Freshmen Justin Kim and Chris McGinn, otherwise known as "VirTru" and "Soular T," are driven and compelled by hip-hop. It has taken them in its hands and exalted them.
The duo along with Reel Eyes (freshman Christian Perfas), Kaos (freshman Noah Kosloske) and senior Brandon Jean-Pierre (who VirTru says is too mature for an also-known-as) are the founding members of LFSflOw.
The name LFSflOw combines the acronym Living For the Sake of Others and the philosophy of Flow – the sliding transition from one form to another, whether it's from ideas to music or from pent-up stress to release. VirTru and Soular T have personally experienced this powerful blend in their lives and want to pass it on.
"For me, rap was my saving grace," VirTru said. "I came to America when I was 11 … I knew minimal English besides ‘Can I go to the bathroom?' and ‘I love you.'" VirTru found a segue into his new surroundings by memorizing Eminem lyrics.
Soular T has a very different perspective on hip-hop, reinforcing one of LFSflOw's defining characteristics – diversity.
"Hip-hop found me," he said. Soular T grew up in what he termed white suburbia – easily seen as conducive to cookie-cutter culture. "Sometimes when that happens, you feel like you're nothing special," Soular T said. Hip-hop set him apart and provided him "a huge sense of identity."
That identity is what VirTru and Soular T are seeking to promote. "On a vertical level, it's that vision of living for the sake of flow and the art of hip hop itself," VirTru said. "But then on a horizontal level, there's everyone around you who you can perpetuate that flow too, and spread it like a lineage."
The group has dedicated itself to the exploration of hip-hop – all of it. "Really hip-hop is a culture, a lifestyle," Soular T said. These artists are poring over that lifestyle by looking at history, philosophy and films.
The philosophy means that the group is not only for hip-hopheads. "LFSflOw is for the children too," VirTu explained. Soular T added, "We want it to be clear that if somebody has any interest in hip-hop whatsoever, there is no way this club will not be a positive for them."
Part of LFSflOw's education will involve undermining the stigmas that shadow hip-hop. While VirTru and Soular T readily admit that hip-hop is often associated with violence and mediocre talent, they insist that such a characterization is in no way indicative of hip-hop's true nature.
"I believe that hip-hop itself is a medium, just like a knife can be used to kill people or to cook good food," VirTru said. "It's a neutral medium and it reflects its owner." Soular T added, "I know [real] hip-hop doesn't promote violence – what it does is bring people out of their struggles."
As for mediocrity, Soular T blames pop culture megastars like Soulja Boy for the stereotype and yearns for people to look past the exceptions to the rule. "You gotta get into people who actually love hip-hop and don't just love money," he said.
One way that LFSflOw hopes to overcome these stereotypes is through stage presence. The group already performed at the Student Organization Exposition under the umbrella of Black Student Union and has been commissioned to perform at Geneseo's Relay For Life on April 16.
VirTru said he and his groupmates understand that performing in front of others comes with heavy responsibilities. "When we're all together in a room, we can talk about whatever we want, whatever we have to offer to the table, whether it be negative or positive, we mull it over together," he said. "But when we hit the stage, that's a different story because we have to be responsible as influential people."
So far, student response to LFSflOw is booming. About 30 students showed up to the initial interest meeting this year, and 50 are involved overall. Apparently, VirTru, Soular T and the others have tapped into something people are hungry for – flow.
"When I think of flow, I don't think of just the sound of words flowing to a beat," Soular T said. "I think of the flow of hip-hop as a force – and if you get into hip-hop, you can feel a flow from stress and pain to freedom."
LFSflOw is welcoming all newcomers. Contact VirTru (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Soular T (email@example.com) for information.