“Hustle,” track five on Teni’s “Wonderland” album, shows her vulnerability in the face of fame and success, while highlighting the trials that come before, and remain after attaining a desirable status. In this song, Teniola Apata takes another chance to make an impression on her audience with her undistilled and wholesome artistry.
Right from its first line, “I wan talk my mind o /For anyone wey fit relate o,” Teni intentionally delves into an unconventional subject, and does not really expect many to understand her viewpoint. She opens herself to vulnerability, exploring depths of identity, thereby placing herself in a place of relative un-safety. This gives the song a human face, making its message more relatable to the listening audience.
Within the verses, Teni expresses the double-edged sword of success, the weight of expectations attached to the aesthetics of social status, and how subversion of stereotypes can be construed as betrayal. Suddenly, Teni asides vulnerability, placing herself in a stance of control, stepping away from stereotype’s very precipice. She asserts her wishes in the second verse, and the desire to live her life as she wants, a feeling relatable to all trying to break through the barriers of emotional and expectational bondage.
Teni explores the concept of dependability, citing instances where people add their wants to a seemingly “made” individual, who is also battling with problems not evident to many. She also snoozes back and forth to the fact that enemies are real and not easily detectable, a fact that might have been influenced by Teni’s spiritual Yoruba background. Teni oscillates between easily digestible lines and frank truths, communicating that despite the pressures, she’s entitled to self-determination and the right to be left alone.
Teni wraps her thoughts by stating that pomposity should not be attributed to self-care, stipulating that only love exudes from her side. This breathes courage into the causes of individuals in these shoes battling for self-reassurance, justifying their acts of staying unbent – to life’s pressures and societal burdens.
Teni speaks for all of us in “Hustle,” and while she might have thought we might not relate, she has spoken the crux of many through her experiences. She also shows that all music does not have to dwell on money, sex or other cosmetic surplusages to hold public attention. “Hustle” is a testament to Teni’s artistic genius and the needed words that convey strength in a time of depleting spirits and deflective personalities.