Hip-hop has been the lifeblood of Jacksonville’s music scene for decades.Β  And it remains so. Not only are young solo acts emerging as prolific and unique songwriters–Yellow Steve, Geexella, The Black Toilet, Eddy Braveaux, etc.–a collaborative energy seems to be drawing these artists together.

The collective L.O.V.E. Culture exemplifies that energy. Made up of five creators–Spirit, Easyin2d, Flash the Samurai, Rob Mari, and Che Forreign–all of whom bring their own unique skillset to the fore, the group has been collaborating for the better part of four years.

L.O.V.E. Culture made waves with the 2019-EP “Vol. 1,” a three-song collection of progressive, open-minded, and highly listenable hip-hop that dug deep into electronics and rolling, laidback rhymes, with each member taking center stage, but also falling in line in support of one another.

L.O.V.E. Culture in action, on stage at our Void on Vinyl Release Party in 2019. || Photo: Toni Smailagic

A slew of singles and solo releases followed, as did a promotional deal with popular beverage brand Sprite. And, now, with the release of “Vol. 2” the evolution of the group continues–though it’s clear they remain tuned to the same frequency.

Opening with an introduction from DJ Larry Love, “Vol. 2” begins with “Bliss,” an atmospheric and chill affair with a sultry hook by Che, who–true to L.O.V.E. Culture-form–seeks the light in the face of darkness, singing “Let us raise a toast to all the nights that we survive.” “Bliss” melts into “Don’t Matter” before 808s-style percussion and rapid-fire rhymes bring up the EP’s heart rate, and a tasteful, melancholy horn sample keeps things introspective. Track three, “Slap 5ive,” is red-meat for hip-hop-heads, with a chill-AF mix of jazzy, early-2000s-era underground-hip-hop-centric samples and heady, braggadocios lyrics. The twinkly, uplifting “Light Work” drives home the group’s push for inclusivity as Flash beckons “Bring your friends, all of y’all come inside.”

“Skraight,” another pulsing electronic number rounds out “Vol. 2,” with the group making their closing argument that, no matter what, they’re gonna be OK–or, rather, “Skraight.”

“Vol. 2” should serve as a reminder of both Duval hip-hop’s prevailing (and proper) imprint on the city’s musical identity and L.O.V.E. Culture’s status as torchbearers for that legacy. With distinctive contributions from each member of the collective, the individual parts are enough to warrant high praise. Yet, “Vol. 2” is more proof that when a talented and mission-driven group of artists get together, the sum can be greater than the parts.