When explaining the music and style of Fly Union, Fly may be the perfect word to describe them. The Columbus, Ohio collective of Iye Ball, Jay Swif and Jerreau Smith bring not only unique rhyme schemes and gentle flowing melodies to the stage, but also, a hometown style which they believe is important to who they are.
A blend of all genres is on display when this trio of emcees grabs the mic as they do most of their own production. Group member Iye Ball was exposed to all music as a child as he traveled with his father, who was a member of the international Funk/Disco group Heatwave – makers of the Big Daddy Kane sample to “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’.”
Musical fatherhood is not exclusive to just Iye Ball. Jay Swif’s father was also a noted Jazz/Funk musician, which contributes to the trio’s versatility in emceeing as well as production. The two make up the group’s production team, which they call MonkeyWrench.
Jerreau is known to be the more lyrical of the three emcees and presents a noticeable, but also, easy listening flow to the mic, which blends in with the soothing yet poignant aria that is crafted by the MonkeyWrench duo.
Working with some of the biggest names of today such as Dom Kennedy, Curren$y, Big Sean and Chip the Ripper, Fly Union believes that they too can reach the top. A true “Greater Than Club.” To them, that is the ultimate goal.
HipHopDX’s DXnext recently spoke to the trio before a show in their hometown. With a line stretching way down High Street to see them long after the performance began, let’s just say Columbus was just as ready to see their hometown heroes, as they were to put on for their city.
Listen to“Pretty Face” by Fly Union’s Mnkey Wrench
Fitting In With The Rest Of The Columbus Hip Hop Scene: Iye Ball explained, “I mean it’s definitely important to know where we’re from, you know. Columbus, Ohio and just Ohio in general but there’s always been a lot of great talent and we’ve all been kind of from all different areas you know what I mean? I came from more of a musical background so there’s always been a lot of great talent all around Ohio and especially in Columbus. We’ve always seen it go through different phases and seeing it come up and I think right now, the phase that we’re in is really a boom of a generation and the digital age and just the resources that are available, you’re able to get seen. There are a lot of cats now that are really bringing it. I guess we just want to be mentioned with the greats that have come through here. We came out of Ohio, we came out of Columbus and we’re just representing our state and our city.” Jerreau continued, “There are even people from Columbus now who are doing it, they’re on tour and have music videos on MTV so we’re definitely not the first but when it comes to a face, I think that Fly Union is becoming that face and it’s definitely a responsibility we take serious. We definitely want to bring quality music, quality product and be consistent.”
Being Independent Artists: Jerreau stated, “I think you’re definitely going to see the people who want it more and people who are talented start to win. We honestly feel like nobody is going to work harder for you than you. So you could have the biggest and badest record label, that was a wack term but still [laughing] out there but if you’re not putting the effort into it, it’s for not. So I think a lot of independent artists are really working it. We definitely don’t have any days off. We are shooting all our own videos, we’re working with our art director to come up with designs for our hats, we’re editing the videos, we’re mixing the music, making the beats so it’s work and I think that you are going to see the people who want it more really win and the talented really win.”
Reaction To The Response Of Their Latest Project The Greater Than Club: Jay Swif said, “I think everybody who we wanted to hear it, heard it and that was the main goal. It’s crazy, our Twitter is going crazy right now as we speak.” Iye Ball continued, “When we dropped The Greater Than Club, it was a lifestyle thing too, which is where the title comes from. But just the expectations of it were we just wanted to put a quality album out versus a mixtape. It went through the mixtape channels and circuit but in our eyes, we put it out as an album. The marketing tools we used and the way we put it out, I think it did what it needed to do. We’re in the planning stages of the next project, the recording stages so we’re going to have a follow up soon and we’re going to just keep building with it.” Jerreau said, “We’re still working on some new music but TGTC I think is a great introduction for people that have never heard us and we definitely don’t want to forget about it because we definitely put some effort into it and try to make it something that’s timeless. I’ll let the people decide if it’s classic or not but we definitely want it to be something that’s timeless so we still want to put that out there and we expect people to come and be open-minded and get loose wit it.”
Expectations On The Follow-Up Project: Iye Ball explained, “As of right now the project we’re working on is in the same vein [as The Greater Than Club]. I mean we do a lot of our production so the music that we make represent the seasons of Ohio and also where we are at the time. The record now definitely has a little more bounce. It’s still untitled.” Jay Swif continued, “You definitely hear a little more progression in the music lyrics, beats and everything.”
Thoughts On Traveling While Doing Something You Love: Jerreau said, “It’s definitely a humbling experience at times but it’s definitely reassuring so I mean it’s definitely fun, this is something we work everyday for so it’s nice to be able to go to a city where people know the words that you rap and are willing to pay X about of dollars to go to a show or pay X amount of dollars to buy a T-shirt, you know, it makes you want to go harder for lack of a better term and you really put your best foot forward so I’m excited. We’ve got a couple pending and still coming up and we definitely have a large fan base out west and we’re trying to get out there and have fun with them.”
One Word To Describe The Style Of Fly Union: Iye Ball explained, “I would just say freedom. We’re not manufactured. We did an interview yesterday and that was the main point of the interview, just the realness you know what I mean? Just being able to be who we are so you know sometimes it takes you in different directions and different ways. Sometimes we dress crazy left or crazy right and in the middle but I think what we do as artists represents our personal feelings and represents where we’re from.”
Overall Message Of The Greater Than Club: Iye Ball explained, “The Greater Than Club represents just kind of positive development, personal development and just striving to be great. It kind of transcends genres of music, it transcends lifestyles and what not so our main thing is everyday, we just strive to be better and in every song we try to make it better. We try to adjust the faults at least tastefully so we’re constantly involved at this point as musicians, emcees, writers in just trying to expand. It goes to students, it goes to parents, it goes to fans, it goes to teachers, you know what I mean? So that was kind of the idea of it. We just wanted everyone to know that it’s something that you can make personal to your own life so whatever it is that you want to apply it to, just make sure that it’s better that what it was.” Jerreau continued, “We’re making it a point to touch on what we are in life because who we are today may not be who we are tomorrow so when you listen to the songs you know, we talk about the highs and lows. We talk about relationships we have with our families, with females so I think the whole idea with, like you we’re saying, The Greater Than Club, it’s all-inclusive, it’s not just women, it’s life. We definitely want to put who we are in our music so as we grow as artists, our listeners will too.”
Working With Dom Kennedy: Jerreau said, “It’s just dope because we’re fans of music so we definitely tell people what we’re listening to and want to know and we have features on our projects and a lot of people in Columbus are introduced to some of these acts for the first time via us so it’s definitely dope to see someone we’ve worked with be able to come out here and build a fan base and get some of our fans and we trade off with [Dom Kennedy] and his fans so it’s just a dope experience and that’s good about the upcoming artists now because there’s a lot of comrade and a lot of people helping each other out.” Iye Ball continued, “A lot of respect to the west coast right now. A lot of great artists and talents come out of there, Dom Kennedy being one of those so it’s great being able to do a show together and hopefully all people put on for it and rep were they come from, Columbus.”