Audio is booming online as never before, but Clubhouse’s much-hyped pioneers and Spotify’s celebrity podcasters aren’t the only ones making noise. Creators of every variety are experimenting and finding audiences on platforms new and old. 

Sound On is a series of nofilter articles on the coolest trends and innovators in the emerging audioscape. Browse them all here. 

L’Tosha Williams is calling me from the parking lot of a UPS store in Atlanta, Georgia, where she and her daughter are shipping out another day’s worth of merch to her one and a half million TikTok followers

“Overwhelming is the word I'm going to use,” Williams, who goes by TikToshh on the app, tells me, describing her merch’s popularity. “There's like three big companies that have contacted me to take over.”

Even if you’re not one of Williams’ “besties”—a Gen Z term of endearment that the mother of seven adopted for her videos and splashes on her merch—you’ve probably heard her voice. Something about Williams gets her videos—which range from rants about Donald Trump to totally out-of-context messages—get turned into sounds that are used in hundreds of thousands of other people’s videos. If TikTok introduced the concept of an audio meme, Williams is as responsible as any single user for that. 

“Bestie vibes only, bestie vibes only, bestie vibes only,” Williams repeats in a popular sound. 

“Bestie I’m afraid to ask you this,” she trills in another.

Williams joined TikTok at the start of the pandemic, after her daughter showed her a video, and she started going viral immediately.

“I actually posted a dance video...the Renegade?” she says. “The views were just coming and coming and coming and then took off from there.”

I tried to get to the bottom of what makes Williams’ videos so infectious and how she plans to turn viral fame into a movie with Tyler Perry one day.

What was the first sound of yours you remember going viral?

My first viral video with the sound was one where I went completely off on Donald Trump. So it went to like a million [views] within no time.

Now, your videos follow a pattern: Lots of repetition with a twist at the end, often using the word “bestie.” How did you develop that formula?

To start off with the repetition, it's just something I did one day. I just started repeating. It was nothing. I don't plan anything. My kids always say, "Mama, you gonna give me a heart attack" ‘cause I just bust out wherever I can. So I just did that one night and I said “bestie,” and it just started spiraling out of control. And everybody's just started saying, “Hey bestie” to me. And so I just kind of picked it up and ran with it. 

What is it about your sounds that you think makes them go viral?

To be honest, because they're genuine. They're not rehearsed. They're not made up. I literally say whatever I'm going to say at the moment. When people rehearse more, it turns into acting and the audience can feel that.

Do your children ever come across people using your sounds on the app?

They do all the time. They're sending me videos of famous people that are using my sound and my 11-year-old—he's not on TikTok, but he uses YouTube—he came into my room and he showed me that somebody made a video game of me with some anime. He's like, "Mama, I found you." We were just laughing about it. He had a smirk on his face. There was his mother running in a video game with my sound. 

How would you describe your followers? In the comments it seems like one big family. 

That's what I like most. I'm not here for the views because I didn't start TikTok for views or followers. I talk back to everybody that is on my Live or everybody that's in my comments, until the comments started going so out of control that I [couldn’t] keep up with them. But in the beginning I used to try to comment back to everybody. Now I'll try to like everything, but I deem it as family. And I tell them this all the time. I rely on them on days that I might be feeling down and they rely on me to keep them energized and up and at ‘em. A lot of people have DMed me to tell me how I saved their life during quarantine. So it really touched my heart and it gives me the motivation to continue.

Career-wise, has your TikTok success brought new opportunities?

I've gotten an overwhelming outpour of people contacting me daily [to do] promotions for them. I am a paid TikTokker now, and I receive gifts from TikTok all the time, which I genuinely appreciate. A lot of doors have opened for me. 

What is your dream outcome from all of this? 

I'm just hoping to be in some type of movie, a comedy movie or an action movie, something with Tyler Perry. But I really want to recreate Dawn Budgie [from the Melissa McCarthy movie Identity Theft]. I just really loved that character on her. I'm looking for something big on the big screen.