100% Mavi: North Carolina’s free-flowing hip-hop hero

Photography by Wyeth Collins

Following the release of his intimate new album, Laughing so Hard, it Hurts, Mavi gives us the lowdown on his favourite cocktails, the importance of spending time alone and the secret to making the best fried rice.

Omavi Ammu Minder, the rapper better known as Mavi, is nursing a bit of a hangover.

I went to the bar by myself last night,” he says in a North Carolinian drawl, Zooming in from his home in Charlotte. I’m trying to be social on my own because I’m a shy guy. I think the way to get out of that is doing shit by myself. I had a great night.”

After knocking back some mezcals, Mavi was, as he describes, nice and toasted” – the same warm, buzzy feelings evoked by his most recent album, Laughing so Hard, It Hurts.

I been drinkin’ under the table, I thought you quit fool /​I don’t think you know bout reverence and ridicule /​I don’t think you know bout theft as founding principle”, the 23-year-old raps softly over trumpets on stand-out track, Doves, in his signature hazy style.

Over the last few years, Mavi has steadily been crafting his own style of alternative hip-hop – his critically acclaimed debut album, Let The Sun Talk, released in 2019, set the scene for his MO: relaxed beats meshed with intimate, seductive lyrics.

I started making music when I was in ninth grade, and I was inspired by a lot of the same people I am now – Noname, MF Doom, Earl Sweatshirt,” he says, while languidly walking around his room. After gaining a bit of a buzz in school, it followed him to Howard University, where Mavi studied neuroscience. While there, he met fellow rapper Pink Siifu, who gave him a leg up into the industry.

This was in 2018, when I was intending on releasing an album,” Mavi continues, except I got sick and hospitalised with an intestinal blockage.” Having surgery meant that his projects were pushed back by a whole year, but the wait paid off in the end. Last year, he went on tour with Jack Harlow and Babyface Ray before releasing Laughing so Hard, it Hurts – a more than worthwhile follow-up to his debut.

I hope this album brings my listeners intimacy,” he says, thoughtfully. I hope it makes them better reflect on their emotions and thought processes, because I want to help people make more sense to themselves. That’s what my favourite music does for me.” Spoken like a true neuroscience grad.

10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?

I was born in Lexington, South Carolina. Both of my parents are from small towns in South Carolina. When I was a boy, they moved to Charlotte in North Carolina in pursuit of a better life. I’m still living there now.

20% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?

Loss. I never really wanted to do anything in my life as badly as I wanted to rap. To be able to do that and to wield public perception at the same time is overwhelming both positively and negatively. There are times where feeling acknowledged is so humanising, like walking in my destiny. There are other times, usually when it doesn’t go my way, when I feel smaller. I’m a shy guy. All of that influences my work.

30% How do you feel you’ve evolved creatively over the last couple of years?

I feel encouraged to try new things, without feeling discouraged from revisiting old things.

40% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?

Not to be underground”. It’s snobbish. Even though being underground suggests that you’re below the radar, it’s a condescending way of understanding what everybody’s doing in music. It’s a limiting mode of interacting.

50% You rule the world for a day. What’s going down?

End poverty and hunger permanently. Free all the drug dealers and jail all the sex offenders. I would also bring some people back from the dead.

60% If you could travel back in time to see iconic music acts perform, who would they be?

MF Doom, Robert Glasper, The Sun Ra Arkestra, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald.

70% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?

Having low self-esteem and judging myself.

80% Name something you love, like and hate.

I love my family and friends, I like a good sunset and I hate poverty and violence.

90% If you’re cooking food to impress someone, what will you make?

I would make really good fried tofu that tastes like chicken, or fried rice. When I was in college I used to cook that for girls, with vegetables, bok choi, beansprouts. I can make a good pad thai, too.

100% What can artists do to help save the world?

Tell the truth.

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