Mavi's Sub-Conscious Stream of Thought will take you to the 'END OF THE EARTH'
Evan Dale // March 11, 2021
There is this element of timelessness that some artists boast. It’s somewhere deep down in the raw elements of their craft. It’s grit; it’s heart and soul; it’s story and the storied. And when it comes to hip-hop, that immutability has an ability to transcend the epochs of the styling’s past, while still adhering to the space in time where it was crafted. It’s tethered with liquid to a time that knows no bounds of its own making. Timeless hip-hop knows its roots and knows that its roots grow wide.
There is this other element of brash experimentalism that some artists bleed with. It shines through with every fantastical display of unique creativity. It’s unpredictable; it’s new and now; it’s dynamic and often diasporic. And when belayed upon hip-hop, the experimentalist paves the way for the future by shining a light, taking a risk, and successfully leading somewhere not only new, but ultimately necessary. Experimental hip-hop blooms of nuanced gambles.
But in hip-hop today, there is also Mavi – a force of seeming familiarity unlike anyone who has ever attempted the craft. And in that delineation exists his underlying genius – the reason why any fan of his seems to be not only a fan for life, but a fan of hip-hop’s storied and continuing lineage. For any rap listener, there is more than something and instead many things about the steady spring in Mavi’s meditative gait that make him a force to follow to the END OF THE EARTH.
With his latest deliverable – a multi-part composition that much like 2019 debut collection, Let The Sun Talk thrives in its truth as a run-on rap concerto – the Carolina rapper exists as bridge between the timelessness of hip-hop’s foundation and the experimentalism necessary to build a house – maybe a castle – upon it.
Certainly, much of Mavi’s beckoning towards the past comes from the unpredictable nature in his cadence-wilding flow. With a knack for squeezing multiple lines into a Pandora’s box of vibrant thought, or extending a rhyme into a long, evocative headspace, his inadherence to one perfected, practiced cadence pulses with artistic freedoms that call to mind another era – one unburdened by expectation of sound.
Another hundred thousand miles, another step //
I saved up for sum but now it’s nothin' left //
Went from buildin' love to buildin' guns up, now my brothers steppas //
In case we run into that pace, I pray it come in leverage //
I made it this far off of my gifts, my strengths was never effort //
So even at other n***as best know it’s something better //
Made commitment to kinships, fail every time at friendship //
'Caus N***as accountability philic till lenses flippin' //
I get it.
In the meandering path of his flow exists so many comparisons to the hard-nosed lyricism in the street corner cyphers that birthed 90’s legends, that his sound feels almost directly pulled from that time. That is, until one realizes that even if Mavi were rapping alongside Mos Def in a park in Queens in ’98, that his sound would exist as it does today, in pure unadulterated individuality. His flow is that unique, and it’s that distinctiveness at its core that makes it seem like Mavi was there to help build the foundations for lyrical and conscious rap’s futures.
But building the future from a place in the past requires either a time machine, or just a willingness and more importantly, an ability, to marry the creative tenets of the then to the now through the present. That ability asks for focused creative conjuring in Mavi’s sound, and for the hip-hop spectrum at large. And he delivers on it by seeming to do more – much more – with seemingly less than anyone else. At the end of the day, t’s his mind that creates his separation from the field.
For the most part, it’s many of the same traits in Mavi’s music that make him an experimental force on the future of hip-hop, and a greyscale photograph of rap’s past. It’s the minimalist beats that call to mind the birth of the scene and call for change from many of the spaces it’s landed at in the trends of today. It’s the unfiltered delivery in Mavi’s squeak-laden, crackling tone that bleeds of raw emotion and raw art, pulling away from the over-produced nature and blinding braggadocio in the sounds of many rappers through time. And most importantly, it’s the subject matter – the stream of consciousness kind of aesthetic he brings to his own craft – that ultimately hinges him to both ends of the epochal scale. He’s tethered not to the street corner cypher of the 90’s or the arthouse rappers of 2021, but somewhere in between. Lyrically conscious and emotionally vulnerable; poetically powerful and artfully nuanced; minimally produced; maximally well-thought.
Unapologetically outspoken; unapologetically creative, Mavi’s is an auditory aesthetic worthy of his roots studying Psychology at Howard University. For old heads strict about which rappers they even give a chance in an oversaturated, underlyircal modernity, Mavi shines. And to be fair, he would have shined in any of hip-hop’s most poetic moments. For the SoundCloud youth searching for vulnerability and creative distinctiveness, Mavi’s brash emotionality and openness to discuss anything that comes to mind adheres to the sensitivities shared by many of modernity’s biggest – and oft-controversial – names. And yet, Mavi never has, and still doesn’t seem focused on appealing to anyone anywhere from any era.
Mavi’s music is about individuality; a space for him to grapple with the own workings of his mind and allow for a stream of his consciousness to find a space of meditation. The outcome – thanks to an indefinable fluidity in that mind and a conscious understanding of hip-hop’s many creative meanderings over the decades – is a sound unlike anyone else. And yet, END OF THE EARTH feels so very central and familiar, as if Mavi’s consciousness were a listener’s own. That’s its true genius.