They used to be Jabarr and Gigi Dowell. That was back when they were microbiologists. Now they are known as DNA (“Destroying Negative Attitudes”) and Gi-Twice.
He spits his poetry while she sings hers and provides melodic riffs to his spoken word. They both play guitars. They are a dynamic duo of brains and music for the soul, two people living out their dreams instead of other people’s best wishes for them. They had the courage to say “no” to well-meaning parents and see clearly the path to their own satisfaction. Together, they perform as Mahogany Dust.
“My entire family sings on both sides,” offered Gi-Twice. “Singing is something I’ve been doing since I was born. I’ve always had that dream of just doing music.”
But she also developed a love for science and for helping others. Her parents nudged her toward becoming a doctor, a profession that could provide her with a good income. So she majored in microbiology at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
The two Louisiana natives who now live in Atlanta met in bio statistics class at Southern. By this time DNA had had an epiphany that came while watching “Showtime at the Apollo.”
“I was sitting in a living room and watching Apollo and there was a guy named Boogie Man and he did a poem called ‘Get off Me’ and at that moment I knew I wanted to be in spoken word.”
The first time he saw Gi-Twice, he asked her if she wanted to look on his book since she didn’t have one.
“She looked in my book that day and I didn’t say anything,” recalled DNA. “I was going to say something the next day. But that second day I asked did she want to look on my book and she said no.”
Still, with both being microbiology majors, they wound up studying together and eventually hanging out after she came to help his roommate with Spanish. They married a year after college and now have a daughter, London, who is eight. They worked in microbiology for about six years before deciding to pursue what was tugging at their hearts.
“I was a chemist in a lab that made cooking oil,” said DNA.
“I was working on the clinical side of microbiology,” said Gi-Twice. “I worked in a hospital.”
The two pursued their music careers after hours. DNA performed spoken word while Gi-Twice auditioned for various shows. Then DNA had another idea: He thought Gi-Twice should play the guitar in addition to sing. The combination, he believed, would put her ahead of the competition.
He did some research on guitars and bought one for himself and one for her, but he had to convince Gi-Twice, who played piano, to pick up a new instrument.
“We had no guitar lessons,” said DNA.
The two spent hours teaching themselves to play. Then they were able to pick out melodies and write songs. “We would be in the garage practicing, all sleepy because we had just gotten off work,’ said DNA.
They composed two songs and played them for friends who encouraged them to get out and perform in public.
“It started clicking in my brain that I was spending 12 hours a day on this job and I wondered what could happen if we put 12 hours a day in our own stuff,” DNA said.
He left his chemist job on January 22, 2007. “I quit dead in the middle of my shift. I quit and told my supervisor I was going to pursue my music career.”
Gi-Twice knew the change was coming.
“That January I started seeing him pacing in the morning like he was thinking and didn’t really want to go, but he was going because of his obligation to his family. He called me that day, right before he told his supervisor. He said, ‘I can’t do it no more.’”
She remained on her job a couple of more months. She quit March 4, 2007.
They had the financial well-being of their daughter to think of. Ironically, instead of that factor scaring them, it made them want to follow their passion.
“When we looked at what we were making, there was nothing we could leave behind for her,” explained DNA. “We wanted to leave a corporation or something other than the normal savings account or house or car. We wanted to leave behind an empire.”
The following years have been incredible, scary, joyful and difficult. But both DNA and Gi-Twice are happy they chose to follow their dreams.
“I would have done it a little different if I could do it again; maybe work a little longer to make sure we got everything we needed,” said DNA. “We were just independent artists and we didn’t know how to make this work.”
They lost their house and their car but are still happy about their decisions.
“We have reached a lot of people. And it has grown beyond music,” said DNA.
They were featured on BET-J’s Lyric Café and on an Atlanta radio show. They have expanded their “empire,” and their streams of income, building a recording studio and learning how to make their own CDs. They have made two: “Living” and “Experience.”
They have traveled the South performing and selling their music. When Gi-Twice enrolled in an online master’s in entertainment business program offered by Full Sail University, they both studied the curriculum. Now they take photos, doing CD & DVD covers and filming commercials and producing film trailers. They are also working on solo CD projects.
“We are becoming a production studio with Mahogany Dust under the umbrella,” DNA said. “We took all of that microbiology brain power and applied it to music and art.”
Their determination has won over relatives who were initially skeptical of the career change. Of the couple’s choices, Gi-Twice said, “There’s no way to create on those (microbiology) jobs. Everyday becomes the same, monotonous detail. Even though there’s guaranteed money at the end of the day, I didn’t feel free. I felt that something was missing. For me, creativity has always put me in a state of feeling free.”
To hear samples of Mahogany Dust music, click here.