The internet will turn anything into a meme. Yet in recent years, challenges — mimicking the latest dance craze — have become just as prevalent. It’s a social media trend that Ayleo and Mateo Bowles (Ayo & Teo) know all too well. The Ann Arbor, Mich. brothers built a rabid online following by posting videos of themselves dancing to the hottest new songs and inviting fans to do their best takes.
Now, Ayo & Teo have made their Hot 100 debut with the track “Rolex” (it sits high at No. 32). The brothers spoke with Billboard about their dance roots, the inspiration behind the hit and to explain the deal with their ever-present masks.
What inspired you to write a song about expensive watches?
Ayo: We went to the mall and saw Rolexes in different colors and faces. I sent pictures to our manager, and he texted, “Get out of the store now.” But we really wanted them!
Teo: After that, I was like, “Bro, we have to make a song about a Rolex.” I recorded “Rollie Rollie Rollie with a dab of ranch” on an Auto-Tune app, then we went to the studio and figured it all out.
How much has the “Rolex challenge” dance craze helped the song?
Ayo: We know social media. If you have a song and turn it into a challenge, a lot of kids will want to compete. I feel like mainstream rappers are starting to pick up and understand that social media culture.
What’s the deal with the masks you two are always seen wearing?
Ayo: We started off as dancers in music videos for Usher’s “No Limit” and Chris Brown’s “Party.” When we were dancing without the masks, we got comments like, “Y’all facial expressions are funny.” So when I saw a model wearing a Bathing Ape mask on Instagram, I ordered two. It was perfect timing.
Do you have formal training in dance or did you teach yourself?
Ayo: We watched so many people growing up — Usher, Kida, Skitzo, Matt Chad — and all of the old-school and new dance movies like Breakin’ and Step Up. Then we just taught ourselves with a lot of practicing.
Teo, you started The Reverse — the idea of doing dance moves in reverse. Is it difficult to do a dance sequence backwards?
Teo: I could do almost any dance move in reverse, but to other people it’s real difficult. I made The Reverse way before we blew up, our first time ever doing a promo, dancing to somebody’s song. I think we got paid like $40 to dance to this dude’s song. I did the Nae Nae and just reversed it, like, “Bro, this is gonna look cold on camera.” Nobody caught on until I did it to Lil Yachty‘s song “One Night.” That’s when it blew up.
Then you recorded “In Reverse” as a theme song for the dance last year.
Ayo: Yeah, that was with Jazze [Pha]. We met him in the studio and instantly started vibing. He knew that we were big dancers on the internet, so he asked us, “Would y’all like to do music? It don’t hurt to try.” At the time, “Broccoli” by Lil Yachty and D.R.A.M. was popular. He had the beat playing and switched it up right in front of us. He was like, ‘We gotta make an official Reverse song.’ He gave us confidence to record.
What’s it like being in school while your career is taking off?
Teo: I do online school. I had to get out of public school because I’d get stalked and distracted. People were asking for pictures — I’d say no because I’m in school, and then get in trouble because they’d be crying.
Ayo: It was my first year in college. I knew going to college at that time wasn’t the move. I was like, we need to keep doing these videos. My dad didn’t understand the social media stuff at first, but now he does.
Do you have a dream collaboration?
Ayo: Probably the Migos. We’ve been into the Migos for so long, they’re crazy. We were at the Lil Yachty “Minnesota” shoot and they were there. We didn’t meet them, but they knew who we were. They kept looking but they were so busy with shooting, so we didn’t get a chance to say what’s up.
Now that you got the Rolex, how does it feel?
Teo: I’m looking at it right now.
Ayo: lt feels real good.
What’s next for you two?
Ayo: We have to come hard with the music now, cause “Rolex” is a big song. We don’t wanna stay with that one-hit wonder title. We wanna keep coming, follow in the footsteps of Rae Sremmurd.