with my girls, and we’re going to have a good time.” So that was very much the energy that was in the studio when we were making it.
As well as Scott Storch, the amazing producer on “Do It,” he is a legend in this game, so we were honored that he got to produce this record for us and just once again make something that feels so good and upbeat. It was a great time. We were really happy with how it turned out, but we surprised ourselves because we didn’t know it would be the single until, I think, a few weeks later. We were listening back and were like, “Oh! This one is really good.”
“Do It” debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 83, and it’s your first entry on the chart. Congratulations! How are y’all feeling about that?
Chloe: It feels absolutely, absolutely amazing. We make music just because we love it. Anything that comes out of that, charting or any awards or anything, is so surprising and exciting for us, because that’s not why we do this. But it’s such a big reward and pat on the back when it does happen, so we’re so grateful. I’m still so happy that people are even listening to the music because we were holding onto it for so long, just listening to it with ourselves on our computers. It’s still surreal that the music is even out.
What has it been like growing up in front of the world?
Halle: I think growing up in the limelight where everybody can sort of see you has definitely been an interesting world for us. We’re just two Southern girls from Atlanta, Ga., and our parents have always instilled in us values that are so important to us, like staying humble and being kind, and just keeping these values always throughout our life, no matter how successful we get or not. So when everybody has been like, “Well, how do you feel after all of this success?” In a way, we still are in disbelief.
We still are kind of really shocked that all of these beautiful blessings are happening for us. We’re so very grateful. But at the same time, I also have to bring myself back to Earth a lot of the time, and remind myself that yes, that is an amazing accomplishment, but the world is so big and there are other amazing, important things in the world that are going on right now. Sometimes being a celebrity-ish version of yourself is not the most important thing.
I think how I deal with growing up with people looking at me is just remembering I’m completely as normal as they are. I am the same girl from Atlanta, the same 5-year-old who just loved jazz, just loved to sing and bring some love and peace and healing with my voice. And to do whatever I can with that, I just have to not let all of the opinions of others get in my head. I just focus on why I do this, because I love it.
Did Beyoncé give you any transitional advice, as you grow with your music?
Chloe: One thing she told us very early on is, "Don’t worry about dumbing yourself down for the world — let the world catch up to you." So that piece of information has honestly been very vital for us, as we have been growing into our artistry every single day.
I appreciate Beyoncé because she lets us flourish on our own, and lets us create on our own and bring everything that we have to offer to the table. Once we feel like we’ve gotten it at a very strong place, that’s when we’ll present it to her and that’s when she’ll hear it and give us notes, if she has any.
I would just have to say that seeing how hands-on she is with her own music, and seeing how she is a fantastic business woman, it is so inspiring to my sister and I as young Black women because one day, we want to take over our own empire, as well. And if we could ever even get half of what she has accomplished, then we’ve done our job.
Every day, we just want to work harder and harder and continue to raise the bar with ourselves. Truly, the only competition you could really have is yourself, and as long as we’re growing every day, that’s all we could ask for.
What keeps you coming back to doing cover songs?
Halle: I feel like covers are a bit like our home. We’ve always loved singing other people’s songs and putting our own twists on it. That’s something that has always brought us great joy, because if we’re not recording ourselves singing it, we’re still singing the songs around the house. So we might as well record it and let other people see it, too. That’s a way of just going back home and pinching ourselves again, singing our inspirations’ songs like Lauryn Hill and TLC and Beyoncé, all of these amazing women, especially, who we just love. It’s really nice to sing their songs and be reminded of why we love music so much, and why we do this.
I know you postponed the release of this album out of respect for the Black Lives Matter movement. What does it mean for you to be Black women trying to create something great for the world in this climate?
Chloe: It honestly is the most empowering feeling because each day, I’m reminded of the strength that our ancestors had, and it gives me fuel to want to be the best version of myself. Because of them, I’m here today, and my sister and I can be the sole creators and be the head of what we create and what we want people to hear from us. That’s because of them. With everything happening right now, the Black Lives Matter movement, of course that affects us. This isn’t anything new for us, because we have always been Black women.
Growing up, we were young Black girls. We have witnessed things. The world is just now catching up and noticing how wrong it has been for years and years and years. But there is power in underestimation, and our people have been underestimated for so long, but we prove them wrong every time: that we are powerful, that we are great, that we will continue to rise from the ashes. I feel empowered as a young Black woman taking charge. And I hope I’m making our whole bloodline proud.