Chelsea Castle / Lantern photographer
Some children might have dreams of being a cowboy or a princess when they grow up. Later in life, these dreams might progress to more serious professions. But no matter the age, dreams are a major part of many peoples’ lives.
After meeting in high school, the rap trio known as Fly.Union is now living out its dream just six years later.
All born and raised in Columbus, Jerreau Smith, Ivan “iYe” Houpe and Jonathan “JaySwif” Tribune make up Fly.Union. To some, they might be better known as “The Greater Than Club” or TGTC.
The phrase stemmed from the group’s personal motivations and developed into a way to relate to their audience.
“It’s really a way for us to identify with people who are striving to be better, or greater,” Smith said. “I think our fans have really taken it upon themselves to turn it into more than what we thought it would be.”
The slogan is now emblazoned on fitted hats and apparel as it’s developed into a lifestyle brand. The meaning of TGTC is at the core of Fly.Union’s musical endeavors and is something that Smith thinks college students can relate to.
“It’s really just striving to be great in all aspects of life,” Smith said. “Not just school, not just women, not just fashion wise, anything.”
As an independently operated group, they write their own music, manage their own videos, production and more. Fly.Union stands for being honest and open.
“We try to rap what we live and live what we rap,” Smith said. “Whatever state we are in mentally, monetarily, we touch on it. If we say it, we wrote it.”
When asked to describe their music, all members passionately threw their adjectives into the conversation, but agreed it consists of a solid and diverse mix.
“I would say it’s a blend of backgrounds,” Houpe said. “It’s a blend of inspirations.”
The majority of their beats are positive, and many songs feature a catchy phrase. It’s easy to find yourself unknowingly nodding along to the bouncy rhythm. The lyrics are interesting, relevant and sometimes inspiring.
In their song entitled “Long Run” from the album “Value Pack 6”, Houpe raps, “new game plan, off to new places, I gotta’ feeling I can win this race, I found my pace.”
Everyone connects with music differently and while it may be personal, Houpe hopes that those who listen to their music are able to have open ears and open minds.
“Everybody hears it different and everybody takes something different from it,” Houpe said. “Just take from it what you will.”
With seven previous projects released, the majority of which were value packs released online for free download. The stage is set for their upcoming release of “The Greater Than Club” today. This will be the first album digitally released on iTunes for purchase for $7.99, for free download and will be available as a hard copy. The album will be available for purchase on their website as well as several shops in the Short North.
Fly.Union has previously worked with such names as Big Sean, Willie the Kid, Dom Kennedy, Chip Tha Ripper and more, some of which will make an appearance on the anticipated new album.
The distribution of their music has been divergent of the norm. Not many musicians offer their music for free and for purchase. Smith said this was strategy and they are “kind of trailblazing.”
“We have a lot of fans that support us and they may get the music for free but they’ll buy the album as well,” Houpe said. “We always run into people that say they buy the music even though they have it. So we give people that option.”
Since their first few releases, which were compilation projects, the music and production of Fly.Union has evolved greatly. Tribune said the beats have progressed significantly.
“It’s just more grown up,” Houpe said. “It’s a year in the making.”
Smith said their fans will hear growth in quality of music and content.
“We just try to be honest with where we are in life,” Smith said. “And just reflect it spiritually, personally, relationship wise, we just let it reflect through our music.”
Fly.Union’s last local performance was an in-store show at Sole Classics in The Short North, which reached maximum capacity. Their next show will be to promote their new album on April 29 at Newport Music Hall.
All three express their passion for the city through their attitudes and lifestyle. This can be found in “Tonight” from the album “Value Pack 5.”
“Columbus tatted on my heart, that’s permanent love, it’s not where you’re at, it’s where you’re from, ‘cause to know where you are going is to know where you are from,” Smith raps in the song.
They expressed hope for others to relate to them and their music.
“We’re from here, we’re influenced by the same things,” Houpe said. “We’re always on High Street, we go to the same restaurants, we eat the same food, we party in the same places. We’re Columbus’ own. We’re Ohio State’s own.”
As a group with two former Ohio State students, Fly.Union represents crew still on their journey to greatness, blazing the trail the whole way and inspiring others to do the same.
“Even before TGTC, we were trying to lives our dreams out,” Smith said. “We’re definitely doing it now. So, have greater dreams.”