Hip-hop can be as much about strong personalities as it is about powerful music. Rappers and DJs have been savvy to hyping themselves as lyrical legends and sonic gurus since hip-hop was born in 1970s the Bronx. Before hashtags and branding helped level the playing field (and also lower the bar) for artists to morph from initiates to icons, hip-hop artists let it be known that they were here to be known.
While local hip-hop collective L.O.V.E. Culture boasts five artists who can stand on their own, the group takes a stance to turn off the ego and roll up a kind of anonymous identity; creating and moving as one. Even the group name L.O.V.E. –an acronym for “League of Vibrant Energies”–is an imprint of unity rather than celebrity. With an average age of 25, it’s even more rare that the group presents itself as one..
The band’s full-length, the aptly named Fluidity, dropped last year, followed up with a cut on our very own Void on Vinyl (Vol. 1) compilation. This year saw the release of their EP, VOL. 1.
Their songs lean toward the progressive and open-minded. In lieu of spitfire-rapid-fire delivery, their rhymes roll. The music and mix digs deep into electronics: some sounds are recognizable; others ebb and flow in glacial waves.
Unsurprisingly, when Void reached out to the band – Che (formerly Cheech Forreign), Rob Mari, Easyin2d, Spirit, and Flash the Samurai – they requested to even answer “as one.” What follows is our Q&A, sent on behalf of the group by Che, verbatim.
To the uninitiated, how would you describe the music of L.O.V.E. Culture?
Lo-fi. Trap. Soul. Fun. Positive. Real. Love.
Tell me about the group’s formation; how did you come together as L.O.V.E. Culture?
It was definitely an organic development. Kyle Dorrell, our videographer and co-founder put together a show at the old venue The Birdhouse in Springfield (RIP). The bill happened to have Easy, Flash, Rob, Spirit, and myself slated to perform; it was amazing, the energy was so loving. The chemistry that night was definitely in the air. Our founding member, Rob Mari, was putting together a solo project called Fluidity and asked all of us individually to work on it. We all started coming to Kyle’s to record, to write together, over a four-month period–we got to know each other as artists first, then as friends. You know? It felt so natural. then it was like, “Yo, is this a thing? Lets make it a thing.” And eventually Rob decided to turn Fluidity into a collective project, scrapping his solo idea. That was in 2016. We dropped in 2017, did our first show together at The Hourglass Pub (RIP) and we’ve been rocking ever since.
Do you all write lyrics and create the music or does everyone focus on a specific discipline and then collectively merge those elements together?
Everyone is a lyricist in their own rightso we all write our verses. The merging of elements is usually when we’re structuring the songs. We play by strengths, so the songs come from an open creative format. If you have a concept? Let’s go. You got a hook ready? Bet. And we go from there.Spirit is also a great producer and engineer and Rob works in production as well.
So the acronym L.O.V.E. stands for “League of Vibrant Energies”; as a collective, how do you put that into play both lyrically and sonically?[Plays Celine Dion] We believe in the power of love. Ha ha! But we really do: we believe in energy, how transformative it can be. How strong it is, [both] positive and negative. Our songs touch a lot on the balancing of those energies. We care about the people who listen to our music so we keep our frequencies high, we keep our energy strong for the live shows because we care about the reciprocal nature of our art. We appreciate the love we get, so we reciprocate it with vibrant energies.
L.O.V.E. Culture is a collective, which by its very nature, removes the spotlight from one member but rather focuses on the unified strengths of the group. Was that a deliberate decision or more of an organic development?
Definitely organic. Collectives are where people can come and just be creators you know? It’s fun being able to collaborate and be part of something bigger than yourself.
When everyone is bringing ideas to the table, how have you learned to resolve any possible conflicts for the greater good of the music?
We check our egos at the door; ha ha! We honestly don’t really have conflicts when it comes to the music because we’ve learned to trust each other when it comes to the process. But when we do, it’s a matter of coming to a compromise or common ground. When you can do that it leaves so much room for more ideas.
How did the connection with Sprite come about, when they added you to their Sprite Way Spotify Playlist?
Funny story: we literally just tagged ourselves in one of their posts looking for indie artists to promote and put on their playlists. A billion of these happen all of the time on IG so when they responded to us we were like, “WHAAAAAAT?! “ they asked us to send them a DM and voila, here we are. Rad times.
The production style of your music has a heavy tripped-out, experimental quality more than the standard samples and loops other hip-hop artists may employ. Why do you explore those particular kinds of production and sonic methods rather than typical music and production?
We’re experimental artists individually anyway–we’re all pretty weird – ha ha! We like pushing borders, we like non-conventional sounds. Music is universal, so we’re open that way. The human experience is open that way too. So we don’t limit ourselves. If we were in the 70s we’d be a mix between Rufus, Sly and the Family stone, and the Parliament, [laughs]! We also love to mob and perform so we like to have songs to accommodate that as well.
In the last 30 years hip-hop music has permeated so many realms – music, visual art, activism, fashion, films, language, etc. – are there other areas – including locally — where you’d like to see the hip-hop energy filter into?
Hip-hop energy is infinite. Nipsey Hussle tha Great is the greatest example for what hip-hop can really do. It can transform lives when invested in the necessary spaces. Collectively, we’d love to see it filter into the growth of Jacksonville, and it’s cultural identity.
Have there been any milestones or achievements locally that you feel proud of?
We’ve actually accomplished a lot in the short time we’ve been together. A few we’re proud of are: The Sprite thing of course.
Being in Void MULTIPLE times! Winterland festival was amazing! Performing with our friends flo.wav; performing in different cities, and finally having our music on streaming services!