I.B. Fokuz, Collasoul Structure, and DJ Seanile are Jyroscope. The Chicago trio came onto the scene five years ago with their debut album, Ragtime. Soon after Jyroscope released a mixtape paying homage to their favorite rock tunes titled, “On the Rocks.”
Jyroscope returned in early 2016 with a new project paying homage to a genre created in their hometown of Chicago — Hip House. Born in the late 1980s and reaching its peak in the early 90s, Hip House combined Chicago’s soundtrack, house music, with New York’s burgeoning music called Hip-Hop. Jyroscope reintroduces fans to the once popular music on a free mixtape called “On the House.” On the House is a 9 track release available for free download that features appearances by Jondae Scott and Malakh EL.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to the members of Jyroscope about the On the House mixtape, their growth as artists since their 2011 debut, and their upcoming EP, Mute.
TRHH: Why did you guys decide to do a Hip House project?
I.B. Fokuz: First and foremost we kind of came off of our last project “On the Rocks” where we were rocking over a whole bunch of rock tracks and we wanted to dabble in different genres. We chose to do house. It started as a fun idea but as we watched it manifest before our eyes it really hit home because this is the Mecca of house music. Mixing Hip-Hop with house music really hit home for us. It was a great idea at first but it really manifested into something that we wanted to explore even more. It was a good choice and as you listen to the music it kind of progresses with those thoughts, if that makes sense.
TRHH: What are some of your early memories of Hip House music in the city?
Collasoul Structure: With Hip House of course the obvious would be hearing Fast Eddie. Frankie Knuckles of course, Mr. Fingers, and obviously The Percolator is the most well-known song across the board. People in different places on different planets know that song.
I.B. Fokuz: Later on down the line we got Outhere Brothers. I think sometimes people did it unintentionally. Because it’s the city of house music you were bound to ride the 4/4. I think the appreciation for that authentic Chicago sound kind of got lost when it started to go overseas. Not to put down anybody – obviously everything it evolves. It took on as EDM, rave, and things like that which is still cool. Taking it back to your first question and connecting it to your second one it’s like bringing it back to the essence of where it comes from but with a modernized flow and modernized approach, we thought it would make things interesting.
TRHH: Do you guys know if Fast Eddie or any of those other guys heard On the House?
Collasoul Structure: I would hope so. I really hope some of the greats and legends get to hear it hopefully. I’m praying for it. If they do I hope they know that we are truly trying to pay homage and uphold the standard. People haven’t really jumped onto Hip House in a long time. It blossomed then and fizzled and stayed where it was in that time. People are kind of starting to do something similar. You can sort of say that Flo Rida is on that wave. No one really touched upon that genre and that portal. We sat and thought about jumping into this full force and brought it back to the city.
I.B. Fokuz: Just to camelback off what he said we were very sensitive to the fact of paying that homage and making sure what we were doing was done right. Even though we did it in our way and wanted to elevate it we still wanted to make sure the roots were deeply planted so it could be appreciated by the greats. Actually by you asking did these legends hear it, funny enough one of the tracks that we did called “Vibes” was collaborated with The Black Madonna and Simba.
Collasoul Structure: It was a Simba Selecta song and Black Madonna remixed it. I heard it a little while back and played it for I.B. and Seanile. It’s the essence of house right here. When you hear that song you think “house” like this is what it’s all about right here. We went straight to work on it. Thankfully we got a dude that believed in us and helped us put together a video for it – Mr. Kory Stewart. He put together a masterful video, we put it out, and people embraced it. Simba Selecta and Black Madonna tweeted to us, “Hey, we are in love with this song. We would love to play it in shows. We really dig it and appreciated that you re-worked our song.”
I.B. Fokuz: Just to bring it full circle back to your question directly, that’s what we would love to hear and I think that’s the reason why you even asked the question. It’s one thing to do something and get love from the people but when you’re really paying homage to somebody, for the people that you’re paying homage to, to reach their hand out and be like, “Hey, y’all did it right,” that makes us appreciate the project more. This project is still growing wings. We released it in February but with the video coming out it’s spreading more wings. To be honest with you, and I can speak for all of us, On the House is really just the prototype to what we are prepared to do in the future. This is really just to open up the portal. We really want to tap more into the Hip-House, not meaning that we don’t have the boom bap because we got a lot of cards up our sleeves. But the Hip House is very special to us.
TRHH: How have you guys grown as a group since the release of Ragtime?
DJ Seanile: It’s been a lot of years since Ragtime. Everybody has grown as artists – digging for records, finding new styles, and different things that we all want to do with the music. Since Ragtime we’ve just been evolving day after day after day after day. With the Hip House record it just shows that there is no genre that we can’t discover or research that we don’t try to give it our all to make our own sounds with the genres that we come across. I’m really looking forward to the next one, but the Hip House genre that we decided to do this time really touched home with me because I grew up on house and I spin house all the time. It’s a moment where it’s finally a record that we could put out and really get into, and doing live shows with it makes it even better. The Vibes video just shows you the evolution since Ragtime.
Collasoul Structure: I feel like we were pretty good then but we’ve grown leaps and bounds. When you listen to Ragtime we sound like 15-16 years old. You can hear the growth in our voices and the styles. Our wording has gotten sharper, our delivery has gotten sharper, Seanile’s cuts have gotten sharper literally and figuratively. We studied ourselves, our influences, and basically jumped in a plane and went up there a little bit. I’m very, very proud of us.
I.B. Fokuz: Just to add to that, when you speak about Ragtime first and foremost Ragtime was a representation of our struggle and endurance before that was released. Just to give you some background, when Jyroscope came about that was ’05. Me and Collasoul Structure we were in the same high school in the same division class at Hyde Park Academy. Funny enough, we really didn’t clique up until senior year. We had amazing conversations and builds, but it really didn’t kick off until senior year. When we graduated in ’05 that’s when we really took it serious to link up and do what we was doing.
We started off on the south side just doing open mics and stuff. As we were growing in these open mics in our own approach it was a lot of guys that took us under their wing just to say, y’all need to get out of the hood on the south side and the rest of Chicago needs to hear you. It’s almost a metaphor of the whole world needing to hear you because you’re not going to be heard just being on this block. We give credit to a lot of brothers that helped us out. When we went to the north side we started exposing ourselves and performing in different cities in the country. It really helped us to understand what we had. This whole process of us learning all this stuff and maturing was us creating Ragtime.
Ragtime really was like a representation of the starving artist in the struggle. A lot of people don’t know that Ragtime came out in 2011 but it was probably written in 2008. It was all written by ’09 it’s just that we didn’t record it. This was a project that captured our early moments when we were buzzing in the streets and out here in Timbs in the snow passing out flyers, going to open mics, building with the rest of our brethren which is now Tomorrow Kings. All of that stuff was being built around that time. When we finally released Ragtime in 2011 that’s the reason why you heard On the Rocks.
When you listen to the style and flow on On the Rocks you can kind of tell that there was a little maturity and growth in our rhyming skills, patterns, and concepts. You can tell that On the Rocks is different from Ragtime even though they were released in the same year. It was a point where we were like, “Should we put out Ragtime?” but this was like a photo album of everything that we experienced so when we released it, it was appreciated as such. When you ask how we have grown from that point, it was a lot of growing before that point which led to this moment that makes us approach things the way we approach it now.
TRHH: Because of that growth is it difficult when you guys are performing to do those songs?
I.B. Fokuz: Could you elaborate on that question?
TRHH: Do you not want to perform the songs off of Ragtime because the sound has changed or because you’re just in a different space right now?
DJ Seanile: I personally feel like anything that we’ve done in the past I’m always down to do again. At the gig today I was listening to some of Gilead’s records off of ADVENT and I was like, we gotta perform “Sophia” again, it’s been too long. There is nothing on Ragtime that I wouldn’t perform on a daily basis.
Collasoul Structure: That’s a very, very good question. One thing I can say first and foremost is I never feel ashamed to perform any of the songs from Ragtime because they got us to where we are today. We hold those so close to the heart. We definitely still do perform songs from Ragtime. We still have a very limited supply that’s for sale, too. We’re gonna rock it until the end. Some of those songs still can compete today I feel. I definitely understand what you mean when you ask if it’s difficult to perform those because you feel like you have grown so much.
There will be a disparity in the styles when you hear something live from Ragtime, to when you hear something from On the Rocks, to when you hear something from On the House, and when you hear the new stuff from the Mute EP. It’s gonna be there. If anything it’s a challenge for us to re-learn songs from Ragtime that we haven’t done in a long time. It’s actually fun, it’s exciting. One day I’d like to perform the entire album of Ragtime all the way through like we did at the release party. It would be hard as hell but it would be fun.
TRHH: I spoke to Gilead7 a while ago and he said the Tomorrow Kings would come back as a crew pretty soon. How soon will we hear something from Tomorrow Kings?
I.B. Fokuz: I will say this, Tomorrow Kings never left. Tomorrow Kings never split up, Tomorrow Kings has always been united. To put it in more perspective as to why Jyroscope is starting to buzz again like we were doing in ’08 and ’09, Tomorrow Kings being this collective of emcees we founded this and brought this together as a collective of unity. A lot of people have attempted to do this but weren’t able to capitalize and build an umbrella to build from. We actually did that. We released a great album, Nigger Rigged Time Machine. We did a lot of great things as far as touring and getting out here. We really created a platform for the individual artists in the crew.
The reason why I say that is because you have to understand when Tomorrow Kings started Jyroscope as far as emcees was the only duo within the crew. We was technically how Souls of Mischief is in Hieroglyphics. Jyroscope is like the Souls of Mischief of Tomorrow Kings and everybody else is solo emcees. When we all came together to build Tomorrow Kings we put in some years to even get that recognized, honored, and respected. By even doing that we all kind of put our own individual thing on hiatus to really nurture what Tomorrow Kings is right now and the respect that it has. By us putting those years in now it got back to that point where now that we solidified this foundation now we all gotta get in our own individual stations so we can nurture where we started from.
When we came together we all were hungry on our own stations but we put so much time as a family that it was a point of emphasis that we all had to grow individually to be those pillars to hold up that building. That’s the reason why you’re hearing Skech185 coming out with his new album. That’s the reason why you’re hearing Lamon Manuel about to release his debut project. That’s the reason why Gilead7 just released his project. That’s the reason why you heard Jyroscope just released On the House and we got more stuff in store. We all individually are strengthening ourselves as we built this foundation so now when we release all these projects best believe that, that next project of Tomorrow Kings is going to be brewing.
The more projects you hear coming out from each individual member, that’s when you need to put the clock on and be like, “Okay, I done got an album from him, an album from him, and an album from him, I know what’s next! Tomorrow Kings is about to come back out with that haymaker again.” Everything is calculated. Everything is put into place in its right pattern so it can still be accepted well but it still has the breathing room for everybody to shine which was the point and emphasis from the beginning.
TRHH: What can fans expect to hear on the Mute EP?
Collasoul Structure: For starters it’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be tough. Tough meaning it’s gonna bang. You’re gonna feel it. We really, really put some energy into these rhymes. We always do, but we really put some strength and conditioning into these rhymes. I’m over-elated about how it’s coming out so far. You can expect production from Jason Gatz of Gatz and Goods. Also Ashley Good from Gatz and Goods because her vocals are on one of the songs. You’re gonna expect some hard hitting instrumentation.
I.B. Fokuz: My production is scattered on there.
Collasoul Structure: Right. Crazy rhyme schemes, ridiculous word wizardry, really cool creative concepts, some DJ Seanile cuts –super sharp cuts! When you listen to it your ears are gonna be bleeding.
I.B. Fokuz: He ain’t leaving the studio until we get that right cut!
DJ Seanile: [Laughs].
Collasoul Structure: A little bit of this, and a little bit of that. We’re gonna keep it short and sweet. It’s gonna be an extended play, but it’s gonna be short and sweet.
I.B. Fokuz: And to be honest with you, bro it’s easy for us to say this is a new beginning but this is just a continuation of our growth and maturity. On the House was really our proper introduction back into the wave of things. Mute EP is us flexing our guns a little bit like, “Yeah, don’t get it twisted, we still got that sledge hammer on deck.” It’s not gonna stop there because you might get another Hip House project right after that. You might get a rock track after that. You might get a jazz album right after that. You might get a folk album right after that.
If this hasn’t been emphasized, if you know what a gyroscope is it balances things. It keeps things balanced. The reason why we are Jyroscope is because you can put us in any environment and we will adapt to it. Best believe that this Mute EP is gonna get thrown at people like a haymaker but we ain’t stopping there. That’s a little jab to the neck. Once you recuperate from that we’re gonna give you something to bob your head to and hopefully your head don’t fall off your shoulders from the last blow. We’re definitely keeping it coming, but the Mute EP is gonna be pretty tough.
Download: Jyroscope – On the House