From left to right: Jay Swifa, Iyeball, Jerreau
When hip hop started out, crew love was in full effect with groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A. and later Wu-Tang dominating the charts. In more recent years, hip hop has shifted towards branding the individual, but Fly Union, whose four-song EP, Loose Releases came out last week, looks to remind people why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The trio, which consists of Iyeball, Jay Swifa, and Jerreau, came together in high school and never looked back, amassing an impressive body of work on their own and working with fellow crew-loving hip hop heads like Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolBoy Q, and Pusha T.
"We like to be accountable and responsible for each other," Fly Union's Jerreau told BET.com. "We bounce ideas off each other, it's not just, 'I do what I wanna do.' [Working together] is a challenge and we haven't mastered it, but I think we're doing a pretty good job."
In addition to their own projects, the group, sometimes known as Fly Dot U, has garnered plenty of acclaim for their work with other artists. Right now, however, the focus is set on strengthening their own brand.
"The project we're working on now actually has no features from a hip hop perspective," said Fly Union producer Iyeball. "It was to a point where we wanna maintain focus on the things that we do and not take away from that. We have a lot of good friends in the industry and we like working with people where it's natural, but we really try not to play the feature game 'cause we don't wanna rely on anyone else."
They bring that focused-group energy to their live show as well (the fellas ripped the stage as part of the 2012 BET Music Matters Tour).
"[Our live show] is a real big part of what we do, and we just don't want to just be three guys on a stage running around screaming, so we really put energy and focus and effort into it," said MC/Producer, Jay Swifa, noting that the group will be hitting the road at the beginning of 2014. "Over the past decade or so I think the hip hop live shows kinda got lost, but if you look at a lot of the artists that really have longevity, it's people that can put on a great live show," Swifa added.
That connection to a loyal fan base is something, for example, Nipsey Hussle has, which he proved with his latest mixtape, which sold for $100 apiece. "What Nipsey did was huge for the culture and people all over the world paid attention to it, so kudos to him," said Jerreau.
Iyeball big-upped the Cali MC as well, pointing out the importance of artists to create their own lane. "In pop culture people tend to try and follow what the last person did, but it's important for everybody to find their own way of doing things, and what works for them — and that worked for him."