mute, Chicago producer Montana Macks arguably made the most noise of his career, and now he's looking to build on that momentum with some old friends, the South Side trio Jyroscope.
Last year, Macks released two projects, which helped him earn runner-up honors in the Best Hip-Hop Producer category, for the Reader’s Best of Chicago 2020 poll, behind Social Experiment bandmate of Chance the Rapper, Peter Cottontale.
Macks is continuing that hot streak with his third project in 12 months, a 5-track EP with Jyroscope titled Happy Medium.
Chicago’s Jyroscope - consisting of MCs I.B. Fokuz, Collasoul Structure and DJ Seanile - and producer Montana Macks announce a collaborative EP, Happy Medium, out July 23rd. Today, they present the EP’s first single, “Frozen In Time,” alongside an accompanying video. Over the last decade, Jyroscope has recognized how difficult it can be to strike a balance between focusing on one’s craft, career, and the life responsibilities that come with putting down roots and starting a family. Happy Medium is a potent manifestation of that endless journey for balance. Over sleepy jazz samples, layered in well seasoned breakbeats, these tracks are born anew by Montana Macks. Collasoul and I.B. trade pointed verses about fatherhood, bills, the hypnotic self-erasing loop that is heading to-and-from the gig and blowing off steam with a beer or three before tomorrow means doing it all over again.
The project pairs some of Macks’ jazziest beats with some of the strongest songwriting in Jyroscope’s catalog. The EP with Macks is a long time coming for the group. Despite being friends for over a decade, they previously only worked together on a Tomorrow Kings remix in 2015 (the three members of Jyroscope are also a part of the well-respected, 7-member supergroup). That same year Macks made a beat for them, but they didn’t start honing in on a project together until 2019.
“They had gone back to the track I created in 2015 and wanted to record. I am reluctant to work on something so old because I like to think my newest material is always my best,” Macks told OK-Tho. “They came over to record and we had a demo. We were all so satisfied with the demo, we wondered what an entire EP would sound like. So we listened to beats and had some drinks. By the time we were done we had the three more beats that we all fucked with and the rest was history.”
By late summer 2020, Jyroscope had four songs in the can and felt as if the project was complete. Montana Macks argued that the project was too short and wanted to include a fifth track, to round out the EP.
“I started pitching the guys on doing a fifth song. They both wanted nothing to do with the idea,” he said. “I kept saying, ‘but you haven't even heard the beat I'm talking about yet.’ They finally agreed to listen to the track and that was it. The track became ‘Frozen In Time,’ our first single. Thank you god they listened to me, and thank god they wrote such a dope song.”
Watch the premiere of Jyroscope & Montana Macks' "Frozen In Time" music video:
I.B. Fokuz, who produced much of Jyroscope’s previous four projects, said “Frozen In Time” come together almost instantly and that the lead single felt like the “missing link to complete the story of Happy Medium.” The single is an immediate stand-out on the project, with a gorgeous sample from Macks, technical and relatable raps from Collasoul and I.B. Fokuz, and tight cuts from DJ Seanile that take you back to hip-hop's golden era.
“We were pretty much happy with what we had to be honest,” I.B. Fokuz said. “But when Macks sent us that beat… I was on my way to a family get together and played the beat in the car. I told my family to go in without me because I started to zone to the beat. It felt right.”
Collasoul said they chose the song as the lead single because “it’s equal parts stress reliever, summer time Chicago, and an ode to the '90s hip-hop that the three of us fell in love with. Just felt like the perfect lead for this EP to help bring people in.”
For the raw, ‘90s-inspired visuals for “Frozen In Time,” Jyroscope tapped their go-to videographer Kory Stewart, who previously directed the group’s cinematic videos for “QUASI,” “Mute,” and “Bloodstained Persian Rugs.”
“I think we wanted to give that nod to all the cool videos where folks wore big coats, rapped at the camera, made weird hand gestures, and just vibed (laughs),” Collasoul said about the new video.
In addition to their collab EP with Montana Macks, to be released in late July, Jyroscope is also at work on a House album, as well as contributing to a long-awaited Tomorrow Kings LP, both of which are tentatively set to be released later this year.
Macks also has several irons in the fire, working on three projects, including follow ups to his two 2020 records. He said his next release will likely be a sequel to his instrumental LP Arrivals & Departures, and he is also working on another project with close friend and cohort, emcee Rich Jones, with whom he released How do you sleep at night?—an album that served as a snapshot of Chicago during a restless, anxious summer of 2020.
“It was definitely a unique experience,” Macks said about releasing music in 2020. “On one hand you have a ton of free time to focus on music without much pressure, and on the other hand you are overwhelmed by the news cycle. You know, it's difficult to release music when there are clearly much more pressing matters that you want people to be focused on. I think that's partially why the record I made with Rich felt so poignant. The message had to be urgent. It had to be worthy of attention.”
Photo credit: Jason Neloms and Facebook.com/Jyroscope