The Good Struggle: Mavi Interviewed

The Good Struggle: Mavi Interviewed

“I’m just not a narcissist. If I was a narcissist I probably would think I was the worst rapper and nobody is as bad as me…”

Omavi Ammu Minder plans on being the next greatest rapper of all time — and at just 21 years-old, he’s proven that this ambition is one that should be taken very seriously by rap listeners everywhere.

Mavi is a Charlotte, North Carolina native rapper, studying neuroscience at Howard University in Washington D.C. His debut album, ‘Let The Sun Talk’, revealed the intense, internal discussions of a young, black man on the cusp of adulthood. An insight into the depths of his mind, Mavi told stories, raised tough questions, grappled with the realities of his life. Mavi’s words are delivered the same way a preacher delivers their sermon; precisely, passionately, and philosophical. The messages come smoothly from his raspy voice in coded, poetic entendres, words carefully weaved like silk. 

On his latest project, an EP called ‘End Of The Earth’, Mavi elevates his rhyming ability to new heights, showing incredibly diverse flows over darker sounds and less percussive beats. The artist shows that his inner thoughts aren’t always as sunny, making a five song mixtape discussing his relationship with music, at times swinging slightly off-beat with braggadocios bars about his rap abilities and his attitude towards the game. At other times, he speaks softly about love — familial and otherwise — somehow crooning with very little inflection in his voice. 

Mavi’s rhymes have always carried a matter-of-fact tone to them, his honesty and candid nature is palpable across each of the songs on the project. On 'End Of The Earth', Mavi shows that he lives and breathes rap. He immediately tells us on the first bar of the tape that he can’t write all the time, because he can’t lie. However, In the space between the release of 'Let The Sun Talk' and his next album, 'Shango', the rapper said he just had to make a tape. 

Unafraid to speak his mind, and more than willing to explain his thought process, Mavi gave me an insight to his workflow on his most recent release, his feelings toward rap in general, and some new details about his upcoming project, which fans can expect sooner rather than later. 

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How have you been, Mavi?

Man, I’m well bro I'm taking my time, taking one step in front of the other, in terms of everything in my life right now just trying to maintain routine habits. 

What’s your daily routine like right now?

I don’t really got one. I just be doing work in a disorganized kind of fashion a lot of times. That's one thing I’m trying to eliminate. Like I gotta kind of do sporadically, in between random pop-up shit that you can't plan for, work-wise. So, that's like the major hurdles on my shit. Then, how my energy fluctuates along with having to do both of them. It's actually been a really good teaching moment about how to maintain passion through adulthood. You have to be passionate in real life, outside of the context of being younger and infatuated with the work. 

How have you been managing, recently? What's been getting you through this period of surviving the pandemic?

Just allowing myself to like search for the beauty in life, you know what I'm saying, even if it's in the same room… That shit get tough though, especially up here in New York because it was colder. When I was living in Charlotte, I’d literally just go outside and still see people — like certain people. Shit get tricky because I didn’t even want to be outside out here. I just remember that like there are parts of having this time away from most things — distractions or production as it relates to like big groups of people is something I can benefit from mental health parts. Just faced with my own thoughts. That's what I use in my life to guide myself out of this shit. 

How have you grown? Have you changed personally during your quarantine?

I've been feeling a larger range of emotions. I ain’t used to be as angry or frustrated as frequently as I do now. You know even though my life was more difficult in certain ways, but it’s a lot more difficult in a lot of ways, now. Now it's just kind of constant. God will equilibrate all your gifts in your blessings and your child's a little bit if you look right so I don't know. Yeah, I’ve been angry more but life is fine… I guess just the progress of this shit, how my life has changed in conjunction with the COVID shit is just… I got a lot of like focus attention to like the conflicts in my life. 

My financial conflicts, mental, psychological, drug conflicts, familial conflicts. I had to see them really to what they was in still life almost. That was really valuable to me. I was able to knock down some things that, otherwise, I might have held onto for another year or some dumb shit. 

How do you feel about the amount of attention and spotlight that you’re getting, how much has that changed?

I always felt like I was gonna be… not that it was always gonna be like ‘I was famous,’ but I always feel like a lot of people was gonna end up liking me because a lot of people were real curious to towards me when I was in school. Not really fully embracing me at that point, but also not fully like not embracing me. People would always try to just see what was up about me, and I appreciated that as a social modus operandi. 

So, that allowed me to really get used to being seen and keeping me seen at the same time. I mean, I really do appreciate it in terms of it meaning my music can touch a lot of people, I like that. Sometimes people come up to me in real life, and I’m like ‘Aye, what’s your name, bro? What’s up? Nice to meet you.’ — that type of thing.

But, really? I just really like to be outside anyway so like a lot of the social media part — especially because I don't post that frequently — I don't be able to really check the progress and shit. I don't know eventually I'm gonna quit all of that. I prefer to be strongly respected over what is trendy. 

You seem like a really confident person. You seem very composed, you seem like you know exactly what your skills are and how good you are at rapping. Is that purely borne out of self-confidence or is that from drive and passion?

It's just… I’m just not a narcissist. If I was a narcissist I probably would think I was the worst rapper and nobody is as bad as me. I'm kind of trying to be a realist about this shit. So, if I’m hearing my shit, and thinking that this is really hard… really, really good. Fire. Well, I’m not the only person like me. So, somebody at least gon’ think it's okay. But even if everybody says it sucks, I had so much fun rapping it. 

The feeling that I got thinking, ‘this shit is so hard,’ is enough for me. Then, it’s forever my creation. Once I appreciate my creation, anybody else's appreciation is just icing on the cake. Once I'm happy that something I made exists I already succeeded in my book… But, I also don't feel that way about necessarily every song though, that’s why a lot of songs I make don't come out. 

So, when I'm really behind something — it's one of my favorite songs, it's my friend's favorite song, you know what I'm saying — then I kind of know — not that it's gonna go or it's gonna do anything huge — but you know… I made a good song. I

made a lot of good songs like that didn't go big, and might never, and the greatest joy is in me knowing that it’s a good song.

Last time we spoke you said, Honestly, no one's gonna out rap me. Nobody's ever gonna put in more work than me. I'm just gonna keep rapping until I'm the best. Is that still the goal? Is that what gets you through the day?

Oh yeah. Yeah, as far as work goes, definitely. I want to be the very best. I’m adding more dimensions and more dimensions to my shit so I can be a perfectly rounded sphere. You know sometimes people don't want to see you grow from where you was at because they don't like… Nobody likes playing with the second evolution of Pokemon, but when that shit on his third or even legendary evolution — everybody fuck with it fast, you know what I'm saying? You wasn’t fuckin’ with them way back in the middle parts. So it’s like that a lot in real life. 

Is that the place you're in right now? where you kind of feel like certain people fuck with you, certain people look up to you, certain people maybe look down on you, where do you feel your position is right now in the industry?

Mavi’s position — and I don't mean that to be dismissive, I literally mean that I'm trying to make a position that maybe only I can hold, right in the beginning at least, and then do something with that. 

Previously, you have said that you were trying to make music do things for you. How far along in that process do you think you are? Is music starting to come back full circle and provide you with the things that you were looking to get out of it?

Yeah, but it's demanding a lot more also. Still, I'm trying to get to that… not even that point where music is doing things as far as material conditions, but where the happiness I get is equivalent to the pain that I feel doing this shit. That's definitely been a ‘thing.’ Music has provided me with so much like human joy, beyond like professional or artistic joy, just in the process. So, definitely, I’m a long way into that process. 

Do you feel like you're at the point now where you're getting out more than what you put in or you’re getting out as much as what you thought you would?

Let's say as much as — Nah, I’m not going to say as much as I thought I would because that's minimizing — I'm going to say yeah as much as could be expected, though. Because there’s rules about people and what people do and how people think and you can't beat those moves. 

What's coming back around for you, so far in your career? What are you enjoying the most about where you are?

Very mildly about knowing I’m the best. Knowing I’m the best is the goal. Like you know, I'm head and shoulders, like, there's not really no room for debate. That’s my goal, that’s what I work for. But, as far as how my goals toward rapping as like a career/sport have changed I want to say — I want to make different… Well, my goal was — already month ago, a year ago — to make different sounds all the time. 

That's always my goal, to keep evolving, keep growing, and keep working with different people, and try to get like the most exact version of my visions for this music shit sonically into existence. Keep congealing, keep making numbers, keep making smooth everything you learn. That's always my goal. In terms of material things, my goal is to be able to make my music do more materially, so I can support the black people I love. The joy is all the beautiful people that I knew along the way, all the beautiful sounds I get to hear — not even complete. There's a lot of keys I get to hear played in the studio, a lot of voices I get to hear sing, all the beats people make for me and send to me. 

When your career started to take off, what did you see for yourself and how does where you are now compare to then? If you were to tell yourself about the place you were in now, how would you have felt about that?

We kind of in the same place, but I'm just getting stronger. There’s like only one different place to go from this place — or from the bottom — that’s to the top. As long as I'm not there, we're kind of in the same spot. Keep grinding and keep working. I had a 10-year plan for this shit when I was 16 and I know what I'm trying to do. I knew by 26 I wanted to be the best rapper in the world. I’m still on that you know what I'm saying you gotta keep going keep improving keep learning for everybody. By about 26, after rapping for 10 years, nobody should be able to fuck with you, that's just how I looked at everything. 

What’s changed about you between the release of 'Let the Sun Talk' and 'End of the Earth'? What's different about where you're headed now?

Well, I'm headed with something new, I just decided that the ‘Sun era’ was done. Because there’s a certain cult of personality that comes with that, that kinda annoys me sometimes. So I wanted to make album that wasn't sunny and this next album is definitely a continuation of that goal. 

I’ve been listening to the tape a lot and I noticed that the flows on this one are different from Let the Sun Talk. I can tell that the flow's consistently changed and I can tell that you can write in a ton of different styles of music. Do you feel like you have been influenced by traveling between New York, D.C., and North Carolina. Has that had an influence on your style at all?

Definitely because I've just been exposed to all the different local things and that's something I admire and I get from every rapper I like. I don't think it's cool — especially people who don’t rap at all —to just say somebody can't rap. I think everybody could have chose this. Everybody. Everybody tries, you know? And so, it's something you can appreciate about everybody. So I definitely — like for example, one of my favorite things about even doing shows is not even to perform myself, but everybody who before and after me, type shit. Because I love just watching people transforming, and seeing that. 

Did you just drop it because you felt like it, do you just drop projects when you want to or when you feel like there's something you want to say?

Nah, just when I can. It costs money to drop music and shit that I don't always hardly never have, honestly. It cost me to get me music mixed and mastered. That’s knowledge. Yeah, that was something I was taking on the chin and I still take it all and change to some extent. 

Would you describe it as a struggle for where you are right now or are you comfortable?

It's a good struggle, but it is a struggle. It's a good struggle. It’s the kind of struggle where I'm craving for everything I have, and the only time I can sleep good after spending this money is on some art. That's just so satisfactory because it's just the ability to use my resources to enrich my own art, something I ain't never had an opportunity to do until literally these projects. So, it's very interesting and it's not as straightforward as I considered it from having no money, but the learning that come with that is even more rich because it's really existence and exercise. 

I feel that. The difference between living and thriving. Barely getting by versus having like everything you need and the resources to actually make more and be more creative and achieve greater things than you could have had when you didn't have those resources.

You're right. People’s ‘stuff’ cost things sometimes, in a way that they shouldn’t even. I got to figure out how to disempower that shit from the perspective of having some ‘stuff.’ And my ‘stuff’ is music so that's where I put my mind. 

How did you pick the beats? Did you know how long you wanted the tape to be before starting?

I knew I wanted it to be like four or five songs, because the album is really long. Like, it's really long. The next album is really long. But it's good though. The beats — they chose me. I started this whole process (for 'End Of The Earth'] on like January 14th and it came out February 22nd. It was done by February 7th, final master. 

Was it one of those really quick processes where you just heard the beats you wrote to it and you recorded it and you got it out? 

Yeah. That wasn't because I'm not putting in effort but because I really feel like I just did several different-style smackers that I wrote, that all had a narrative thread that really tied together my last like year away from all of this shit, but in a short, short, short version and it was a good teaser into what the next thing is. That’s honestly really impressive to have the entire tape done in like that's like exactly two weeks. 

I'm gonna be honest man a lot of people are just like floored by your music what do you have to say about the level of effort that you put in to make these tapes. I hear you saying you've been working on this album for a long time and that it's a long album but then to juxtapose that next to a five-song EP with excellent beats different flows that you made… But my life was in such an immediate ‘make raps place’ like I was kind of in a fight creatively to do my thing and so I made that EP out of just… ‘fuck it bro.’ 

I feel like I made it just to say this to people: ‘behind the scenes, if one thing's gonna take me super long and have a lot of hurdles, I can make another thing like in a real rebellious kind of spirit, and like the real spirit that I came into this shit with.’ I was in Charlotte with all my niggas for months leading up to when I made it. I got to start like after Thanksgiving and I was like stressing, you know?

I was just telling my niggas this whole time like, ‘bro I'm just going to make a tape, I'm going to make a tape.’ I just kept saying, kept saying, and it took me two months to begin it and then two weeks to finish it. Tight shit. I knew it had to happen. I knew what it needed to feel like but I needed to live at home again, and that's why I ended up just so based in like… what the fuck it's like have to create the wrong way. 

Knowing I'm carrying mobs, you know? Artists and artists, in a troupe of artists. My friends and the people I love. 

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'End Of The Earth' EP is available now on all streaming platforms. 

Words: Jourdan Taylor
Photography: Gustavo Marinho

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