Columbus rapper Twoaym makes a strong debut with 'Unsolicited'
Tiara Hill blends the old and the new on a recently released, head-turning album
Editor's note: This story was originally published on Feb. 9, 2021.
On debut album Unsolicited, Columbus rapper and producer Twoaym starts at the very beginning.
Leadoff track “Side A” is a spoken-word intro by the songwriter’s mom, who recounts her daughter's childhood obsessions with Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross. This young girl didn’t just love music from an early age, the musician’s mother explains. She felt the music.
Hearing her mom talk about those days brought memories flooding back, said Twoaym, who previously wrote and performed under her given name, Tiara Hill. She remembered dressing up as Michael Jackson and performing on Fridays for her fellow classmates in an elementary school latchkey program. She soaked up her mom’s “old music,” like Vandross and Sade. And she watched the movie “Drumline” over and over again, standing in front of the TV with her Little Tikes drum set, mimicking the beats and the stick movements.
Hill later taught herself to play guitar and piano, but percussion remained her first love. She played in a drum line and was lead drum major at Eastmoor Academy, where she graduated from high school before heading to the University of Toledo. Hill will graduate from college this spring, capping off one of the strangest, most challenging years of her life with a diploma and a new album that hit streaming services last week.
Unsolicited combines Hill’s abiding love for the music of her mom’s era with the sounds of today, loading the front half with “that boom-bap, neo-soul" vibe, she said, and finishing the record with more modern-sounding beats. The songs were all written in the second half of 2020 and early 2021, and Hill doesn’t shy away from the challenges of the past year.
On “Black,” Twoaym calls out racism and white supremacy, the heavy, hard truths contrasting with Hill’s chilled-out flow. In a taut 92 seconds, the artist raps about striving for equality while sampling Kathleen Cleaver of the Black Panthers and a viral video of a white woman lobbing racial slurs at a Black man.
But the struggles on Unsolicited are internal, too. Last spring and summer, while sequestered in her apartment, Hill’s mental health deteriorated. “I was diagnosed with panic disorder not that long ago,” she said. “You're trapped in your thoughts all the time. … You drown in your thoughts.”
Hill moved back home in October, and she credits her mom and her friends with helping her return to the right mental path. On track “Side B,” some of those friends speak messages of support, and others — Vsn, Reeko Da Real and Lamar B. — show up as featured artists throughout the album.
The downtime also gave Hill more time than usual to work on the Twoaym debut, which she recorded and mixed herself. And while 2020 was a downer, she didn’t shy away from feel-good songs, such as “Poison.” “It’s an upbeat song that’s supposed to make people feel like, ‘Yeah, I’m the man!’” she said, noting that some people have compared the song to Drake. “I don’t hear Drake; I hear myself.”
Looking ahead, Hill plans to get a master’s degree after graduating in the spring, and regardless of when or where she can perform next, she’ll continue writing songs for herself and other artists. “I’m just trying to be in a different lane than everybody else you hear,” she said.