Words By Greg Whitt
The “greater than” side of this simple mathematical inequality is to the left. No surprise then, that Fly.Union continues with its left of center approach to the Hip-Hop game with their first album, The Greater Than Club. After whetting our collective appetites over the past three years with mixtapes and the always welcome value packs, the Columbus, OH trio debuts with a well-balanced and cohesive collection of lushly-produced odes to the good life, and the sometimes bumpy roads taken to reach that altitude.
In-house production duo MnkeyWrench (comprised of 2/3 of the group, Iyeball and Jayswifa) provide a radiant soundscape that skillfully toes the line between synth and soul, electro and analog. The somber opener, “Salutation” swells with emotion. Lyrics like “My mother text me ‘I love you’/I can’t remember the last time I heard her say it/Cuz she don’t show affection too well/So my apologies to any girl’s I’ve ever dated” show an uncommon sense of honesty that is a recurring theme of the album.
Another recurring theme, of course, is fly shit. Los Angeles native Dom Kennedy, contributes his persona to the cooler-than-you anthem “Friends.Women.Money.” Firmly in his lane, Dom steals the show on this one, but the Fly Boys more than hold their own. The soulful “5000” is audio A/C for hot summer days. It practically begs to be played as loud as possible, preferably from a clean vehicle, as the sun creates beads of sweat on those unlucky enough to still be bumping those outdated tunes.
Of course being the coolest guys in the room isn’t always as great as it seems. In fact, the biggest negative with TGTC is that it may be too cool. Each lyricist, especially Jearreau who separates himself as the clear star of this crew, displays charisma, but several of the record suffer from a lack of urgency. Only on the jazzy and upbeat “Hard Sell” do we see anything resembling aggression to cut through the through the laid back vibe that pervades the rest of the album. Pair that with the lack of consistently rewind-worthy lyricism, and we find Fly.U left with room for improvement.
Even so, TGTC’s highs are nosebleed inducing. “Who You Wit” is Kanye West’s “We Major” meets the Rat Pack in Ocean’s Eleven. With its luxuriant strings and brisk snare, this is the soundtrack to making the big score and getting away scott free. To pull off the big job, you need a talented crew, and Fly.Union has that. Well-produced and thoughtfully written, The Greater Than Club will have plenty of new applicants following this debut.