In a music industry driven by fitting the mould, TiRon & Ayomari defy easy categorization.
Not exactly hip-hop. Not quite R&B. Ditto for indie and pop music. In the midst of this landscape of carefully-curated brands and genres, of target audiences and defined demographics, the Los Angeles-based duo’s music raises a question: can one be all of the above, instead?
“We legit had A&Rs tell us, ‘I love [your music], but it would be better if y’all were white. It’d be easier to sell this thing if you guys were white,’” says TiRon. “We used to get talked out of a lot of shit.”
The experiences come out on the duo’s latest offering, the full-length W.E.T. (Wonderful Ego Trip) — a follow-up to 2015’s The Great New Wonderful. The album comes after a two-year period in which, after earning fans out of the likes of hip-hop luminaries in Q-Tip and Diddy, and reaching new heights in commercial success, the duo’s manager, Dominique Trenier, passed away.
“We kind of shut down,” says TiRon.
Ayomari adds, “where do we want to go from here as a group, you know what I’m saying?”
After the early success of 2011’s A Sucker For Pumps, dubbed an album about boys and girls for men and women; and TGNW, an album about self-love, the two — who originally connected online as aspiring artists — felt as though they’d reached a breaking point. What began as an ego-check turned into a spark for TiRon & Ayomari’s new music: a chance to harness that ego and put it under the spotlight.
“It was really just grabbing the bulls by the horn and realizing that we had something to say,” says Ayomari. “Realizing that we were on the path ourselves, and we were growing ourselves. And regardless of what we were going through, it doesn’t mean that we should stop doing what we do.”
“Really connecting with all of that anger, all of that frustration,” says TiRon. “We have to look at the evils and the negative of who we are and deal with it. Because the more we sweep it under the rug, the more we hide it, the stronger it gets.”
“It’s that, and it’s also dealing with the ego within yourself,” Ayomari adds. “Ego doesn’t always come in the form of anger; it could come in the form of self-loathing or self-doubt.”
In the end, the Chicago native concedes, W.E.T. carries the torch from their previous albums.
“This is another album about relationships,” Ayomari laughs, “the relationship with the ego.”
Photo provided by TiRon & Ayomari. Photo credit: Ed Cañas Photography. Music heard in this episode from Doctor Turtle’s ‘You Um, I’ll Ah,’ TiRon’s ‘Ketchup,’ TiRon & Ayomari’s ‘A Sucker for Pumps,’ TiRon & Ayomari’s ‘The Great New Wonderful,’ TiRon & Ayomari’s “Politics as Usual,” and TiRon & Ayomari’s ‘W.E.T.’