Flyana Boss ran to stardom. Their next pursuit: Lasting fame.

Flyana Boss ran to stardom. Their next pursuit: Lasting fame.

Flyana Boss, which rhymes with Diana Ross, sprinted into virality over the summer with several TikToks of their song ‘You Wish’

Bobbi LaNea Tyler (top) and Folayan Omi Kunerede – aka Flyana Boss – photographed earlier this month in New York. Their music is an outlet to shine as “creative, weird Black girls,” Folayan said. (Photographs by Jada Imani M for The Washington Post)

As Folayan and Bobbi LaNea made their way to the back of the general admission floor at D.C.’s the Anthem last month, they were swarmed by fans, all vying to meet the besties known for running across social media as the hip-hop duo Flyana Boss.

They had just wrapped up their 17th performance opening for Janelle Monáe on her The Age of Pleasure tour, and now they were at a near standstill, the crowd slowly circling them like an amoeba. Security intervened, and the pair finally found a spot near their merchandise booth, where they had promised to see fans after their set. The undulation of brightly outfitted devotees was directed into an orderly line, and Flyana Boss posed for pictures filled with peace signs, hugs and dancing.

“This was the hectic-est it’s ever been,” Bobbi LaNea later said back in the dressing room with Folayan and their bandmates, referring to their post-show meet and greets. (Bobbi LaNea Tyler and Folayan Omi Kunerede don’t use their last names professionally.)

Flyana Boss, which rhymes with Diana Ross, sprinted into stardom over the summer, racking up millions of views over several TikToks of them running through different locales and lip-syncing their now-viral hit “You Wish,” which has been streamed on Spotify more than 27 million times. The duo has received shout-outs from Timbaland, Lupita Nyong’o and Keke Palmer and also danced onstage with Megan Thee Stallion at this year’s Essence Festival.

In one of the duo’s most watched TikToks, their braids bounce up and down as they race through Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, Folayan wearing her signature elf ears and Bobbi LaNea with a trusty shoulder bag. It has 21 million views and counting since being posted in June.

“Hello, Christ? / I’m ’bout to sin again / I said, ‘I love you,’ to that man / But I’m not feelin’ him,” Folayan raps. “I’m made of sugar, spice, Kanekalon and cinnamon / Me and my bestie are the same, like a synonym.”

Like clockwork, Bobbi LaNea appears to take over the dash and rap her part of the song.

The rap duo has swerved in — then out — of an In-N-Out Burger location at one fan’s request, jogged through the aisles of a supermarket and a subway train car, and careened through crowds at iconic destinations such as Santa Monica Pier and Times Square.

Now, the hip-hop group says they’re ready to switch gears from just being “the running girls.” Summer’s over. Folayan says she’s gotten shin splints from having to run so much, and Bobbi LaNea just wants to run solely for exercise again. Flyana Boss yearns to transition from a viral internet act to mainstream celebrities with staying power.

That shift is already in motion. During their visit to Disneyland in June, they were recognized by fans as “Flyana Boss” — a sign that people were familiar with their work beyond their most popular music snippets. “We’re about to be those girls,” Folayan said — it girls as opposed to one-hit wonders.

People have also started to prod and pry into their personal stories. The two women don’t want to reveal their ages and said they see such questions as gendered. (They’ve captioned videos with jokes such as “When the fountain of youth is in our genes but we grown” and “We know black don’t crack, but how old are y’all?”)

Flyana Boss’s goal isn’t really to look a certain age or evoke a certain time period. From their fashion, to their songwriting, to their stage presence, they espouse everything weird, beautiful, Black and feminine, a concept they distinctively describe as the “vagina dynasty.”

During the duo’s performance last month — an energetic 30-minute, 12-song set — they asked to hear a fan’s story “about a really trash person they were in a relationship with.”

Bobbi LaNea hopped onto the audience floor and lent her microphone to a woman who spoke about her ex-boyfriend, a struggling guitarist for whom she always footed the bill. On his birthday, before she could gift him a brand-new, expensive guitar he told her he wanted, he left the hotel room they were staying in to pick up a refurbished version — the audience member paused for emphasis — “from someone else.” Folayan, sporting a “Powerpuff Girls” tee, provoked the crowd to erupt in boos and give thumbs down.

“But it’s okay,” the fan said. “Because I broke the refurbished guitar and took mine back.”

Cheers ricocheted through the Anthem. Bobbi LaNea, in a long-sleeved tee covered in butterflies, then climbed back onstage for Flyana Boss’s next song, “Trashboi.” The ballad is a dig at boys who don’t deserve to be with “the prize” — i.e., Flyana Boss and their fans.

“But don’t pity me / Put the pity on him / To lose a queen / Checkmate, that’s the end,” Bobbi LaNea sings in the song.

Their message of empowerment — which they describe as resonating for the “girls, gays and theys” — has also been amplified by Black entertainers captivated by Flyana Boss’s eye-catching videos. Missy Elliott, a luminary of Afrofuturism, joined the duo on a remix of “You Wish” after she filmed her own video running to the song.

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“I’m always very cautious and concerned that everything is going to fail on me, and I’ll be back [working] at the dispensary again,” Bobbi LaNea said. “So it wasn’t until Missy Elliott that I was like, ‘Well, I’m probably not going to go back to the dispensary after this.’”

Earlier this year, before they were trekking across the United States and parts of Canada with Atlantic Records labelmate Monáe, they were budtenders at different locations of the same dispensary. Before that, they were Chipotle employees.

But it was music that led the two to meet in their first year attending L.A.’s Musicians Institute. “We were both very shy. We weren’t best best friends. We just admired each other from afar,” Bobbi LaNea said. “But then when we started the duo, we were making music, and then we realized, ‘Oh my gosh, are we in love?’”

Promoting their music on social media involved experimenting with videography. They posted multiple skits and dance videos every day for two years before they had what they called a “mini-viral moment” with their 2022 song “Miss Me” and hit the music jackpot with “You Wish.”

More videos for the same song meant more chances for their faces to appear on a user’s TikTok “For You” page or social media feed, while new visual elements stopped people from scrolling away even if they’d seen Flyana Boss before.

On social media, Missy Elliott called their consistent video approach an “old school tactic,” clapping back in defense of Flyana Boss after critics complained about repetition.

“If you do a bunch of things, you confuse the audience,” Elliott said on X, formerly Twitter. “They don’t know who you are. That’s why most successful artists have eras and for that era, they consistently do the same style and sound so you build a particular fan base.”

Bobbi LaNea first rapped about “all the brand deals that I’m swimming in” when Flyana Boss didn’t have any. Now, they’ve been backed by DoorDash, Peloton and Pizza Hut. They’ve traversed Google’s offices, both physical and virtual — Google “Flyana Boss” on mobile devices and two emoji of running Black women scroll from right to left across the screen.

To critics and skeptics of their work, their ascent to fame seems eerily sudden and too good to be true. The “fortune tellers,” as Folayan calls them, claim to know the fate of Flyana Boss, and Bobbi LaNea says commenters who talk about how supposedly mad or tired the duo is based on a short video simply have “nothing to do” with their lives.

Folayan and Bobbi LaNea have denied accusations that they’ve fronted as independent, grassroot musicians while secretly leveraging industry connections and marketing to become successful.

“People are calling us industry plants,” Bobbi LaNea said onstage to fans at the Anthem. “I don’t know what that is or where that garden grows, but around here, we water ourselves,” she continued, which caused the crowd to cheer.

As they sat on a dark gray couch decompressing with their friends in their dressing room afterward, Folayan said critics speculate that “something mysterious and radical must be going on” when they suddenly see new artists doing well. But the budding musicians say their consistent performances online and in real life set them up for success. As genuine best friends who make music, they’re always bubbling with ideas for new verses and songs.

Flyana Boss doesn’t know what the next era holds, they admit. But as they ease out of their running phase and roll out new confidence-boosting tracks such as “B—- Imma Star” and “Big One,” they contemplate their relationship with their fans — and brainstorm names for them.

Should they be called “besties,” to match the friendship Folayan and Bobbi LaNea share? Maybe “cousins,” since they’re part of the Flyana Boss family? How about “interns” to the bosses?

“I think it’s between ‘besties’ and ‘bossies,’” Bobbi LaNea said. Immediately, their friends were on board with “bossies.” It matches Flyana Boss’s vibe — encouraging and inclusive, they said.

They agree to still make a social media poll so all their fans have a chance to weigh in, but the room has cast its vote.

“A boss controls their space with love,” Folayan said. “And compassion,” Bobbi LaNea added. “And they empower the next boss.”

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