Over the course of the past few years, the rap genre has opened its ears and hearts to a wave of young, thoughtful, powerfully-voiced artists. Albums like Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs or Medhane’s recent release, Cold Water, are layered examinations of introspective feelings and racial injustice - a topic that rightfully grows more necessary by the day. Perhaps no young rapper has pushed himself to the forefront of these topics through his music like Mavi, a 20 year old Charlotte native whose sound, style and voice have led to national recognition and support. Omavi Minder has been honing his craft and gaining traction since his Freshman year of high school. This fall, nearly seven years later, he’ll be entering his Senior year of college - pursuing biology and psychology at Howard University. In that same breath, Mavi has much to say about the treatment of different communities during the COVID-19 outbreak. “Biology is the equalizer,” he tells me. “70% of the COVID-19 deaths in Chicago are black people - why is it easier for black people to transmit and contract a disease that has equal opportunity to strike?”
Mavi sees beyond the smoke and mirrors. In October of 2019, he released his beautiful debut full-length, Let the Sun Talk, to widespread acclaim. His focus is razor sharp from start to finish on the project - the album’s spoken-word opener, “Terms & Conditions,” is a direct testament to healthy, thriving black communities. In an interview with Pitchfork’s Sheldon Pearce, Mavi explains the importance he puts on creating “music through who you’re related to, artistically, through the generations.” “The roles don’t change,” he says, “only the actors.” This could be a reason for his heavy usage of sampling - the sounds he chooses to incorporate into his records draw literal correlation to eras passed. In more ways than one, Mavi is a torch-bearer for one of the music world's most important sub-genres.
Since joining Stray Dogs Music Group this past year, Mavi has formed a strong bond with the collective's creator/manager, Jarred Howard. “I really respect that man. Probably how I don’t respect no other man under 30” he tells me. The relationship they share is an unequivocal knowing that a line of respect exists between the manager’s penultimate goal and the artist’s musical/social vision.
This summer, Mavi expects to drop another album, as well as a mixtape with producer Coffee Black and tape with Killswitch, a Charlotte rap collective composed of Mavi, Amir the King, Skullcrack and Messiah. In April, Mavi released a single, “fire alarm (!),” with Brooklyn’s Maassai.
Today, we sit down with Mavi to discuss samples, artist/manager relationships, and the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a 6-part series covering and speaking with one of music’s most exciting new assemblies - Stray Dogs Music Group.
Carter: Do you think that the feelings of isolation that many have associated with quarantine have played into your music at all? If so, how?
Mavi: "Kinda but kinda not, cause I’m not all that isolated. I got four folks in here that I live with, so it’s been a cool time. I will say this, the lack of seeing other people has definitely made things feel slow. Mostly for creating. A lot of how I do shit is driven by the things I experience out in the world. I really allow myself to double back on my experiences - not just recently because of quarantine but over my whole life. I’ve been writing songs about ways that I felt in the past - I’ve been writing some crazy shit. I just got a laptop, I’ve been working on beats, I’ve been working on all types of shit."
Your new song [fire alarm (!)] with Maassai is beautiful. Between that and Let the Sun Talk, I've always been super curious about how you sample. Do you find most of these sounds yourself or is it more of a collaborative process?
"It's definitely a collaborative process between myself and the producers. I definitely have a general knowledge each time going in, whether it comes when I first do the beat or the research before I record, as far as who I’m sampling. Sometimes, with producers, I'll really stress - I'll just tell them sample this shit and then different shit come of it. A lot of the people that are making my beats are people that I spend a lot of physical time with, so it’s lots of old shit that we listen to. It ends up being those sounds that define our taste."