With over 780,000 subscribers and several videos in the millions, over the past four years siblings Ayo & Teo's dance challenges have driven some serious listens for dozens of hip hop and R&B acts. Now the dancers-turned-rappers are going viral with an original tune -- and of course an accompanying challenge -- of their own. Backed by creative dance tributes and a just-dropped Artist On The Rise-featured video, their breakout hit “Rolex” has racked up over 208 million views across YouTube, reaching as high as #50 on the YouTube’s Global Tracks chart. Not bad for two brothers who began releasing their own music less than a year ago.
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ayleo and Mateo Bowles grew up in a household where music was at the forefront. “My dad was a DJ and he breakdanced back in his day and my mom played instruments” explains Teo, the older of the two. Naturally, the brothers gravitated to the music and dance world themselves, honing their skills in their basement and living room long before hitting the national stage. With little in the way of formal training, the duo often relied on other dance trailblazers for inspiration. "It was like watching other people," notes Teo, pointing to YouTube-bred like Les Twins and Kida the Great as dancers they watched while perfecting their craft.
Soon the brothers got in on the action themselves, uploading a clip of a dance performance from a high school talent show in 2014. What followed was a stream of dance-driven dance hits, many of which grabbed the attention of their musical source material. “That's what made us blow up and make good relationships, because we helped people's careers,” Teo explains. “We blew up a lot of people dancing to the song.”
This DIY viral notoriety quickly translated into commissioned work, with Ayo & Teo lending their unique footwork to music videos like Usher’s “No Limit” and Chris Brown’s “Party.” “We call it all-styles,” Teo says when asked to explain how the duo’s styles set them apart. “Because we mix everything from pop-locking to the trending dances, like whipping or the nae nae. The difference between other dancers is we just have more fun. A lot of people, they battle. A lot of people see we have fun with the dances doing a whole bunch of crazy moves.”
But while dancing to others has paved the road to success for the brothers, it is their original work that is pushing them to new heights. First came “In Reverse,” an ode to the duo’s now trademark habit of reversing the steps to popular dance moves and challenging others to do the same. And now comes their latest clip for “Rolex,” which features the siblings and a cast of fellow dancers -- including their new friend Usher -- bringing things full circle with a viral smash of their own.
As for the formula for the next class of DIY dancers turned chart toppers? Ayo believes he has the answer. “Try to be different as much as possible, but don’t try too hard. If you try too hard, people will catch on,” he says. “It’s easy to be different though, because a lot of people get on YouTube and try to do what everybody else tries to do. But I feel like once you do something new or different or have something special about you, if you keep going and going, you’ll build your fanbase like we did.” Still, there’s one key ingredient: “We have fun when we dance, and you can tell.”