In a searingly hot warehouse in Miami’s hardscrabble Little Haiti neighborhood, between a storefront church and a chop shop, two of the greatest stoner philosophers of our time are holding court. “We’re alive, we breathe, we’re okay,” says Jeremiah Taylor, between sips of lukewarm Bud Light from a quart bottle, referring to himself and his best friend, roommate, and partner in art crime, Justin Vallee.
They’re paint-splattered, hungry, not recently showered, and flat broke. But, as everything always is in their Panglossian world, it’s all good. “People think it’s the end of the world when you don’t have money,” Taylor continues. “The sun’s gonna come up, the moon’s gonna set, the birds are gonna chirp. All that sh*t’s gonna happen. I’m either gonna have money, or I’m not, and the one thing I can have is happiness.”
Welcome to the unpredictable, but utterly unflappable world of 2Square, the name under which “cosmic brothers” Taylor and Vallee paint street art, build inventions, art direct, model, act, and basically do anything else creative that strikes their fancy. “We fancy ourselves the modern-day version of a renaissance man,” says Vallee, the more loquacious of the pair. “One door is gonna open the world to us, and once that door’s open, we’re gonna show you what we’re really capable of.”
That door, for now, is Fusion’s new reality show, The Dukes of 2Square, which premieres Wednesday, July 30 at 10 p.m. EST. The show is part Quixotic travelogue, part modern-day Cheech and Chong, as the flamboyantly dressed pair traipse across Miami and Europe, painting and spreading the gospel of living free by choice from desk jobs, credit cards, and much obligation to anyone.
Fusion’s series picks up where their own, self-produced web series left off. At the outset of The Dukes of 2Square, you meet Valee and Taylor as they currently are: penniless, impressively dressed, surrounded in a cloud of weed smoke, yet tranquil despite a series of doltish mishaps and minor misfortune.
They weren’t always such rakish dukes of the demi-monde, and learning the 2Square backstory and ethos explains a lot about the new series. Before you check out the premiere—or these preview clips—here are some 2Square essentials you need to know:
They didn’t always live how they do now—their story is one, essentially, of riches to self-imposed rags.
Here’s the backstory that a brief voiceover touches upon at the beginning of The Dukes of 2Square. The dukes’ coffers are empty today, but once upon a time, they lived, relatively, like royalty. Natives of the South, both landed in Knoxville, Tennessee, as adults, where Taylor became a renowned hair stylist, traveling the world to train others and exhibit his work at hair shows, he says. He drove a Porsche and owned a home by his late 20s.
Meanwhile Vallee, by his account, drove his own BMW and earned a six-figure salary from a landscaping business he built from scratch. “We were going out, popping bottles. We were living the life,” Vallee recalls of the early days of his friendship with Taylor. “Doing that sh*t, getting thrown out of restaurants, acting a fool, having food fights. We were those dudes.”
“I was able to earn more than my parents and do sh*t that I never thought possible just doing hair,” says Taylor. “All these things I wanted, I was able to get. But I saw the end of it. I saw what it was. And it was like, ‘F*ck, man, I already see my life. That sucks!’”
Taylor took three months off from hairdressing to head to Europe without a real plan. Inspired, Vallee did the same — during the busiest time of year for his landscaping business — and headed off, wife in tow, to meet up with his friend in Amsterdam. Their goal? To get out of “the bubble” of suburban Knoxville life, as they describe it, and soak everything in, painting and wandering without an itinerary.
A few weeks into the trip Vallee says his wife left him and returned to the United States. It is here, in Europe, where the seemingly unbreakable entity of 2Square formed and started to spread their budding style of street murals across the continent.
Back in the States, Taylor left his job, Vallee sold his business, and they got rid of nearly everything except Vallee’s landscaping truck. Thus began a wandering life that took them through the country, back to Europe, and back again through Detroit and New York before landing in Miami, where the climate lends itself to year-round outdoor mural painting.
The first episode of The Dukes of 2Square opens with Taylor and Vallee waking up in a camper parked in a junkyard.
These days they’ve moved up into slightly bigger digs, their new warehouse, which they share with a roommate. It’s an art studio on the bottom, with two makeshift bedrooms fashioned out of a loft on top; it’s impossible to even stand up in those areas. The pair’s collection of eccentric thrifted clothing—platform sneakers, sequined shirts—hangs from the rafters or lays stacked in piles on a wooden shelf.
There’s no proper kitchen and no shower of any kind (save for a hose outside). Even with fans, during a Miami summer, it’s brutal. Yoga instructors have used the place as a ready-to-go hot Vinyasa studio. The food and drink supply ebbs and flows — right now it’s more of an ebb, with cold, canned beans a dinner staple — but still, Vallee and Taylor will offer a visitor the last of the last, warm beer in an old mug.
Most of The Dukes of 2Square focuses on the pair’s last European tour, in which they paint and hobnob with Berlin’s art world finest. Canvases and painted plywood cover most surfaces of their Miami warehouse. But the ultimate goal for 2Square is something much more grandiose and undefined, they say.
“We fancy ourselves the modern-day version of a renaissance man,” says Vallee. “It’s not just painting walls. It’s clothing, making movies. We wanna do stoner flicks; a sketch comedy show like Dave Chappelle.”
“For he and I it’s more about being able to travel with free will without worrying about finance,” says Taylor.” Having our friends travel with us, being able to take care of them, everyone has a job or a thing.”
Vallee continues the thought for him. They do this often. “We also want to help the world. We want to go to cities in Zimbabwe and paint shacks and give the kids clothes,” he says. “Even beyond that, make clothes, and all kinds of stupid things. Way beyond what you’re thinking – way beyond just going out there and selling a painting or having a gallery show in New York.”
Early on in The Dukes of 2Square, one of them utters a rare admission from the swag-heavy, braggadocio-filled world of a street artist — they know they’re not the best-trained or most talented -— yet. And this is something both will still freely admit.
“But I think art is subjective,” Taylor says. “Any time you’re in, like, a scene—music, art, whatever. You’re gonna have ‘heads,’ and you’re gonna have critics, and have people that make money off being critics. And so you have these people lashing out at your work because they’re trying to make money, they’re trying to be interesting, they’re trying to be funny."
If you find yourself laughing at 2Square’s foibles in the show, don’t feel bad—you’re laughing with them. “We like to make fun of ourselves as well. If you can’t make fun of yourself, then go f*ck yourself,” says Taylor. “We make each other laugh. We make fun of each other. So if we can’t make you laugh and entertain ourselves, why are we even on [a show]?”
They want you to take away their message of self-reliance from the series.
This is where 2square’s presence gets oddly soothing, like sitting in the presence of a tattooed, skinny, swearing Siddharta. No matter how not-okay things seem for them by society’s usual markers of success, they’re always totally okay. So you’ll be totally okay, too. And thus is the message of the series—don’t worry about what other people might think, and just do you.
“There is a current of life going, and there is this system and all these things that are going and pushing the world in a direction. But you don’t have to follow that current. You have total power of your own reality,” Taylor says. “If you don’t like us, I understand why. If you love us, I understand why. I just want you, based on that, to understand what we do, understand what we gave up, and you can do the very same thing. You have the power over your life.”
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.