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Introduction: Honestly, thank God and Philip Emeagwali for the internet. Because if the internet didn’t exist we’d never be able to witness the abundance of talent many people have and Alonge Hawes is a man with talent who has utilised the internet to make use of his talent. Alonge Hawes is the man behind the hottest new web series named Blu Collar Hustle and once we learned he was a hip hop fan 808sandblues contacted him for an incredible insightful interview.  

So, tell us about yourself? 

My name is Alonge Hawes. Author, Screenwriter, and lover of all things Hip Hop.

How did the idea of Blue collar hustle formulate?

Blue Collar Hustle formulated about 11 years ago as a title that popped into my head. I was always taking the Marta (Atlanta’s Public Transit) to and from work at all hours of the night. I would listen to Nas, Jay-Z, and Common and think about if I ever became a rapper I’d name my album Blue Collar Hustle and it would be a concept album about how the different stations on the railway represented the working class hustle in the city. Fast forward to present day and the themes of the web series resonated with the same feelings I had travelling on the railway. So the name found a home.

What is your role on the show? How you a writer, producer, and director on it? 

I am the creator, writer, and executive producer. I also play one of the series main protagonists Ajani Garvey. I juggle all the roles by putting them into their proper perspectives. As the creator it was my responsibility to outline and create the characters, world, and message that I wanted to portray. As the writer it is my responsibility to make sure that the dialogue and situations are properly attuned to each character and that the plot continues to make sense. As an actor it is my responsibility to properly convey my character’s motivations and feelings. As an executive producer it is my responsibility to make sure that the show goes on.

What is the character you play, do you enjoy playing him and why?

My character is Ajani Garvey. He is an African American who defines himself by his blackness. He literally wraps himself in a metaphorical armor of black history and heritage. He is sort of the leader of the collective of main characters and comes up with the plan that launches the entire series. I very much enjoy playing him because he is a young, hard working, black man who cares greatly for his family, which is still a rarity in mainstream media portrayals.

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Whose your favourite character in the show and why?

All of the characters, as my creations, are my favourites in one way or another. During a humorous scene, Anthony is my favourite, because I can use him to write dry humor. During a scene involving music, Quan is my favourite, because I can explore making music and crafting lyrics. During a scene involving black pride and progress, Ajani is my favourite, because I can explore the mindset of the modern day pan-africanist. During a scene involving raw honesty and grit, Jose is my favourite, because I can write from a more direct and edgy perspective. During a scene involving the resilience of black women, Anaya or Asha would be my favourite, as I can write strong, independent black women who are portrayed in their proper flavor.

The series contains incredible writing and humor. Did you write all that yourself or do you have a group of writers. If so who are they and how did you meet them?

I write everything myself. Every single word is written by me. I do not do co-writers, ghostwriters, background writers, or any of the above. If it isn’t written by me then its not my creation and if its not my creation then my name doesn’t belong on it.

Tell us more about the other casts on the show and how did you meet them. 

Quentin Williams (Quan Banneker) Roberto Cruz (Jose Torres) and Howard Woodburn (Anthony Lee) I met while were working at Best Buy. I was the Assistant Store Manager so I was in charge of making sure the sales floor was taken care of. Howard and Quentin were the two best sales people in the store so we bonded quickly over that and over our shared love of Hip Hop. Roberto worked the Loss Prevention desk and we’d always get caught up talking about Hip Hop and new album releases. Over time we just all grew as a collective of friends. Shani Hawes (Asha Luna) is my sister, and we’ve been playing make believe our entire lives. Tijuana Agnew (Anaya Bassett) is a professional actress who our director, Geoffrey Henderson, brought to my attention when I was attempting to cast the part of Anaya. I literally told him “find me a strong black woman with natural hair” and Tijuana was the gift that made the cypher complete!

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Whats the meaning behind the name and overall the show?

Blue Collar Hustle, on its surface, is about people striving to make it the old fashioned way. Through hard work and dedication. The deeper exploration is the Hustle that young black millennials find themselves doing in order to adjust to the world after graduating college or leaving their parents homes. How do you survive in a world where presenting the best version of yourself every day might still not be good enough? How do you live up to the legacies of your ancestors who marched, protested, and died so that you could have a fighting chance at equality? How do you reconcile your career with your aspirations? How do you measure up to the ideal of black excellence? Is your hustle THE hustle that’s going to get you on you the right path?

Race and rap music play a huge part in the show. How do you use both to convey a message or rather make a statement?

Hip Hop is the life blood of the series, in such a way that Hip Hop is the official language of the modern day black populace. There can be no Blue Collar Hustle without rap music, as it was literally inspired by Quentin’s real life trials as a music artist. Every episode title is a song title from his album, A Souldier Story. I crafted many scenes from lyrics he wrote or situations he spoke on in the album. As far as race is concerned. We are black people in America. Race will always be an important factor of our very existence, we can either run from it or we can choose to embrace it and confront it head on. I am choosing to confront it.

Web series are a niche area in the industry what advice would you give an indvidual who is thinking of making one? 

First things first, If you are going to create a web series then get a STRONG team of like-minded people around you who will support and believe in you. Also TRUST those people, but understand that as the creator the burden of completion ultimately falls on you. Define your target demographic early on and cater to them from the beginning, before your series debuts, so that you have a core fanbase ready and willing to support your product. Research as much as humanly possible. I read every article, interview, and thought piece that I could find about Issa Rae; who created Awkward Black Girl as a web series and catapulted herself to stardom. I read everything possible on Donald Glover, who created, wrote, and produces Atlanta, which is the hottest show on the PLANET right now. The best way to achieve greatness is to study it.
Finally, you must be dedicated to the point of obsession. I am up every single night until 2am. Writing emails, making connections, networking, reaching out to potential sites or blogs who might be interested in covering the series. Fuck niche, I want five thousand views per episode, then I want ten thousand, then I want twenty thousand. I want every black person in America to have at least heard the name “Blue Collar Hustle”, then i want at least half of them to watch an episode, then i want half of that to subscribe. We aren’t running races to not win trophies, my trophy is the loyalty of my audience.

What was the budget of the entire series and how did you raise capital for it? 

I paid for the series out of my own pocket. Almost seven grand. Some of the cast, family, and friends, whom I love to death, stepped in and helped me (thank you Steve, CJ, and Cordarol) but I knew that for the first crop of episodes it was going to have to come mostly from me. It was me who created it, and me who recruited all of the talent, so I had to prove to everyone how serious I was. You cannot call yourself a leader of men and not step up to the plate when its your time to lead. So I took the money out of my personal savings and went to work. That, plus working loads of overtime, paid for the first three episodes. One of our distribution partners, Go Indie TV, believed in us so much, that the COO started a Gofund Me campaign for us to assist in finishing the first season. If we can get 250 people to contribute just $10 to the campaign we’ll reach our goal.

Who are your favourite writers and directors and why? 

Some of my favorite writers are Donald Glover, Walter Mosley, Nasir Jones, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Michael Eric Dyson, and Kendrick Lamar just off the top of my head. My favorite director of all time is Spike Lee, pure genius. I also like Ryan Coogler and Ava Duvernay. All of them I feel like contributed in some shape or form to my views on black identity and how it relates to entertainment.

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Whats your top 10 films and why?

        10). Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Frankie Lymon was the first black teen idol. Nuff’ said)
        9).  The Inkwell (Excellent coming age drama from a black family perspective)
        8). House Party (I’ve seen this movie probably a million times)
        7). Love Jones (poetry, love, and black excellence)
        6). Mo Better Blues (jazz and mood.)
        5). Finding Forrester (A young black genius writer finds his calling)
        4). Malcolm X (The hero amongst heroes for black America)
       3). Time Is Illmatic (A documentary chronicling the greatest Hip Hop album of all         time)
     2). The Jacksons: An American Dream (Powerhouse performances by everyone involved)
        1). Do The Right Thing (One of the best written movies of all time)

Whats your top 10 TV shows and why? 

10). Lost (the ending SUCKED. But it was one of the best written and intriguing series I ever watched)
        9). Martin (The jokes NEVER get old)
        8). Luther (Idris Elba acted his ass off)
        7). Atlanta (I don’t care if its only one season right now, its one of the GOATS)
        6). Living Single (classic show. Had a crush on Maxine something FIERCE as a kid)
        5). The Wonder Years (Great memories of watching this show with my father)
        4). Different World (One of the greatest shows of all time. Made us all dream about college)
        3). Cosby (This show’s impact is simply phenomenal)
        2). Fresh Prince Of Bel Air (Almost made my number 1 spot. I LOVE this show)
        1). The Boondocks ( The first two seasons are the best anything I’ve ever seen)

Who are your favourite musical artists

5). Black Thought
       4). Ghostface Killah
       3). Common
       2). Jay-Z
       1). Nas

Who is the goat rapper?

Nas

What are your top 10 favourite rap albums? 

10). To Pimp A Butterfly
        9). The Fix
        8). Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool
        7). Only Built For Cuban Linx
        6). Be
        5).Late Registration
        4). Aquemini
        3). The Blueprint
        2). It Was Written
        1). Illmatic

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What about your top 10 overall music albums?

        10). Purple Rain
        9). Off The Wall
        8). Dark Side Of The Moon
        7). Late Registration
        6). Be
        5). Thriller
        4). Songs in the key of life
        3). Aquemini
        2). Whats Going On
        1). Illmatic

What do you hate most in this world

I hate the fact that black Americans don’t have our own real hub of power, that we are not collectively influential enough to truly battle institutionalized racism.

What are your hobbies? 

My hobbies are reading, writing, and listening to music.

How many episodes will the series have? 

Ideally, and if all goes according to plan, six episodes for season 1.

Will there be a season 2 and when can we expect it?

If we can maintain funding and our audience continues to expand, then yes, Season 2  is already outlined.

Any plans to get the series on TV? 

Not network tv. Network television would simply take the show and bastardize it. My goal is remain digital and hopefully be shown across a multitude of apps and online channels.

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As a writer myself and many others, what is your writing process and any hints you can give us? 

I write an outline for each episode detailing how each character gets from point A to point B within that episode. I also write within that outline the specific message I am trying to convey. So you have The Rising Action, Falling Action, Climax, etc. Then I script the episode’s first draft, then the second draft. There is no magic process to it, the most important aspect of writing is simply to write. Especially when you are independent, don’t let anyone’s doubts or skepticism deter you. Write what you feel speaks to your voice.

Is there anything else you would like to add on? 

I really appreciate you taking the time to ask me these questions brother. And I appreciate everyone who supports the show!

YOU CAN CHECK OUT BLUE COLLAR HUSTLE BELOW

THE CHANNEL:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeJeEuSJ7l03IZNsaz66tQQ

FOLLOW ALONGE HAWES HERE: 

INSTAGRAM- BCH_WEBSERIES

TWITTER- BCH_WEBSERIES

FACEBOOK- ALONGE HAWES

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