Jyroscope and Montana Macks reflect on middle age with Happy Medium | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Jyroscope and Montana Macks reflect on middle age with Happy Medium



On their new EP, Happy Medium, everyman Chicago rap group Jyroscope reflect on navigating middle age in what remains of the middle class, while the production from fellow local Montana Macks evokes the halcyon hip-hop sounds of 90s crate diggers such as Pete Rock and DJ Premier. IB Fokuz and Collasoul Structure rap about balancing their passion for music with family responsibilities—and with day jobs that will actually pay the bills. “War Going On” bounces over dramatic piano chords reminiscent of UGK’s “One Day,” while Collasoul compares grappling with self-doubt to scrimmaging in an unfamiliar position; he croons the hook in an easy midwestern accent that sounds like Open Mike Eagle. Over the humming trumpet and descending vibraphone of “Auto-Pilot,” Fokuz muses that the tool bag he carries to work weighs a ton, as he rushes to pick his children up from day care; it’s as though Nas had saved the beats from Illmatic to rap over in his 30s. Despite the fatigue of the daily grind, the two rappers consistently find peace, or at least relief, with their wives, their families, and their music—and that feeling is heightened by Macks’s smooth sample choices. Building on the sound of last year’s Rich Jones collaboration How Do You Sleep at Night, Macks proves himself an inspired collaborator for Jyroscope: he’s able to look at the past without leaning into nostalgia, and he’s relaxed without crossing the line into sluggishness. “Work” includes a James Baldwin sample (from a 1965 debate with William F. Buckley Jr.) about working under a whip, an homage to a great Black American intellectual that recontextualizes the rappers’ verses as illustrations of his point: that the American Dream survives by exploiting Black people’s labor. At just 15 minutes, the EP is too brief to fully develop that idea, but it’s refreshing and rewarding, like a drink after work with a friend you’ve missed.  v

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