These guys are three years old. In internet time, that's like six decades, right?
Walking into the Frequency—a hipster bar-cum-concert venue a block from the Wisconsin State Capitol—I expected to find myself among 20, maybe 25 people—tops. It was a frigid Sunday night, and Toro y Moi was playing a show uptown. But I didn’t care, because the group I wanted to see had a viral YouTube hit in 2010.
To my surprise, the inside of the narrow bar was packed with people. PBRs lined the walls. While entering, I passed by a bro in Kanye shutter shades, a couple in their late 30s who look like they are hitting their one show a year quota, and a hipster metal kid in a Sword T-shirt. After about 90 seconds, I realize that this is the most incomprehensible and most excited crowd I’ve ever seen at this bar. I look toward the stage and see a group of barely post-teen girls dressed as Yung Humma, and a rail thin kid in a “Flynt Flossy is My Favorite Rapper” tank-top.
I’m here, and they’re here, because we’re all here to see Turquoise Jeep. We are a cross section of humanity. We are a cross section of the internet. We are a cross section of YouTube users.
Turquoise Jeep, in case you stayed off the Internet until just this very second to read this article, are a tightly knit posse of singers, rappers, dancers, choreographers, producers, and video directors. They boast around 20 million YouTube views across their surprisingly deep catalog—which is only available on iTunes and YouTube—a large percentage of which is due to their 2010 viral hit/masterpiece “Lemme Smang It,” a ribald song that invented a euphemism and entered the internet’s sexicon. Thanks to “Lemme Smang It,” they became a touring concern, moving off YouTube and onto IRL stages with a touring group that consists of members Pretty Raheem, Flynt Flossy, Whatchyamacallit, and Yung Humma.
Ostensibly in town to promote their upcoming sophomore album, Existing Musical Beings, the Jeep ripped through a nearly unassailable party set list that included “Treat Me Like a Pirate,” “Why I Gotta Wait,” “Cavities,” Taste You Like Yogurt,” “I Like to Dance,” “Naughty Farmer,” and of course, “Lemme Smang It,” all of which provided the hyped crowd plenty opportunity to shout and dance. Stepping back, there’s no other way to describe the experience than weird. Here we were, freaking out to walking, talking memes, paying $12 to scream the lyrics of “Treat Me Like a Pirate” back at a guy wearing a fake beard. But Turquoise Jeep were there, ready to preach to the converted, the kind of people who buy the t-shirts and send the group pictures of themselves dressed as Turquoise Jeep for Halloween.
A few days earlier, I chatted with Flynt Flossy about this very phenomenon. We talked about how the people who “get” Turquoise Jeep seem like total converts; they don’t just watch “Lemme Smang It,” they move through the group’s YouTube videography.
“It’s surreal to have a crowd sell out on one side of the country, and then go 1,000 miles, and have a sell out on the other side,” Flossy says. “Initially we were just expressing ourselves. It was just for us to be creative, so we didn’t really expect [to be touring]. We weren’t in the industry; we were expressing ourselves. We had a YouTube channel.”
That’s maybe the most underreported part of the whole Turquoise Jeep phenomenon. Since they blew up in 2010, they have been able to maintain a level of DIY independence and control that your average indie band on a tape label can only dream of. “The only way to hear a Turquoise Jeep track or to see a Turquoise Jeep video is through us,” Flossy says. “We have total creative expression and total creative freedom.”
And according to Flossy, they’ve turned down every label offer that has come their way.
“We get offers all the time,” he continues. “We would have no problem collaborating, or signing with someone. But we already have the machine, we have our producers, our directors, our writers. We’re a moving train, and we won’t stop. Get out the way, you know what I mean? We’d have to be with the right label that understands that we need our own creative control.”
This is the picture of creative success in 2013: A group of regular guys get together, find that they all like singing and rapping and they all like breakfast foods and comparing those foods to fucking, so they start a YouTube channel. And then they end up touring the U.S.
Except of course, for a lot of people, Turquoise Jeep are not just regular guys; they seem like some long con, a bit of Internet sophistry. Because reactions to music in real time on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube demand a certain immediate surface level earnestness, Turquoise Jeep, and their less than serious musical subject matter, have been mostly relegated to the Music Internet’s Side Show, alongside Riff Raff and Krispy Kreme, and Yung Lean. And like those artists—with the exception of Riff Raff who was recently exposed as a kid with a weird name who liked basketball and rap as a teenager in an L.A. Weekly expose—Turquoise Jeep remain famously anonymous enigmas, refusing to answer questions about who they “really are.” No one knows where Pretty Raheem matriculated. No one knows where Yung Humma grew up. No one knows what Slick Mahony does as a day job (although working an IT desk seems likely).
Back at the concert, somewhere between watching the members of Turquoise Jeep take IDs from the teen girls they are about to give lap dances to, and laughing at the surprisingly complete and flawlessly executed choreography for “Naughty Farmer,” I remember something Flossy told me when I asked him if maintaining the Flynt Flossy persona is difficult. “Whatever you see on a video or hear in the music is genuine,” he said. “For the most part, when we’re onstage, what you see is an extension of our real selves. It’s not far fetched. It’s not like I have to pretend like I like to grind [on women]. It’s what I really like to do.”
Turquoise Jeep know people are paying to see their YouTube browser windows come alive, so they deliver more than a traveling viral video exhibit. They do goofy, well-honed routines between songs—the one describing the inspiration behind “Lemme Smang It” seemed like it was a parody of every Storytellers episode ever—and try basically everything in their power to leave every member of the audience entertained. They even spend an hour after the show taking every picture, signing every autograph, and selling T-shirts out of their manager’s backpack. Then they moved onto the next city, and to the next crowd of people who discovered them in their Facebook feeds, and who want to see if the Jeep are as real as they seem.
But, really, the truth is that nobody gives a shit if these guys are “for real” or if they “take themselves seriously.” No one at the concert paused to think if what they were seeing was “genuine,” because ultimately, we are looking for Turquoise Jeep to entertain us—whether that’s on YouTube or in concert—and they’ve been consistently delivering for three years. All of the subterfuge is just window dressing to the irrefutable fact that Turquoise Jeep help people have a good time.
“Don’t ask too many questions. When you delve to deep you kind of lose the inspiration, you lose the emotions,” Flossy says. “It’s not about if stuff is real. Or if the mustache is real. When people delve too deep sometimes it’s like, c’mon guys. Just enjoy it. At the end of the day, our fans realize that we’re being real. That we’re genuine in what we do and being artists. We’re making it and doing our art. We’re expressing ourselves the way we want to express ourselves.”
Andrew Winistorfer wants his signoff to say "French toast stick will make you hum." He’s on Twitter — @thestorfer