laugh so hard it hurts a title that showcases both the concept and the soul of a project.
For most artists, a project not only marks a creative milestone in their career, but a pivotal chapter in their heroic journey. Charlotte rapper MAVI embodies the spirit of the protagonist, channels the subject matter of his favorite cartoons to provide a glimpse into his interpersonal relationships, and describes the recent traumatic aspects of his character arc in the name of reclaiming his joy.
MAVI reaches a new level of emotional maturity with this project – it describes the personal experience of losing a child, family and suffering under the pressures of an always depressing and demanding music career, while at the same time finding the strength to stay positive and find joy find everything in it.
After losing friends, family and an aborted child, Laugh so hard it hurts summarizes the Charlotte rapper’s struggle to find peace of mind through the onslaught of negative experiences that continue to plague him.
Laugh so hard it hurts brings the rapper’s trauma to the fore and describes the worst experiences he has ever faced, right down to the need to find joy through them. Through his short time on this earth, MAVI has already endured what suffers most in his life.
“Tomorrow I’ll be 23, I’m glad to be alive,” says Mavi, “A lot of shit just revolves around my job and my ability to do this rap as my career and life were on the brink of falling apart. My personal relationship is on the verge of breaking up. A lot of people have died, but I’m thuggin.”
When asked how he manages to see beyond the trauma of his life, he replied, “The opportunity to move on is something I can never take for granted on my worst day.”
Laugh so hard it hurts comes in place of another project that fans expected but never got, shango When it came to putting the project on hold, MAVI was quick to say that this is just a consequence of that career path. “It really wasn’t my intention to put it off – but now that it is, I can see it’s God’s time.” shango could not be released due to forces behind the scenes.
“I showed myself something about perseverance – aabout doing something until it’s done. Not being able to use it to its full potential and not falling in love with the work. It’s a really intense feeling. I think some of my recent loss experiences have validated the need to overcome this disappointment. I still have to keep writing.” “Obstacles are good for you, you know? Gives you something to grow on.”
shango should be a mirror of his 2019 debut project let the sun speak but each project reflects the rapper’s current story arc. “Basically, not being able to release ‘Shango’ and having to go through personal losses in my life made me feel real in a way. For better or for worse, this album is being hurled at me against something”.
The shelves of shango was a big influence on this album, but other influences can be seen in the concept of adolescence that MAVI infuses through this project.
An important influence is the cartoon adventure time. “When you grow up and start watching cartoons again, you start to realize that it’s about this and so on. If cartoons (like adventure time) cover topics like trauma, abusive relationships, loss and I add an analytical perspective to that, it helps me create a framework to distill these really hard things I’m trying to say or trying to convey, what i’m trying to do I learned edible, consumable rap,” he said. “Animated cartoons are very broad to small enough for a child to consume, and that’s what I want my music to be. When I make an album, it has to be delicious.”
The cast of producers tapped for Laugh so hard it hurtsdiffers greatly from MAVI’s previous projects with just one lone star who keeps appearing – Oakland producer and rapper overcast.
“He feels like my counterpart. Watching him grow and grow and change in his quest to be a full blown rapper was so exciting because he deserves all the fruits of his own production and style. Our relationship is always changing, he is always my DJ so it means a lot to me to share this experience with him.”
overcast has appeared in MAVI’s discography since its early mixtape days in 2014. “He’s like that sign to me, like look how far we’ve come. He produced the first beat I ever bought in my life. First producer I ever bought a beat from.”
In contrast, the project’s producers come from diverse backgrounds, cultivating an overall sound for the project that emulates a lullaby concept. One standout producer who caused a stir with his appearance on the project was the Chicago producer Monte Bookerwhich appears twice in the project along with amindi. “So a lot of the usual suspects weren’t there or played a minor role, I just wanted to try something different and have a certain sound in mind.”
“Monte is maybe the best manufacturer in the world, I really do. He’s a mad scientist. Watching him make this album literally made me want to write another album. When I went to work with him I thought the album was done but he gave me two more shits and I couldn’t stop them. He hits chords that hit neural pathways in me and make me feel like I’ve heard this before, which is awesome for me. I was really democratic at first with my approach to my sound. It was really natural to meet all these different people for this cast,” he said.
The 23-year-old rapper has never shied away from addressing and addressing socio-political power relations in songs Laugh so hard it hurts demonstrates a new era of poetry entrusted to social analysis. Project eighth track REASON features some standout lines that exemplify this conscious sentiment.
“We on some communist shit so these n*ggas stuck, I see when guys get famous, the revolution in them dies.”
When it came to nameless philosophies like communism and texts with an anti-capitalist spirit, he said “I have this analogy when it comes to talking about capitalism. It’s like there’s this cool kid’s table. Capitalism rests on the fact that there are poor talented children whom they can extract talents from to alleviate their poverty, but alienate them from their talent and from themselves. You probably had a lot of people in high school who were loyal and cool to you and accepted you for who you are. And one day the cool kids said you can hang out with us now, but you were the cool kid that the cool kids wanted to hang out with. Sitting at the cool kid’s table obsessed with the symbols of wealth, success and celebrity so often and so tragically alienates people from the magic of their art,” he said.
What further makes this album a step in the right direction is MAVI’s use of symbolism in the imagery of his poetry. A highlight of the project is a song, “Chinese Finger Trap,” which describes his recent traumatic events in a superficial way while using the title as a deeper analogy. “If you stick your fingers in like that and the harder you pull, it’s not going to happen. OOnce you accept the fact that you are trapped, you can leave. You can’t until then.”
“Me and Ahmir, my best friend out Emergency switchThey were driving home from Atlanta. We were with our girls. I had to stop by a funeral on the way home. We’ve both been through a lot. It felt damned and cursed and I told him that shit is like a Chinese finger trap the more you try to get out the more you’re stuck.”
“The harder I work, the smaller the goal gets. That’s definitely a big part of what this album represents; that I don’t want to trade all my humanity for the cool kid’s table. It’s not that cool to be the cool kid, and there are no cool kids at the cool kid table.”
The album conclusion “LAST LAUGH” brings the project concept to a visceral and open conclusion. With a 16-track listing that explores death and loss and the constant crushing pressures of surviving a creative in this life, MAVI hammers in his point that he “can’t cry forever”. “Even though certain things happen and I feel like I shouldn’t laugh anymore, I can’t cry forever. So I don’t think I need that. I don’t think my baby wants that. The people I lost don’t want that. I don’t have to cry forever. Because if I should, I couldn’t laugh anymore, but somehow I still do,” he said.
“I still do. The homie dad wrote a poem. In that line he says, “We weren’t made to cry forever.”
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