As Halle, 20, puts it, the creativity she and her sister discovered in the past year has been “a blessing in disguise.” In June, Chloe x Halle released their second album, Ungodly Hour, an R&B set that nods to the genre’s 1990s heyday but has an unmistakably modern sound courtesy of Chloe’s production. It landed at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart and just scored three Grammy nominations. The artists’ YouTube appearance was just the first of several sleekly staged performances this year showcasing their growth from polished wunderkinds to confident young women ready to embrace stardom.
For their longtime A&R executive Teresa LaBarbera (who also discovered Destiny’s Child), Chloe x Halle’s ascent comes as no surprise. The Atlanta-born-and-raised sisters, she says, have always been motivated to level up, whether teaching themselves to play instruments, tapping into their production skills or adapting to the pandemic. That drive is “not something that I see a lot at that age,” says LaBarbera. “These two young women were going to succeed whether [Beyoncé and I] helped them or not.” In the studio, says Ungodly Hour engineer Tony Maserati, they are “sponges” whose “ability to sustain themselves is probably more possible than most of the artists that I work with — primarily because they write and produce their own material and collaborate really well.”
Their connection is undeniably tangible in person. Kicking back in their Ivy Park sweats, this year’s Billboard Women in Music Rising Star honorees project an easy comfort together, talking over each other to emphasize the other’s statements or praise the other’s talents. “We are completely different, and we can stand alone and still be just as strong,” says Chloe. “But when we come together, it’s this really beautiful melting pot.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, you pushed your album back a week. What went into that decision?
Halle: We are two young Black women. We know how heavy our steps are. We know what it is to fear for your life. We have a little brother who’s 15, who’s so tall, so handsome, so smart. When we see the things that happened to George Floyd, it scares us for his life. It scares us for our father’s life.
That whole week was a roller coaster of emotions. We went on shutdown mode and thought, “Do we still release this music?” Music has been used since our ancestors as a healer, as a way to get through pain. We ultimately decided to back it up a week. The next week still felt very heavy, but at the same time we felt like our music could bring some peace and healing.
This industry can be hypercritical of young women. How have you managed evolving as artists — and people — in that environment?