A boxing poster and a shot of iconic rapper Tupac decorate the wall behind them. They hit play on Phil Collins’ hit from 1981, “In the Air Tonight.”
“It sounds like a rain entrance or something,” Tim says. The two nod their heads to the beat.
Then, about halfway through the video, the legendary drum solo hits. Tim and Fred are visibly shocked, yet thrilled — they start dancing in their chairs, pausing the video to quickly discuss.
“I have never seen nobody drop a beat three minutes in the song!” Fred exclaims, talking to the camera.
Their joy is delightful. And in the last week, the video has seemingly exploded — with more than 1.7 million views.
Tim, pictured in most of the videos wearing a durag, didn’t even know the video had blown up. A friend told him later.
“We do so many videos a day,” he told CNN. The same day they uploaded the now-viral Phil Collins reaction video, they also uploaded reactions to five other songs, including “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill, “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “White America” by Eminem.
“When we do videos, I don’t be thinking nothing of it because I be thinking, ‘Oh, we gotta do that next video,’ ” Tim said.
“We wasn’t thinking this was gonna hit,” Fred added.
Tim and Fred, 22-year-old twins from Gary, Indiana, have been uploading reaction videos for about a year. At first, they stuck to a lot of rap music, they said, but then someone requested Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
In the video, uploaded in September 2019, Tim says he’d never heard of Sinatra.
“That song GOES,” he says now, remembering the video. It’s what got them doing more older music, he said, typically whatever people requested.
The channel has been on the up for a while. In January, it already had 20,000 subscribers. By the end of June, they hit 100,000. Now, they’re closing in on 250,000.
Among their fans is none other than Dolly Parton, who tweeted out their reaction video to “Jolene,” now viewed more than 2 million times.
“No point in begging,” she wrote. “Jolene already stole these two.”
Part of their success, it seems, is that watching them listen to a song for the first time makes viewers remember their own first times with songs. The comments sections of their videos, amid the various recommendations, are filled with tales of fans’ own experiences with the artist or the song.
“I’m a 58 yr old white woman who is reliving her life thru the music you guys are choosing to listen to,” says one user, on the twins’ reaction video to “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s. “I’m so grateful for the walks down memory lane! Never stop!”
When asked why they think their videos resonate, Fred is quick to respond.
“Because we’re Black,” he says simply. “We’re Black, and they don’t expect us to listen to that type of music.”
“We’re young, too,” Tim adds. “It’s just rare to see people open these days. People don’t open to step outside their comfort zone and just react to music they don’t know.”
And yes, they really have never heard of these songs — even the so-called classic ones many rail about. Their channel is filled with firsts: First time hearing Nina Simone. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
They grew up in a Black neighborhood, they explain. Rap, they know — the intro track to their videos is Polo G’s “My Story,” which many assume is their own song.
“When I was a kid growing up, all we listened to was rap,” Tim said.
Now, through their channel, both have been introduced to more music. Tim loves Radiohead’s “Creep,” and Fred likes to listen to Linkin Park’s “Lying From You” while working.
Making videos gives them a chance to open up more, Fred says. And they get to learn a lot while doing it, too, going deep into artist’s discographies and learning more about their work.
At the end of the day, amid a public health pandemic and mass protests, their videos bring joy. They know that, and it’s one reason why they continue.
“For that two, three minutes — however long the video is — we just want to just have fun, just together. We just smile, laugh together and everything,” Tim said.
“You could be having a bad day, and watch one of our videos and be uplifted,” Fred adds.
That uplifting, in a year seemingly filled with bad days, is rare — but at least we have their channel.