Meet The British Duo Behind Everyone's Favourite Coronavirus Challenge Lockdown Track
"It's nice to know that miracles can still happen because at the start we were scratching our heads a little bit."
As far as things that can derail your career go, nothing quite tops the list like a global pandemic.
It’s certainly not something that British musicians Young T, real name Ra'chard Tucker and Bugsey, real name Doyin Julius, could have anticipated ahead of releasing their first comprehensive project since signing to Sony Music’s Black Butter Records in 2016.
Their mixtape Plead the 5th was released on March 20 and received the standard marketing treatment befitting a debut, complete with huge billboards across the country. They would barely be seen.
Just 72 hours after the pair from Nottingham released their project, the British prime minister would order a nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic, with the intention of drastically limiting movement in the country to slow the spread of the disease.
“We had billboards in hotspots around London, we had a big billboard in Nottingham and like two days after, it was locked down,” said 23-year-old Bugsey.
But then their luck changed: A single on the mixtape would become the anthem for one of the most standout challenges created in lockdown, and introduce their music to a global audience.
As Bugsey put it: “None of us would have ever thought that the week after, our music would go viral so it's all just a blessing so we've just got to be grateful for it.”
“Don’t Rush”, which was originally released in November 2019 and peaked at No. 20 in the UK charts, is the soundtrack for the #DontRushChallenge, which has been on timelines and Instagram feeds for the past few weeks and produced several viral moments, largely featuring black women.
The challenge was created by Toluwalase Asolo and her friends at the University of Hull. The squad of eight were the first to compile their epic transformation videos where everyone essentially gets dressed to go nowhere, but look amazing doing it.
The 20-year-old business management student told BuzzFeed News on Twitter DMs: “We came up with the challenge in our living room, incorporating our love for fashion and beauty, with the view to integrate women worldwide through incorporating what a lot of women can easily relate to; make-up and fashion.”
Speaking about their choice of song, Asolo said that she and her friends were fans of the duo and the single in particular had a perfect line that captured the energy of what they were creating. She said: “We chose it because of a specific line, 'I got the juice, the sauce, and all them things'. This line explains it all really, it allows for people to feel themselves and boost confidence levels.”
On a conference call from his home in Nottingham, 22-year-old Young T was full of gratitude to the original creators and described the viral impact of the challenge as a “miracle.”
He said: “I'm just grateful that it's turned out the way it's turned out, I'm grateful for the fans and I want them to get the credit for that. It's nice to know that miracles can still happen because at the start we were scratching our heads a little bit. We did billboards and a week after that we're on lockdown.”
Bugsey added: “At the start, we felt like it was going to be a lot more difficult to promote the mixtape but with the challenge and everything that's happening right now, it's all gone hand in hand. People are seeing the challenge, discovering the song and discovering us.”
With new versions cropping up every day, participants have ranged from American reality television stars to key workers on the front line, and the trend shows no immediate signs of slowing down in popularity, with each offering as impressive as the last.
“My favourite one so far is the one of a little kid, when he transforms he's got a suit on and a BMW in the background, that one is sick,” said Bugsey.
“Yeah the same one really, that's the one that's stood out the most and the one where all the women are in African attire. That one was clean, even the transitions and the way they moved the camera was smooth,” added Young T.
While the two haven’t taken on the challenge just yet, they do have plans to make it happen. Bugsey said: “We're going to have to do one at some point. We'd love to do one with the girls who started it and maybe one with some UK rappers but we definitely want to do one with the girls who started it.”
The two came together at the age of 15 after mutual friends made an introduction. As teenagers, they were part of a youth project called Full Effect, in the St Ann's area of Nottingham launched by Prince Harry and the Royal Foundation, where they were able to work on their craft.
Speaking on their outsider status in the music scene, which is largely dominated by London based acts, Bugsey said: “I would say it's more of a disadvantage at the beginning of your career when you're trying to get noticed but I feel like once you do get noticed you get that love from the rest of the scene [...] the fans from London, and your fans from outside London, you have like two fan bases joining into one, that's what makes you into like a powerhouse.”
He added: “Currently there's a lot more eyes looking to find out what's going on outside of London.”
Last year the two made the shortlist for the prestigious MTV PUSH: Ones to Watch 2019 list, missing out on the top spot to Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi. The year still delivered several wins including their summer anthem Strike A Pose which remained in the British top 10 charts for six weeks.
Like many of their musical peers, this summer would have been spent on the festival circuit with various live performances including Wireless Festival where they are billed to perform, but uncertain times has resulted in several festivals being cancelled or postponed.
“It's been kind of a bummer still,” said Young T.
“But everyone has missed out as well so we can't really single ourselves out or be in the dumps about it because it's the same thing for everybody else. I think when shows start going back on it will be sick because everybody would have been waiting for it,” he noted.
Plead the 5th is out now.