The Charlotte-born, D.C.-based rapper MAVI turned heads after lighting up the underground rap scene with his 2019 debut LP, Let The Sun Talk. The young MC—a current neuroscience major at Howard University—showcased wisdom and deft wordplay that drew, perhaps a few too many, comparisons to dense rhyming maestros like Earl Sweatshirt, MIKE, and Noname. It’s reductive to view MAVI strictly based on those he resembles, but obvious stylistic fits with Earl, MIKE, and further sLUms affiliates, as well as the rapidly increasing buzz that followed LTST, led to MAVI’s induction into the underground rap inner circle, culminating in a standout feature on Earl’s 2019 record, Feet of Clay.
On Let The Sun Talk, MAVI comes off decidedly angry, energetic and frenetic for most of the LP, with youthful fire and emotion driving his perilous verses. A year or so removed, MAVI feels significantly more comfortable in his own artistry. He has seemed to find unity between persona and person, making the already personal and compelling artistic output all the more authentic. Age is a funny thing, and we all seem to grow up very fast at the end of adolescence. MAVI is no different, and while End of The Earth is full of emotion, passion and intensity, it’s much more focused and reflexive. At Just 21 years old, MAVI appears more understanding of his emotions and more focused with his ideas than artists twice his age.
MAVI does well to cultivate a genuine sense of intimacy throughout the record. His songwriting masterfully layers reflexive passages with glimpses into his psyche, consistently providing listeners with nuanced perspectives and ideas. Often, with loquacious and thoughtful MCs like MAVI, Earl, Noname or any number of “conscious” rappers, there is a premium placed on just how revolutionary one can be on a track. MAVI, militant, focused, and political, doesn’t conform to this played-out expectation. He is a person above all. To be Black is to be political, and MAVI, rightfully so, doesn’t feel the need to overstate it. The charm of End of The Earth (and Let The Sun Talk before it) is in MAVI’s ability to make such intense rapping and near-academic content understated and accessible. He feels more like a poet than a philosopher, despite the philosophic, beyond-his-years wisdom oozing out of every bar.
Over a year since his debut, MAVI picks up right where he left off on his latest release, End of The Earth EP. His rapping ability has improved; throughout the fourteen-minute project he flexes his ability to merge spacious and dense cadences, melodic and soulful vocal inflections and technically marvelous breath control. The opening track, “Time Travel”, features a lush, piano-driven, soul-sampling instrumental that MAVI glides over, sounding at times closer to Carter II-era Lil Wayne than Earl Sweatshirt. His raspy, enticing voice provides endless quotables: “I can’t write all the time ‘cause I can’t lie/I put a price on this shit ‘cause it’s all mine.”
The EP flows beautifully front to back, serving up fourteen minutes of gorgeous, jazzy arrangements accompanied by smart writing and even better delivery. A key theme of End of The Earth is growth, and the reflection that necessitates it. We frequently find MAVI reminiscing, waxing poetic, pumping up the nostalgia with vignettes of youthful escapades and voicemails from granny.
The third cut, “Method,” bring’s the project’s punchiest beat, with MAVI matching the energy, bringing breathless bars overflowing with syllables. If there’s any shortcoming on End of The Earth, it’s MAVI’s ability to pack so much into the space of a verse. At times, he ventures into verbose territory, making the short tracks feel crowded. This claustrophobic approach to songwriting works out more often than not, as “Method” and the following track, “Life We Live” are both structurally sound, brilliantly written exercises in wordplay and storytelling.
MAVI closes the EP with “Town Crier,” a melancholy, guitar-driven track accompanied by double time flows and prosaic bars, tying the project together with the neatest of bows. Turning inward, he calls out to the audience, giving us moments of introspection and vulnerability that work to remind us that, despite the grown ass rapping ability he has, he is a young man, with insecurities and anxieties just like all of us.
“Prove to me that I️ exist, prove to me that I️’m good/Prove to me the nihilistic drifter under the hood is not the real MAVI/I️ just need to feel proper”
With End of The Earth, MAVI expertly sidesteps the sophomore slump, leveling up in every conceivable way. The album flows brilliantly, and fourteen minutes feel more like four with all the thoughts, ideas and life he can pack into one bar. The precocious artist is only getting started, and on this upward trajectory he is poised to be one of the most essential voices in his generation of up-and-coming rappers. The sky’s the limit for MAVI, and if he wasn’t already on your radar, he should be the biggest thing on it now. The only thing I can ask for is more.
Rating: If you liked Between The World and Me, you’re gonna love this
Essential tracks: Time Travel, Life We Live, Town Crier