Presumably, the "Fly" in "Fly Union" refers to an innate sense of style, but given the events of the past year, it just as easily could indicate that the Columbus hip-hop trio is soaring.
Behold Fly Union's accomplishments: Last summer, they released Zenith, their most exciting set of music to date. In September, they were one of about 30 acts to perform at Jay-Z and Budweiser's Made in America Festival in Philadelphia, probably the best spot date a rapper could ask for. Not long after that, they jumped on the 32-date BET Music Matters tour with Top Dawg Entertainment stars Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, plus Ohio native/Maybach Music signee Stalley, their longest and most prominent tour by far.
“It was a hell of a tour,” lead MC Jerreau Smith said. “Every night it was packed.”
The whirlwind continued last week in Austin, where Fly Union had its busiest and best South By Southwest ever, performing gigs in the double-digits, including a spot on the TDE showcase with Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q. (There was a line around the block for that one as Fly Union took the stage.) The Columbus rappers were all over town at venues large and small, even adding a last-minute gig on top of the double decker Vyclone bus at an Austin street corner. This being SXSW, the bottom level was a bar.
“We did the MTV Hive show. We're doing Sony RED tonight," Jerreau said, rocking a gold Ohio chain outside the Vyclone bus before posing for photos with fans. “They just keep coming.”
That Sony show turned out to be the highlight of SXSW for Fly Union, as Jerreau explained during a phone call a few days later.
“For one, it was on a rooftop, so that was a different environment in and of itself,” Jerreau said. Performing in front of a fervent audience of fans alongside top talent like Ryan Leslie didn’t hurt either. Of course, SXSW isn’t only about wowing the fans; it’s just as much about impressing fellow musicians and music industry players.
“It’s a good break from the norm,” Jerreau said. “For one, there’s nothing like face time, having face time with your peers and people who know of you or know you but have never seen you live or spoke to you.”
After all those gigs, Fly Union's stage show should be good and honed for the homecoming concert/tour kickoff going down at Skully's this Tuesday with P. Blackk, Ducky Smallz, So Fowl, Bruni and DJ Giovanny. The event precedes two dates in Michigan and one in Cleveland, a chance to return to markets that weren't visited on the BET tour. Then it's back to the studio to put the finishing touches on a new project.
“No titles yet. No release date yet,” Jerreau said. “We actually have it done and videos ready to go, PR lined up. But it’s definitely shaping up to be some good music.”
Jerreau didn’t give much of a hint about where Fly Union’s music is going, but what he did share sounds promising: “We’re definitely still talking about what we go through, what we’ve been through, and what we aspire to do. I guess this time around it might have a little more progressive energy to it. It may not be as laid back as traditionally our sound may be.”
None of the music has been released yet, but they did perform one of the new songs at SXSW, so it might sneak into the setlist at Skully’s to satiate fans looking for a taste of what’s next.
Speaking of that show: “We’ve worked on a few surprises, and we’re still working on some more. If we have it our way, we’ll have some surprises,” Jerreau said. “We haven’t performed in Columbus in maybe a year plus, so this will be a good opportunity to give back to the people that’s been supporting us.”