MADISON, Wis. — Krystyn "Kstar" Jones and Ryaah "Wild Child" Wyatt are two 17-year-old girls from Madison's south side making laid-back, playful hip-hop and R&B jams laced with positivity and party vibes. Lately, that's been a recipe for success.
The Capital Times reports that the duo, who performs under the name Trend-N-Topic, won first place at the talent competition Take the Stage: Atlanta last year. In November, they recorded a single in Atlanta called "How to Dance," with Miss Mulatto, an artist famous for winning a season of the reality TV show "The Rap Game" on Lifetime. They've performed at shows with the likes of K. Michelle and Dreezy.
The two say they'll be skipping prom after-parties for La Follette High School this spring — they have to catch an early-morning plane for a performance in Los Angeles. Later, in the summer, they've lined up a show in the Bahamas.
"We used to have a lot more free time than we have now," said Wyatt, of the group's success. "It's get up, work, practice ... you've got to watch your brand now."
That the pair has made inroads probably shouldn't come as a surprise, since success is baked right into their name: "We're trending, and we're always the topic of conversation," said Jones.
Jones, who sings and raps, and Wyatt, who sticks to exclusively rapping, have known each other since they were children. For both, music played a central role in their childhoods.
"Once I started talking, I started singing," said Jones.
"I grew up with music. All throughout the house, everything we did involved music. Homework, chores, going to school, getting ready," said Wyatt.
In 2014, Wyatt got involved in a dance group that Jones started called Exclusive Movement. Wyatt, who said she had long "joked around" with rapping, was impressed when she heard Jones began singing during some routines. The two decided to begin collaborating more seriously.
As they experimented with writing songs with Jones' cousin, they soon developed a fiercely close musical partnership.
"Krystyn's like the little sister I didn't get," said Wyatt.
Jones said she loves Wyatt's ineffable energy and spontaneity. She's earned her nickname of Wild Child, especially during concerts.
"She's just crazy. You see her in performances ... she do what she wants to do," said Jones.
The two make music that's often party-friendly, like "The Kickback," a slow-burning jam celebrating good vibes and good music. They've also made music that's more serious, from "Dat Way," a pump-up song about chasing dreams and putting work behind a passion, to "What Would Martin Say," a rumination on the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the current state of life for black people in America.
"If Martin was still here, would there still be the gun violence going on?" said Wyatt, describing the duo's thinking behind the song. "Would the police brutality still be going on?"
No matter what, the two say they share a mission of making music that's positive and empowering.
For Jones, that means inspiring people who have been bullied. She said she's been a target of bullying herself: She has spina bifida, a spinal cord condition, and has always had to walk with a limp.
"Maybe my music won't hit anybody, but if it can hit one or two people . maybe they'll be like, OK, maybe I can find something that makes me happy too," she said.
For Wyatt, the mission often means simply gives people positive vibes.
"This is music that your friends jam to," she said. "Feel-good music, it's the best way to say it."
She also said that she hopes that they can convey to their peers that girls in hip-hop aren't just "video vixens." They can be the main star.
"It's just giving them the courage that 'We can still do this,'" she said.
The two are also hoping to spread positivity through an event they've helped put together: A show called Take the Stage Wisconsin at La Follette High School that will feature 16 up-and-coming artists from across the Midwest. The idea was to organize an event modeled after the Take the Stage competition that Trend-N-Topic won in Atlanta, creating an opportunity to showcase young talent in the area.
The event will also include a performance by Miss Mulatto herself, along with Trend-N-Topic.
Jones and Wyatt say Miss Mulatto has become a role model for them. She models positivity, they said, and also humility.
"Most people you meet that's starting to get up there, they kind of got the big head," said Jones.
The Take the Stage show is an all-ages event April 14. Tickets cost $20, or $35 for a VIP package that comes with priority seating, and a meet and greet with Miss Mulatto and Trend-N-Topic.
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Capital Times.