This album was released on October 7th last year. Mavi is a rapper from Charlotte, North Carolina—NC STAND UP!—who released this album to widespread critical acclaim. Pretty much all of my friends and the overwhelming majority of music Twitter list this as one of the best Hip Hop albums of 2019. I’ve been really blown away by every feature I’ve heard from Mavi in the past few months, so I’m really looking forward to this project. I’m not so sure that it’ll end up being one of my favorite releases of 2019, but I’m almost positive that I’ll enjoy it to some extent.
Well, goddamn. I love this album just as much as everyone told me I would, which was honestly kinda surprising. A lot of times when people tell me that I’m gonna love something like this it ends up disappointing me, but this shit is amazing. The intro is called terms & conditions. The jazzy production from Tairiq is awesome. It opens up with a woman explaining and defining “pro-black,” and closes with a man summarizing a fairytale about the sun and moon living in the sky. As of February 9th, I’m still not really sure what the sun is supposed to represent on this album, but either way I thought this was a cool intro. The following track is called eye / i & i / nation. When I first heard it, Mavi literally sounded exactly like Earl Sweatshirt to me. Seriously, if I hadn’t known any better, I’d’ve just assumed that it was Earl. It’s really uncanny. However, as the album progressed, I never really felt like I was just listening to a clone of Earl. Anyway, Duckie’s production on eye isn’t really super amazing to me or anything, but I definitely do like it. Mavi’s writing on the first verse is absolutely superb; he fuckin’ killed this shit.
I been close to morgue underscoring where my mind was
I’ve eloped before, and other corny shit to find love
I’ve bespoke and I’ve reproached the lord still tryna find bruh
I done got some crazy ass results from showing kindness
Let the sun talk, in love with light aubade bathing me
Administration meant for saving me, act like they hating me
Stumbled into worlds of vacancy, I stayed, to say the least
Crumbled spirit furled to make-believe tiptoeing flames beneath
The production from Ntvrme on i & i is really nice; it sounds like something Isaiah Rashad would spit over. Mavi fucking rhymed his ass off on this part of the track too. This shit is wild.
Po’ me, won’t let that hold me back from toking my gas
Eyes swollen closing
‘I know you floating,’ coldly mom dotes
I roll two rosy eyes
Other than the odor of OG smoke cloaked in lies
No surprise, homie
The henny half shockingly get held down over the coke
Eyes open close
What the fuck was I just poking, oh no
Beer goggles got my eyes posin’ like they broke
I know I’ma catch a sideye dashin’ out the door
Flash my forever doctors note, ‘too depressed, gotta go’
The verse is amazing. Nation definitely has my least favorite beat on the track, but it’s not terrible. It just isn’t particularly interesting to me. The verse that Mavi spits over it is glorious though. Overall, I think this track is pretty awesome. I wasn’t really that blown away by the production, but the selling point is clearly Mavi’s highly technical rhyme schemes and stellar breath control. The song is dope as hell. It’s followed by my least favorite track on the album, daylight savings. The production here from Murky Waters is better to me than any of the beats from the preceding track, but I’m personally not really crazy about Mavi’s melodic delivery and flow on the verse of this song. It’s not particularly bad, but I was just hoping that he’d switch it up at some point; he pretty much uses the same cadence throughout the whole verse. The song is only 80 seconds long, so it kinda feels more like an interlude than anything. The writing is still very great though. The uncredited female background vocals on the outro were nice too. Even though the song is weaker than any of the others in my opinion, I definitely still enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s dope. It’s followed by what is probably my second favorite song on the album, selflove. I really love Nephew Hesh’s production on this track; it has a super warm and comforting sound. Mavi’s melodic delivery on the first verse sounds pretty great too. This song is relatively longwinded, but I personally think the length is justified just because this shit is so fucking good. It’s definitely one of the best songs on the album for me. The first verse is fucking phenomenal.
Mama, wipe your tears, I’m fighting titans, can’t invite you here
Poetic license veering from the mic, my chest too tight to steer
Chess lessons, bloodletting, flood when the night is clear
I ain’t give a fuck ’til my lungs had to fight for air
Glaring, staring numb, therapist had a life to spare
Snatched me by the eye, said I’ma fight whether I like or not
And she told me reasons why, but that’s the private part
The weird echoey female voice that kinda fades in between the first and second verses sounds really cool too. The second verse is crazy by the way. The way he was rhyming in that opening couplet was NASTY.
I’m back at it, Glad bags and flat backs, a pack rat
A crass habit, crash flashing, scratch that—I’m past rapping
The way the beat kinda switches up for the closing verse is cool too; the song gets a bit more intense for this part. He fucking spazzed on that shit, and the way he closed the final verse was amazing.
I offer free smoke to any nigga behind a #MeToo
Tell my niggas: we ain’t free until she free too
The song is absolutely dope af. It’s followed by II, which is an interlude produced by Tairiq once again. His weird, chaotic instrumental on this track is fucking awesome; I feel like this would be the music playing in my head if I was just walking around in hell. It’s fire. Track 6 is called ghost in the shell.
Dkarim’s production on this song isn’t gonna blow anyone’s mind, but it’s got a very gritty, underground aesthetic that I really fuck with. The entire track is just one verse, but Mavi killed it as always; I love the anti-government theme of this track.
I’ll take the nigga hitting cars up over cops any day
Who more often called upon for guarding all the chocolate babies?
I would wait, but I got a few more bars left to say
So in good faith, fuck the army, and the law, and the banks
Expect bacon if my arm caught crossed with the jakes
I kinda wish the song was a bit more than just a verse, but the writing is so good that I still love it quite a bit. It’s a great song. It’s followed by love, of money.
I really love how melodic the production from NATE is on this track. This is one of my favorite beats on the album. I like Mavi’s kind of sleepy delivery quite a bit too. Much like the preceding track, the whole song is just one verse, and this one’s even shorter; it only lasts just over a minute before abruptly switching to the following track. Honestly, I genuinely think that this’d be my favorite track if it was longer. I feel like he could’ve done more with this song, but it’s still really awesome to me. I think it’s dope as hell. The following track is called sense, which is produced by randomblackdude.
I actually really like the beat on this song; I think it’s one of the better instrumentals that Earl has made in the past couple years. Once again, Mavi slaughtered this shit. His flow during this part is fucking awesome…
I’m a mean lady lay-downer
I’m a keef saving break-downer
I’ma keep aim ’cause they got a-thousand-three ways
To scrape down our house and reframe it
FaceTime my mama pre-faded
Eighth time around, so she patient
We can’t keep waiting
The song is almost the exact same length as the preceding track, so it feels similarly umm… I guess “untapped?” I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s the only word that comes to mind; basically, I’m trying to say that these past few tracks had the potential to be far more detailed and fleshed out, but they’re all basically just loose verses thrown over different beats with no hook or bridge or substantial song structure. It’s obviously not a huge issue though because I still love this shit. It’s a really fantastic song. It’s followed by the final interlude on the album, III. This one is handled by Nova Blu, and the beat is pretty cool, but I don’t love it as much as the ones from Tairiq. It’s still really good though. The next track is called chiasma, and it’s my favorite song on the album. I was super excited to see a placement from ovrkast. on this song, and he thankfully didn’t disappoint one bit; this beat is fucking gorgeous. The mixing on Mavi’s vocals is very lofi here, but he thankfully put all the lyrics for the whole album on his website, so it’s not a huge issue for me. This is probably the most downtrodden track on the project; I really love the soft, piano-driven production, and Mavi’s reserved, somber delivery fits over it perfectly. The way he’s delivering his lines kinda reminds me of the way Earl was rapping on Solace. Everything about this song is stellar to me.
I been thinking ’bout how dreams end, and how my means end
And how I need friends, but hate niggas
I been treading in the deep end, and I don’t need fins
‘Cause when my feet hit the bottom I’ll be cradled
I’m a lazy motherfucker
Either that or I’m a workhorse
Niggas want my waves, but they need way bigger surfboards
Niggas want a tape, and they just preying on my hurt for it
Drinking on the third floor to laying on the third floor
And laying in the dirt for this shit, I swear I’m willing
Brave enough to search for the shit I know I’m missing
Craving for that hurt probably gon’ be my ending
I don’t have any gripes with this track at all. It’s one of the longer songs on the album, but I wanted it to keep going forever. This shit is boiling hot fiya. It’s followed by guernica, which is produced by Nephew Hesh. He did an amazing job here. This track has my favorite instrumental on the whole album. It sounds like he incorporated the sounds of a bunch of different phones, and it turned out awesome. It also kinda reminds me of the ’93 ’Til Infinity beat. Honestly, this’d probably be my favorite track on the album if not for Mavi’s weird, layered, melodic delivery. His vocals just sound kinda sloppy on this track. It’s by no means bad enough to ruin the song for me because I still think this is fucking awesome, and it’s a major highlight. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me at all though. With that said, the writing is still phenomenal.
I know what it mean to be the nigga getting left
I done already seen how niggas get
When it’s the scent or a whiff of a cent
Don’t judge a sinner; look, I be with the sinning shit myself
But my center real solid
Something behind this urge for getting rid of dollars
I done already heard how niggas feel about my partners
So it’s awkward in person when I don’t give their sought acknowledgement
The song is dope as hell. The penultimate track is called omavi, and it’s produced by someone named Jippy. It has my least favorite beat on the whole album; I honestly don’t really like it that much. It sounds like something Action Bronson would spit over. It’s like lofi BGM for an old school softcore porno. It is cool to hear Mavi killin’ it with virtually no percussion at all though. His writing here is fucking incredible too.
Numbers on my mental healthcare
Blunders on my skin; it’s scraped and bitten, singed by hellflare
Known since elementary, they building a hell meant for me
Niggas couldn’t tip me off my balance, we got strength
Know these niggas love comparisons, but baby I ain’t him
These niggas also loving hesitance, I hate they standing still
But I’m still standing still, will brandish iron fist
I’m a real manic, still will manage rocking ship
I think some of the best rapping on the whole album appears on this track; I just wish the production was more interesting. I still think the song is fucking awesome though. This shit is fire. The closing song is called moonfire, and it’s produced by DJ Blackpower.
MIKE‘s production here is pretty awesome. However, I don’t really care for Mavi’s vocal delivery over it unfortunately. I can’t really explain what it is about his performance here that bugs me, but I just don’t like the way his voice sounds. Thankfully, his writing is still absolutely stellar here.
I want her grapevine’d around my shit
The same time her countenance
Decays mine and pounds it in
That’s how arousal is, silence at a premium
Granddaddy still know my name; he say it when I dream of him
Forget it when his core is solid, that ain’t where the meaning is
Folks just got too old and I was way too young to see it then
I just hope this shit reaches him
It hurts not to believe in shit when all you need’s belief and shit
For some reason I just don’t think his vocal delivery meshes with this beat that well. I love the beat, and I love the rapping, but the combination of the two just doesn’t work for me. The song is still really great to me though; I definitely fuck with this shit. It’s dope as hell. 😀
This album is amazing. I’m just happy that it ended up being as fantastic as everyone was telling me. I’ve seen a plethora of other music fans dismiss this project as an Earl Sweatshirt rip off, but I really don’t think that’s the case. I don’t see how you can say that he’s ripping off Earl without keeping the same energy when it comes to Earl being influenced by MIKE. I think the main similarity is in their actual voices, along with the fact that they’re both super lyrical MC’s who rap over similar production styles. Mavi isn’t any less original than any other rapper in this current underground lofi renaissance though. Anyway, the fact that this dude is younger than me makes me feel like such a loser. His first album is one of the best releases of 2019, and he’s one of the most skilled new rappers I’ve heard in a long ass time. He raps better than most of the veterans in Hip Hop at the moment. Meanwhile I’m just some nerd who writes about music. I always feel that way when I listen to young rappers who are actually dope though. I had a similar reaction to Joey Bada$$’s breakout project. Anyway, I’m hoping that the next project has some more substantial song structures because pretty much every song here was just a verse or two. I don’t think there’s a single hook or bridge here. It’s obviously not that big of an issue for me since I think this album is phenomenal as it is, but if you don’t value lyricism quite as much as me then you might not get as much out of it. With that said, Mavi is easily one of the most exciting new artists that I’ve listened to in recent memory, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. This shit is dope af.
Favorite Song: chiasma
Least Favorite Song: daylight savings
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.