Soulful sonic waves and intoxicating drums flourish throughout Fly.Union’s sophomore effort, Small Victories. Consisting of rappers/producers Iyeball, Jayswifa and MC Jerreau, the Columbus, OH natives continue their odyssey in becoming hip-hop’s unstoppable trio.
Small Victories feels like a continuation of their 2011 debut, The Greater Than Club , to a certain degree. The beats are well-done as they range from Kanye-esque to downtempo/trip-hop with heavy reverb on snares plus lasers zaps that create an ethereal atmosphere. Iyeball and Jayswifa work well as a team, bringing an outer worldly feel to the entire LP.
While the production played its part, Small Victories falls short on lyrics as Jerreau (as well as Iyeball and Jay Swifa) don’t quite present the same passion and hunger provided on The Greater Than Club. On their first album, the message they projected was profound and direct. It seems this time around, they are occupied with chasing the almighty dollar and bragging about materialistic possessions that are standard in hip-hop. Some may be turned off by their vanity, but their stream of conscious rhymes are catchy at certain moments.
What helped put Fly.Union on another playing field was The Greater Than Club‘s deep exploration of pride, love and the hustle that connected with fans. The lyrics were felt on The Greater Than Club, especially with standout rhymes like on “Love For You”: “How could you live in a house that’s not a home?/And I act like I’ve been in the end zone so when life give you lemons tell her to add patron.” The messages were strong and some songs were reminiscent of the uplifting vibes of Lupe Fiasco.
Three years later, Fly.Union’s lyrical trajectory have changed a bit as it has become less about making cohesive songs and more about proving they can still can spit. What can be said about Small Victories, though, is that it almost feels like Jerreau stepped into the booth and just freestyled everything on the spot. Rhyme structure is nowhere near the level it was on The Greater Than Club and many bars are left trailing with no words rhyming at all. Unfortunately, the lyrics on some of these tracks sound like a seamless thought laced over a beat. Even when rapping about love and loyalty in, “Just Like You” for example, it seems Jerreau’s heart isn’t where it once was. While the hooks are catchy, the rappers sound almost distant and uninterested in their verses. It’s become a reliance of swag over bars, not so much substance.
However, Small Victories is worth a listen for longtime fans of Fly.Union. The production shines bright and hits hard, leaving listeners with something a little different than the norm. If this was their debut, it would certainly indicate that they’re a potential act with more to offer. However, as Jerreau, Iyeball and Jay Swifa once said, “We’ve only just begun/Yeah, I’m here for the long run.” Although this isn’t the sophomore LP many have hoped for, they’ve continued to bubble out of the underground and are ready to burst into national exposure. With many acts that come and go in the music industry, Fly.Union has set their mark and from this point on, we’ll see if they truly are at the finish line yet.—Andrew Lee