2019 gave us much in the way of music to celebrate in Northeast Florida; a glorious and eclectic mix of output, to be sure. Here are a couple tunes we really dug in ’19.

L.O.V.E. Culture
“Shade”
The predominant Duval hip-hop speed is apparently the sound of low-gear cruise control. Highway blur is fine, but you miss all the details. One group that knows the magic in the leisurely thrills is Duval hip-hop collective L.O.V.E. Culture. And their single “Shade” was surely the proverbial feel-good hit of 2019; and a large part of its sonic sheen was driven by its languid music and laid-back word roll. High but still standing on solid ground, “Shade” exhorts that Jacksonville is about to “hit the Golden Age” and L.O.V.E. (aka the “League of Vibrant Energies”) Culture will surely be included on that playlist. 

The five-piece of Che, Rob Mari, Easyin2d, Spirit, and Flash the Samurai released their debut, Fluidity, in 2018, followed by a track on Void on Vinyl (Vol. 1). This year, they served up the EP VOL.1, which included “Shade.” Clocking in at just under the four-minute mark, “Shade” kicks in with a Moog-like synth warble that sounds like a transmission from the Sun Ra galaxy. After thirty seconds of this cosmic pulse; drums, keyboards appear, with Che sparking up the first lyrical salvo. 

L.O.V.E. Culture are firm in their ethos as a collective and collaborative group, and the style and sonics of “Shade” bears this out. Each rapper is featured in a distinct production shift throughout the song; some changes are jarring, others more subtle. But each rapper’s respective personalities take a back seat to the starring role of the group and the song. In any genre of music, this approach is endangered if not near extinction, as there’s usually always someone nudging a little closer into the spotlight or photo frame. Unity is never out of style. Nor are radical production approaches and definite rapping skills that seem to truly play well together. If L.O.V.E. Culture are heralding in the aforementioned Golden Age, whether it be Duval or global; bring it.

Mr. Al Pete
“Ice Man”
A bona fide Renaissance Man of Duval hip hop, Mr. Al Pete keeps it nice and chill on this cut from his equally cool 2019 release, Mister Peterson’s Neighborhood. A kind of paean to Ice Man and Mr. Kicks, two way-old-school clothing stores once located near the Regency Mall, “Ice Man” opens up with a crisp, pentatonic keyboard lick, and Al jumps in strong over a ‘70s-style bass riff and incoming beats that roll along: “Back when I use to rock the Ice Man / everything was cool, I was cold, I was nice man / fat string the kicks, on occasions, I was fightin’ / that, between the music and the writin’, I was nice in.”

Over the rest of “Ice Man,” Al leans hard into his sonic memoir, a blend of local history and his own story, paying tribute to shops that dressed countless locals, but keeping it all in the present day that makes him a force to be rightfully reckoned with in the local and national hip-hop scenes. Long may he rhyme.

Other tracks we loved in ’19:
Trella – “Happy to Be Here”
LPT – “Aquella Mujer” (Live from Void HQ)
The Black Toilet – “What What”
Hurricane Party – “Hurricane Party!!!”
The Young Step – “Ghost Town”
Cory Driscoll – “Vacation Artist”
rickoLus – “Over U”
Folk is People – “Ghost Birdie”
Odd Relics – “Matrimony”
Mercy Mercy – The Usual (Baby)
The Noctambulant – “Unholy Benediction”
LANNDS – “2093”
Sea Cycles – “Quota”
SolaFide! – “Stuck”
Faze Wave – “The Game”
Che – “SELFish”
Modern Violence – “Welcome Home”

These features originally appeared as part of our feature “The Music We Needed: 19 Songs we loved in 2019” in Void Magazine, Vol. 10, Issue 6.