It's fair to say that Smino, Saba, and Noname left everyone wanting when they teased their supergroup Ghetto Sage back in 2019 and only dropped one single. Emerging as a kind of spiritual successor to that project, Jacksonville-based L.O.V.E Culture is the answer for fans who needed a new genre-blending supergroup to emerge. Consisting of Rob Mari, Che, Flash, EASYin2D, SpiritXIII, DJ Larry Love and TrashBeatsAlan, the Floridian 7-piece is just that, emphasis on the "super" part.
Named after the group's first rendezvous spot, 1827 N Pearl is a sweeping exhibition of hip-hop, neo-soul, and whatever else sounds good. With all production, creative direction, and writing done in-house, it's impressive to hear how the group is able to diversify their sound on what is a fairly lengthy debut project. Tracks like "OBN" highlight the soul-hop influence on the project while cuts like lead single "RUAC (ABUNDANCE)" are just pure, unadulterated trap bangers. Even more, tracks like "LIFE AND DEATH" are experimental enough with different flows and playful production that they feel completely distinct from standard rap songs. The aforementioned Smino/Saba comparisons don't come any closer than with the stellar, standout "REJUVENATE" that radiates an extremely positive energy that feels fit for Care for Me. This positive energy is not uncommon for the group, as their mnemonic L.O.V.E stands for 'League of Vibrant Energies,' a nod to their music's uncommonly optimistic themes.
The album's final stretch is where the group most perfectly coalesces, with emcee Che Forreign channeling her inner Erykah Badu on the final four tracks. There is an intentional shift from rap-centric to soul-laden from start to finish, a prodigious creative decision coming from a group just now releasing their debut album. "DOWN" is notably the most emotional track from the project, and arguably its strongest. Forreign's arresting crooning pairs with Rob Mari and EASYin2D delivering flawless verses to create a captivating track that is made for multiple listens.
It's not easy to keep track of all the hip-hop collectives and rap groups that pop up in a post-Brockhampton world. Some sound unfocused and cluttered, some are focused but underwhelming in their storytelling or vision. When everything clicks, like with 1827 N Pearl, it takes us back to what made people fall in love with the concept of a hip-hop collective; everyone bringing their distinct flavor and spice to make a product greater than the sum of its parts.
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