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Alumni Profile

Of brothers and beats

Rhyme

The hip-hop group Rhyme University consists of brothers Charles, left, and Tony Iyoho. They started their music careers while students at Mizzou. Photo by Rob Bratney

Brothers Charles and Tony Iyoho may live in separate states, but they share a creative outlet in their 9-year-old hip-hop group Rhyme University.

“Even from a distance, this helps us stay connected,” says Tony, BS ME ’00, MS ’02, PhD ’07, of Peoria, Ill., a controls engineer with Caterpillar Inc.

“I’m pretty heavily influenced by my brother,” says Charles, BA ’05, of Marshall, Texas, a reporter for the Marshall News Messenger. “My creativity grew from observing his activities and seeing him freestyle or write.”

Tony, 31, and Charles, 26, say that their life experiences help set their music apart from other hip-hop groups — their parents are immigrants from Nigeria and Charles attended high school in Muscat, Oman.

“We try to say important things, and be creative and fresh,” Tony says. “We’re a bit more worldly, more educated than most rappers — that’s not equal to being smart. But we do have a very wide view of the world.”

The two still perform together, most often in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, Mo., where they’ve established a fan base. But most of their collaborations take place from afar.

“I make beats and constantly send them to Charles,” Tony says. “He’s a really creative writer. If he likes a beat, he’ll write something to it and come up with a concept. Once we’ve formalized it, Charles will fly out and we’ll record in my apartment.”

Their hip-hop career started while attending Mizzou. Every Monday, the Iyohos participated in KCOU’s weekly freestyle session. Eventually, they saved up for recording equipment and in 2005 recorded their first album, started performing at open-mic nights, and gained exposure and fans. “That was the year we really started becoming musicians,” Charles says. — Sarah Garber